Future planning with a bullet journal can be tough. Anyone with a hectic job is juggling today’s to-do’s and trying to remember what they were supposed to follow up on from last week. My last job was super crazy. I had a large number of requests, tasks, actions, and follow-ups that I was managing. At the same time, I needed to keep track of deadlines and when requests I had sent out were due back. My daily entries of my bullet journal were not cutting it. I was having a hard time remembering to add things to Outlook and when I was really diligent, my Outlook was so crowded it failed to be functional. Personally, the inability to “flip forward” as you would in a planner is the biggest shortcoming of my work notebook system. I tried to use the Calendex system, but this did not work for me. Making monthly spreads far enough in advance was always a challenge. I would finish a notebook and need to copy all the monthly pages. It was too much hassle. I needed a paper planner to supplement my bullet journal. (To read my reviews of different paper planners, click here.)
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Use a Planner for Future Planning
I have used a wide variety of planners in my time. You can read my review of the Moleskine planners here. Since I was looking for something small and inexpensive, I bought a planner from May Designs. For those of you that haven’t heard of May Designs, let me enlighten you. These notebooks are totally customizable. You can choose the cover and what the inside pages look like, allowing you to pick what works for you. I chose a relatively neutral navy ombre cover with weekly pages on the inside. There are different options for the weekly layouts. The layout I chose has Saturday and Sunday sharing a row. This is perfect for a planner that I use mostly for professional purposes. Because they are super slim, if I need to carry these to a meeting or home from the office, I don’t feel like I am lugging my whole life around. These make a great option for someone who is looking to use this with a bullet journal. I don’t know how they would hold up with serious use — again, mine basically sit on my desk.
Here’s how my whole system works together:
- Daily tasks are added to my notebook.
- Meeting notes are in my notebook. I use the page numbers to “thread” back to the last notes I had about the topic. Number the pages in any notebook or buy a notebook that is already paginated. (My favorite notebooks that are already paginated are the Leuchtturm. I will continue searching for a more economical solution but I think these are worth every penny. Check them out here.)
- During that meeting, if I get an action item, I draw a box (my symbol for task) OR I write the task in the meeting notes with AI (for action item) AND add it immediately to my list of daily tasks with a task indicator. This not only allows me to look back and understand what was discussed at the meeting but also keeps my tasks in one place.
- If a deadline comes up, I note the deadline in my notebook in the meeting notes and add a box or a small circle next to it. When I get back to my desk, I add this deadline to my planner, filling in the circle in my meeting notes. If there is something that needs to be completed for that deadline, I indicate so with a circle in the planner.
- If there is something I need to remember to follow-up on, I usually add this to a sticky note with my usual task indicator.
- At least once a week, I look at my planner to see what is coming up this week and next. Is there a sticky note on that page reminding me to do something? Great, I add those tasks to my task list in my bullet journal. What if the sticky note has a bazillion things on it?! Often times these are quick tasks, such as sending emails.
- I complete these follow-up tasks done as early in the week as possible. If there are too many to do at once, I recommend breaking them apart during the first half of the week. If you need to, you can set a reminder in Outlook to check that sticky note Thursday morning. This will give you time to get any remaining tasks done by the end of the week. If the tasks on your sticky note take time, I recommend putting them on your task list for Monday. If you can’t complete them on Monday, you can migrate these tasks to the following day, until you complete them.
Do you have a system that works for you? Is it paper? Do you use Outlook or OneNote to manage all of your tasks? How do you handle future tasks in your bullet journal? If this post was useful, don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter!
You can check out the May Designs books on their website. My favorite notebooks are the Leuchtturm. I use these for everything! I love the dot grid and the squared. The squared has this handy date bar at the top. You can click the links below to learn more about each!