BLP Show Notes: January Q&A

January 16, 2023

Planner Peace

Love this one!!!

I am an academic who just got tenure and lead several large grants.  I use a 17-Month Large Planner from Rifle Paper company, with 2-page weekly spreads, with two columns of checkboxes for weekdays and one column for each weekend day.  For years, I used a New Yorker desk diary, which has the added benefit of cartoons, but it is only 12 months long.

Just as Oliver Burkeman discussed in his interview with you, I can’t time block plan like Cal Newport and others recommend.  Instead, similar to Oliver, I keep a list of daily tasks, separately for each day, written in the planner.  Sometimes I write the most important tasks at the top of the day’s left column, as a suggestion to do those tasks in the morning, with the less important tasks listed to the side, in the day’s right column.  If I’m waiting to hear back about something I’d like to work on that day, I’ll list it in the right column, too.  If I finish the day’s tasks, I’ll pull from lists I’ve made for future days, weeks, or months, also written in the planner.  If I don’t finish the day’s tasks, I redistribute them to wherever they could go in the future.

My meetings are typically online, so their time is noted in my paper calendar in the left column, and the actual links are in a Google Calendar.  For meeting agenda items I think of ahead of time, I write them on the paper calendar by the time of the meeting, so that when that meeting occurs, I have a handy list of topics to discuss.  At the end of the day, I set my phone to chime ten minutes before each meeting the following day, so that I can become engrossed in the next day’s tasks and not worry about missing a meeting.

To figure out my monthly and weekly goals, which I write at the top of the planner’s 2-page weekly spreads or on the blank pages that announce each month, I work backwards from my big goals every few months.  When I’m away from my paper planner, I text myself ideas to keep track of, which also sends me an email.  I keep some of my more complicated lists in Workflowy, such as possible future research topics or shopping lists.  I try to schedule lightly to be available for surprises, work ahead of schedule so I can work on projects I’m in the mood for, and put fun, non-work activities to look forward to on my planner, too!

I use pens from JetPens, from ‘Fine Tip Gel Pen’ samplers I ordered.  Highly recommended!

Laura, academic + BLP listener


1- How to prevent handwritten notes from becoming a disorganized mess


  • Rocketbook – hybrid smart notebook that wipes off + can be filled electronically (rocketbook)
  • Dividers + binders!! Or even (gasp) file folders. I love these refillable notebook with tabs.
  • Go entirely digital or consider a paper-like tablet such as ReMarkable

2- How to keep momentum going with a (very) irregular parenting schedule (8 nights on / 6 nights off)?

  • Lots of planning – which I’m sure you are already doing, but also planning in personal FUN for your quieter 6 days
  • Seeking others in similar boats
  • Allowing yourself 2 different sets of routines – routines do not need to be fixed or the same every day!

3- Erasable pen suggestions (and call for listener help!) aside from the usual Frixion which many find not-dark-enough – readers, do you have any!!?!

4- GTD and tracking recurring “never-ending” tasks (like updating the same spreadsheet every week)

  • Find ways to remember to update / give yourself credit for updating something like this even if task is never truly ‘complete’

Ways to Leave Questions & Comments:

Email me – here!

Send me a (virtual/Google voice) text – (305) 697-7189

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Finally, will be opening cohort 2 of Best Laid Plans Academy in Feb so please join the waitlist if interested; I will offer it to that group first.

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  • Reply Coco January 16, 2023 at 9:41 pm

    i will try to set the alarm before my morning meetings because i do forget them sometimes… which is embarrasing.

  • Reply Rachel January 17, 2023 at 4:11 am

    Great episode! I have an idea for the 8/14 day schedule – I recently started a every two weeks run club. I didn’t feel I could commit to a weekly event, and my friend who I run with was okay with an “every other week” club. Perhaps your listener could consider finding people who wanted to do a standing two week event? It could be a nice thing to look forward to and might help make the weeks feel more “even” – plus you don’t have to feel bad for “missing” things on the weeks you are certainly to busy to have your own social engagements. It doesn’t have to be running either – I also had a biweekly writing club for a while too… and of course a biweekly drinks or dinner night could be nice as well…

  • Reply Grateful Kae January 17, 2023 at 6:54 am

    I’d love more discussion about meeting notes! I have found lately that I have so many different types of notes from different types of meetings, and I’ve also had some trouble figuring out how to organize them. For example, during a team huddle, I may just end up with a few short “to do” type tasks that I jot down, or announcements I want to remember. During a big adverse event outcome review meeting, I might have a combination of various discussion points that I’ll need to refer back to or things that need follow up. During an inservice, I’ll have notes about the topic that are mostly just “good to know” type things.

