I Thought I Was the Only One ...

I just discovered this site and feel better knowing I'm not the only one who thinks about this stuff :-)

... I just can't make my mind up on a system or where to get started!

I currently use an iPhone as my planning system. I've always been trying to use a PDA or smartphone as my sole planning tool, but I'm slowly accepting that some form of paper is needed to become more organized. My iPhone is great for appointments, contacts, email, and storing passwords (via SplashID), but an effective To-do list application/method is sorely missing. Also, my current system isn't very note-friendly. I constantly find myself writing to-do-lists and notes on random pieces of paper!

I've read that some people simply use a notebook, rather than a formal paper planner (or maybe I'm misunderstanding). Maybe that's something I should consider to address my needs? Or maybe I should create my own planner? I'm a mess :-)

Also, since browsing this site, I've slowly been introduced the GTD concept. I'm still unclear about what makes it special ... but I'm sure I should read David Allen's book to understand. Have most members of this community read his book?

Just my random thoughts for my first post. If anyone can offer advice to this indecisive member, it would be greatly appreciated. Like everyone else here, I'm looking to become more organized and efficient.

Thanks for your time in advance,

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Hipster pda?

It seems that what you really want is some sort of "inbox" to write things down, as well as keeping track of tasks, and potential GTD items. I presume you want it small and even cheap. So....

From what you described, the hipster pda may be what you want. What is it? It's a stack of 3x5 cards, typically held together by a binder clip, rubber band or somesuch. You can use blank cards, or print on them. You can have as few or as many as you want. It' quite flexible.

If you search this site (and especially the templates) you will find far more than I could share in this post. There are also many web pages devoted to the concept of the hipster pda--oh, and check out Flickr, too. "hpda" is the most common keyword there. I have gone this route, but with a twist. Since I live in Europe, and 3x5 cards are made of unobtanium here, I take an A4 sheet of paper, and cut it down to A7, which is almost the same size of a 3x5, but more like a 3x4 size. I also carry them in a ductster wallet I made out of duct tape. ;-) It also holds receipts and business cards I may come across. Works well for me.



I'm considering a hipster pda too and glad to hear it's working out for you. It's cool to see and hear how people make it work for them.

I'm only concerned with how small it is. I like having the writing space ... so another decision for me ... paper size :-)

This may sound silly...

.... but have you considered simply taking a full-sized piece of paper, and folding it down small? My boss, the president of a rather large company, did this for years. He always had that piece of paper, and would pull it out at any time, write whatever it was he needed down on it, and review it all later. I think it was simply folded into fourths. I know it sounds rather mundane, but it worked for him.


Answer, and Question, also

I have a Moleskine monthly calendar on which are my daily cases. Just the name of the client and the courtroom s/he is in. I have a junior circa notebook that's always with me for notes and to-do lists. I also have a letter-sized Circa notebook that contains do-to lists for individual clients, notes for investigator, research on various legal issues, that sort of stuff. I love my iPhone for many things, but I've not been able to get the calendar to sync with iCal. I've spent some serious time on the phone with the Apple techie folk, but I still haven't gotten it to work. I'd think that there was a problem with my phone, but my husband's has the same problem. So, my question is, have you tried to sync with iCal, and does it work for you? Hmm. That's two questions, ins't it?

No problems with iCal

Do you have a .Mac/MobileMe account? If so, changes to contacts, iCal, are all synced ... iPhone, computer, and internet. Even if you don't have an account, you should still be able to sync with iCal. The only problem I've had with syncing was when Apple initially released and transitioned to MobileMe. It's been great since they worked most bugs out.

What has tech support tried with you? If there's an Apple Store near you? That's another resource if you prefer to talk to someone in person. Feel free to email me though ... I'm not an expert, but I'll be happy to try and help as much as I can.

You mentioned having two circa notebooks: a junior and letter. How does that work for you? I'd like to have one (in addition to my iPhone), but after reading your solution and those of other members, I think I should consider a similar approach.

Might have to go to .Mac

No, I don't have a .Mac/MobileMe account, although it seems as though I'd better consider it. Our phones just won't sync when hooked up to our computer. I think that a trip to the Clarendon Apple store is in my future. Over the phone, I've done the equivalent of a fresh install and was walked through a few other steps, all to no avail. I'll drag my husband over deal with the phones while I drool over the new computers there. My two Circa notebooks actually work quite well. The junior is my "brain dump," things that take less than a paragraph and are more random. The letter Circa is more of a planning notebook. I really like how they work. Like others here, I have a notebook, paper, pen addiction, and I just got new colored plastic covers and BRIGHT dividers from Levenger. Soooo, they're very visually pleasing to work with. Levenger paper is terrible for fountain pens, but it does fine for gel ink. I have a collection of Pilot gels, Hi-Tec Cs and the old reliable G2s. But back to notebooks - as I'm usually carrying files and the occasional book with me along with both notebooks in a wheelie bag, it isn't a big deal to have two of them. If I'm just carrying a bag, the junior fits into any of my purses, and I'm set for jotting down ideas.


