What A Relief To Write Tasks, Events and Insights On Paper

Posted 21 October 2021

Recently, an Adequate Projects1 member booked a slot in my “office hours” calendar to ask about the paper-based journal I use to keep on top of tasks, insights and planning.

Essentially, the system is straightforward: like using a conventional diary plus to-do list. But tiny alterations and additions make a big difference.

I hope this overview is useful.


Future Log, Monthly Log, Daily Log

At any time, I keep three kinds of date-related pages. All three of these appear in the livestream video near the bottom of this page.

I devote two pages to a Future Log of scheduled events for the six months ahead (three months per page seems enough space for me):

Future Log DPS.jpeg

I create a new version of these two pages every three months, so that the distant future never creeps too close, if you see what I mean.

I devote two further pages to the Monthly Log of whatever month we’re in:

  • on the left I write the days of the week, numbered 1 to 31 (or 28, 29, 30 as appropriate)
  • on the right I list tasks that need doing this month but which don’t have a set date
Monthly Log DPS.jpeg

I also keep plenty of pages for a Daily Log, to fill from one day to the next. Here’s an example that – like the ones above – you can see in the livestream video at the end of this page, and a close up of a different Daily Log, showing more clearly the notation that I go into in more detail below:

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Update, 4 April 2022

As you see in the images above, I use a system of circles, dots, crosses, dashes, arrows and (rarely) crossings-out.

By putting a cross through the dot of any given task, I can look back long afterwards and see what I’ve achieved (it would be hard to see that if I crossed out the words).

In the close-up page above, you can see that I have crossed out these words:

link to Amazon book

This means that I abandoned that task altogether (and don’t care about remembering it).

Tasks that I haven’t completed get migrated to the next day (or to the separate page containing months ahead), with an arrowhead/angled bracket sign through the dot.

Sometimes I find myself migrating some tasks again and again. This helps me to see which kinds of task I am doing slowly/reluctantly.

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Inspired by the publication of a book about the history of the Index2 (a lot more exciting and, frankly, amusing than you might expect), I decided to write an alphabetical index to my Bullet Journal3.

By this point, I had already filled most of the book. I was curious to find out, by writing an index, what the book actually contained.

To make this index, I skimmed through the book, looking for keywords that leapt out as important, typed them into a word processor, sorted them into alphabetical order, and finally wrote them by hand them into the back of the book, as you see here.

The time consuming part was going through to find the pages where individual entries appeared. I never finished, to be honest, but it was useful and interesting to notice which topics I did bother with, and which I abandoned.

Of the topics you can see in the photo, the most common entry was Flintoff.org (visible here only as Flint) – ie, things to do with this website.

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After I had filled the first book, and quite a few pages of the next book, I wanted a way to remember the contents of the first book without carrying it around everywhere.

So I wrote into the second book a quick summary, over three pages.

Afterwards, I wrote a note to myself about what I had noticed / learned, by drawing up this catalogue.

One thing surprised me: I have not been keeping any kind of record of the writing on this website. I decided to start printing off essays and articles, including this one you are reading, to put in a folder.

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If you’re curious, you can download the original handwritten notes I made last year after reading about Bullet Journals online. They’re quite scrappy, because I wrote them for myself, not for anybody else.

Daily, Monthly and Future Logging (Notes by JPF).pdf (3.3 MB)

If you’re a member of the Whizzy Group or a patron of Adequate Projects I’ll send you a PDF of the pages I used in today livestream video, which you can watch here:

Click image to start

Let me know, and I’ll email the PDF asap.

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1 Adequate Projects. Patrons of my Adequate Projects (previously called Special Projects) can book slots to talk to me about whatever’s going on. It’s first-come, first-served.

2 Index, A History Of The. You can read a review of the book by Dennis Duncan in The Guardian online

3 Bullet Journal. For most of the ideas on this page, I’m indebted to the inventor of Bullet Journals. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I just don’t like the name Bullet.