    In the moment during the meeting, I often find making quick handwritten notes to be my preference. But organizing all those notes isn’t very practical! Too many loose pages, yet I don’t really want all different types of notes in notebooks piled up in my office, either. They can be hard to find again later, too. So, I have personally taken to using Microsoft OneNote to organize these. For some meetings I can actually just have a tab pulled up during the meeting and type notes as I go, but otherwise I try to find a few minutes right after the meeting to quickly type up my notes. Generally works ok assuming I don’t have pages of notes! (I usually don’t). I made one big tab called “Meetings”, and then subpages for my various standing committee meetings, etc. where I can dump notes for each one, plus one subpage called “Misc./ Ad Hoc” for random 1:1 meetings or discussions that come up, plus one titled To Do Items where I list any specific action item that I need to do or follow up on (specifically from a meeting- this is separate from my general and personal to do list). I always love that it’s searchable, and I don’t have to worry about losing my chicken scratch notes!!

    No suggestions for the erasable pens, but I find 0.5 mm mechanical pencils a nice option in my planner when I want to be able to erase. I always write my workout plan in pencil because I tend to shift them around often. I know it’s not ink, but they write crisply and still look dark and nice. If I do need to cross out pen, I’m generally fine with that, though, or I use those little white-out strips to cover the pen and then re-write on top.

  • Reply Mark Stevens January 17, 2023 at 10:56 am

    The link to rocketbook isn’t working. I think the correct link is

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 17, 2023 at 11:43 am

      thank you! i will fix!!

  • Reply Jami H January 17, 2023 at 12:30 pm

    I had a few thoughts on meeting notes that I wanted to share! Personally I use a combination of two. I used to use a weekly planner so I had a separate notebook for meeting notes – I just titled and dated them just like if you were taking notes in class. This fall (I work in academia so that’s start of my year) I switched to a Passion Planner daily planner and each day’s layout includes a blank dot grid page. So most of the time now I just that page for meeting notes – mainly action items or important details to remember. I try my very best not to take notes on loose papers (like agendas).

    Others I know use One Note for meeting notes and sometimes in meetings I lead, I’ll take note directly in the meeting agenda and share it with everyone via One Drive immediately. I’ve also heard that Notability works really great for Apple products – it’s recommended for students with ADHD or so I’ve heard.

    Finally, I saw this idea on Pinterest, about using the Cornell Method to taking meeting notes (I also teach college students about notetaking) and thought it was fantastic.

  • Reply Allison Cunningham January 20, 2023 at 8:16 am

    For meeting notes/note taking I found this padfolio in Target over Christmas. I didn’t want another padfolio but wanted the legal pad for meeting notes. I loved the right side prompts. I can prep for my meeting and doodle on these sheets and then transfer any to do’s or notes into the meeting on outlook after.

  • Reply 2016windaily January 21, 2023 at 10:49 am

    I have worked on getting a GTD system for a while. I subscribed to GTD connect, which has been helpful, when, of course, I look at the information there!! I was listening to a video on that site called “The Anatomy of Projects.” In that video, GTD coach Kelly Forrister addressed recurring projects. She said in that video that she would make a new project every time a recurring project needed to be done. AND, of course check it off each time. 😉 You could make a checklist which would go in your project support area. You could put the entire project on your calendar, or you could make sub projects for it. Then you could block time to actually do it. But, you do need to have a trigger to do either the whole project or sub project.

    • Reply 2016windaily January 21, 2023 at 11:15 am

      So, basically, the GTD coach suggested just exactly what Sarah did! Have a recurring project for the spreadsheets, and maybe a checklist in your project support area, and then have a recurring task on your weekly schedule to do a part of it. Maybe work through your checklist to make sure you have done all the tasks as needed. 😉

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