That word in your post really struck me. Many of us switch planning systems, switch sizes, switch pens, switch papers, etc.

I don't think it's indecisiveness -- I think it's just a constant search for the "perfect" system until we (I) reach some nirvana-like state of organization.

I am s-l-o-w-l-y accepting the fact that I'm not going to get to that state and instead trying to appreciate my love for pens and paper and all of its accessories without going broke! Organization and expression of creativity are its benefits.

Namaste :)

I'm Sorry

I hope I didn't offend you or others. I consider myself indecisive (and not just with planners) and didn't intend to call others that. I apologize if it came across that way.

I think you hit on it ... trying to find the "perfect" system and accepting I won't find it. I just wished I could pick something so I could already :-)

Again, I apologize if I offended you or others. This site has been a great resource and the last thing I want to disrespect the members that I've been getting help from.



It takes quite a bit to "offend" us here. We are all indecisive- which is kind of why we are all here. Don't worry! :) Obsessed is another word that describes many of us! WE LOVE PAPER, PENS, PLANNERS, etc. And, the constant switching from one planner to another and from one size to another... that is considered normal around here!

No offense taken!

Sorry if I came off that way in the post...I didn't mean it! I was trying to (unsuccessfully) let you know that here it's ok to be indecisive, obsessive, a little manic sometimes. Darn! what a bad way to welcome a new member!


No Worries

Sounds like we both have nothing to apologize about :-)


If you go to the "gallery" here, you will see pictures of what people have DIY'd over the years. That may give you some ideas too. And the Flickr pics that someone here already mentioned will give you many more ideas.

Re: the "hipster"... think of this as a capture device (at least that is how I use it). It is simply there for convenience. This is where you write down ideas, thoughts, to-do's, etc. as they come to you. Then when you get back to your desk or iPhone, you "input" the items into the correct area. Your iPhone/calendar if it is an appt or contact. Your to-do list if it is an action item, etc. This is how many people here end up with multiple "notebooks." One is a capture device and one is the "HOME" for all of the info. I have a capture device for when I am not at my desk. Then I have just a normal junior size notebook which is my running action list and notes area. Then I have my phone for calendar/contacts/email/web. So, I capture something, come back to my desk and either enter it into the computer to sync with my phone, or write it into the notebook!

Hope this helps... Welcome again!

nay nay


Thank you for the advice. I appreciate you sharing your system.

How is you junior size notebook set up? Is it blank papers, or do you use template sheets? Are your entries dated? When I hear notebook, I think of a journal or paper wirebound - now I'm thinking the term is also used for what I think of as a planner (is that correct?). I like how you have something setup for to-do-list and notes.

Could you also explain your running action list in your notebook?

my system

I would say my system is SIMPLE. I have learned through some serious and expensive trial and error, that I need everything to be as simple as possible, otherwise I just won't use it. So, the capture device is index cards. I have them in my purse, on my desk, on the nightstand at home, in the kitchen, etc. So, any time I need to write a note, they are there! Then the "notebook" for work is quite simply a junior sized notebook (lined) although I would rather have unlined (just a preference) that is wirebound. No templates for me as the templates I would use are already supplied in my Outlook & phone (calendar, email, contacts). The to do list is just everything I write on the index cards. Just random thoughts. no system. The only thing that is continuous is I put the date at the beginning of the day and I use a highlighted to mark things done. It is easier to see what still needs to be completed. I have also just implemented an "index" at the beginning of the notebook. I skipped the first few pages when I began and I use those pages to record where I wrote items that I may need to find down the road. So, I number my pages and record the page # and a quick note of what is on the page (if important) in that index. Sometimes in one notebook there are only 5 things written in the index. They are usually notes that I made in a meeting that will forever be relevant and that I will need to look back to during the course of my job.

My best advice is this:
1) As you go through your day, jot down things that you do or items that you feel are missing. Maybe this will take a week of "journaling your life", but it will help you devise a system that works for you.
2) keep it simple or you won't use it. The more time you spend writing down your task is time you could have spent doing the task.
3) Don't jump into an expensive system until you have an idea of what you need. Many people here will tell you to use the Circa system from Levenger. It is expensive, but for many people it works great. For whatever reason, it never worked for me and I spent WAY too much money on it.

