The Day On Paper

- 2 min -
Joe Buhlig

I have tried numerous methods of managing my daily tasks digitally. But no matter the tool or the method, I am unable to replicate the clarity and motivation that comes from using pen and paper to plan and reflect on my day.

Don’t misunderstand. I still rely on digital tools heavily for everything beyond today. OmniFocus and my calendar play a big part in helping me determine what each day looks like. And my Dashboard is vital to the execution process.

But planning the day out in my digital calendar doesn’t work. I’ve tried it multiple times. There’s something motivating and more permanent involved in pen and paper. I can’t drag-and-drop a commitment to a different time of day when I used pen. And the longer I commit my plan to paper, the more I’ve learned about myself when the day is done. This learning process has shown me a need for putting three separate portions of my day on paper.

Budgeting My Time

I’ve talked about this in multiple places, but I find great value in planning each minute ahead of time. I list the date at the top and the hours down the side. While reviewing my calendar and Dashboard, I decide what I will do at each point in the day. This usually happens at night when I’m shutting down the house and prepping for bed.

Three Things

To the right of my schedule and on the same page, I write down the three things I need to get done that day (or if I’m doing it the night before, the next day). Above all else, these are my goals to complete. Having no more than three means I can easily recall them throughout the day. Committing to no less than three means I’m not taking it easy. Sometimes I draw a line under them and list a few nice-to-haves, but those are ancillary and I try not to touch them until my three are complete.

Journal Entry

My schedule for the day and my three things go on the left side of the fold in my notebook. The right side is for my reflection journal at the end of the day. Some people have a list of prompts they use for journal entry. That’s too much for me. I look at my commitments left of the fold as compared to what I accomplished and write about how I did. Did I check everything off or come up short? It’s the daily comparison of intentions to execution that keeps me coming back to pen and paper.