I think that is it. This is just my two cents, so as with everything around here, feel free to take it or leave it! That is the fun of this web site. So many ideas to explore. Many people take one of the items they hear from someone and another from another person, etc. and make it into their own new system. Have fun! Enjoy! and keep the questions and comments coming because no matter what you are typing, someone else is probably having the same problem or will like something they find in the comments!

nay nay :)

welcome :)

i agree with nay (as usual :) ) take a week and carry around one of those cheap lil notebooks ... or just a stack of index cards. Basically don't invest in anything until you can see what is working or not working. if you find that it is too small after a few days, move up to the next size notebook and watch what works and doesnt. if you like having your "big" picture with you all the time, larger will probably be the best but most people can live with a satellite capture device.

this website is great at inspiring me to keep at things. i have fallen off the productivity wagon many times but i always come here and rediscover my groove. heck i love posts like this... i love having new people to share ideas and i love reading how others are doing.

some days i have more fun reorganizing my organizer than doing other things and everyone here has taught me that its okay :) pens... paper... its all part of the fun :)

again - welcome :) please feel free to post how your exploration is going and feel free to share what you like and dislike about each thing you try. sometimes it takes someone else saying something for me to realize that is what has been "off" with my own system :)

my blog

Thanks Everyone!

Thanks to the site and everyone's advice, I think I'm slowly coming to a conclusion on my system.

Levenger's Circa really impresses me ... I'm thinking of starting with two simple sections: 1. To-do-lists and 2. Notes. I'll expand from there as my needs grow.

Looks like Franklin Covey has a similar system too. Cheaper, too - but I'm afraid that will translate into lower quality.

Thanks again everyone ... I'll be posting other questions :-)

2-section notebook

My system is almost exactly what you described - I use a Motorola Q that syncs to my work computer for calendar and contacts, with the task list on that phone dedicated to personal items.

I use a Circa junior with a running (work-related) to-do list on the first page or two and notes in the remainder. I'm usually keeping track of multiple projects and while I don't need to take a lot of notes for any one project, I like the Circa because I can update my to-do list every few weeks but still keep it in the front of the book, and move pages around to keep notes for each project together. I used wirebound notebooks for a while but was always frustrated when I had to flip through multiple pages of other notes to find all the comments related to one project. When a project is done, I pull out all the pages related to that project and file them.

I've had more complicated systems with big, bulky planners, but this is the one that works best for me at the moment. Good luck!

planning systems

I've tried multiple planners & planning systems. FC, notebooks, post-it notes, PDA's, etc along with GTD and about any other kind of thing you can think of.

I highly recommend reading the Getting Things Done book as it has some great ideas & techniques that you can apply to whatever you decide to do. What I found is it tends to be too complex & I ended up endlessly fiddling with my lists to the point I never seemed to get anything done. But some people swear by it. The thing about planner systems, you need to try some out & figure out what works for you.

That being said, here's what I'm currently using:
My main planner is a Junior size Levenger Circa notebook. I've got the monthly tabs & one month per day calendars. I keep 1 year worth of those in my planner. I also have two pages per day, but only keep this month & next in there. I also have a section for notes and an address book section.

I have a spiral bound notebook that is pretty thin - 50 or 60 pages - and a tiny bit smaller than my planner. It fits in the binder along with the Circa notebook. I've been using this to keep track of things I need to do using the Autofocus system by Mark Forster - directions available for free at http://www.markforster.net/ Prioritizing my tasks never seemed to work out as things change too quickly sometimes and I found GTD overwhelming. Staring at a massive todo list WITHOUT a system was equally overwhelming. Autofocus seems to strike a nice balance. As Einstein said "Make things as simple as possible but no simpler." At least I think that's how the quote goes.

I also have a letter size Circa notebook at home for stuff where I need more space than the junior size provides. On the other end, I have a pocket size pen and a Levenger Micro PDA (pretty much business card size notebook). That one I use the smallest discs I could find and only keep about 10 pages in it. It fits nicely in my wallet. This way, I ALWAYS have something to jot down bits of info I need - contact info for someone I met, where I parked, how much I spent on dinner, etc.

Best advice I can give is prototype whatever you think will work & give it a try. What do I mean by that? If you think a full letter size planner will work for you, print out the calendar pages from this site. Try it for a week. See if it works well for you or it's too big. Think you want something pocket size? Create a hipster PDA! Just buy some index cards, a binder clip, and write on them. Experiment. Have fun. See what works & what doesn't.