New Job, New Planning System

As soon as I was offered my new job, I starting thinking about what my planner system for work appointments and tasks would look like. I knew I wanted to keep as much of my work related planning out of the Malden as possible (keeping my work details in my personal planner in the past has lead to LOTS of unneeded stress). But outside of that one little detail, I had no idea what to create for my system. 
So I winged it. On my first day I brought along my Quo Vadis Day Per Page Journal 21 and a spiral bound steno pad, just to have a place to jot notes and mark any appointments. Turns out this combo is all I really need.
Although I initially had dreams of using my lovely A5 Siena Filofax for work related dealings, I soon (and shockingly) realized that a Filofax would actually be overkill in this situation. Working in higher education admissions means that not only am I working with a lot of confidential information, but most of it needs to be shared amongst the entire campus staff. Therefore, student records and details are kept in simple manilla folders in a file room. Contact details, including last contact and any meeting records, are kept in a digital system. At the end of the day, all I really needed was a calendar for tracking my appointments, and a notebook to capture any necessary thoughts/tasks/appointment notes etc. throughout my day. 
The day per page calendar in my Quo Vadis is perfect for the task, as my team can see upwards of a dozen appointments a day. There is even enough space to write in two appointments at the same time if need be. Since my scheduled hours do change depending on the day of the week, I used a highlighter to mark what hours I’ll be in on any particular day.
Keeping all of the appointment details in a separate book means that all I need in my personal Malden are the hours I’ll be working on any given day. I never thought I would separate work and personal, but so far it seems to be going really well. Having my hours in my personal book means I know how to schedule my week, but keeping the details of my work day out means that I’m not already stressing about tomorrow the night before – which is a huge relief.
Of course, planning wouldn’t be complete without some color coding. While I write in all appointments in my work book in black ink, I do need to know the results of the appointment. After a week or so in the job, I was able to come up with a color coding system that best fit my needs. 
After an appointment, I simply highlight the appointment with the color that correlates to the result. Blue if the appointment did not show, purple if they rescheduled, yellow if a financial aid appointment enrolled, etc. Green is my personal schedule, where I track the hours I’ll be in and any non-student based appointments I have. 
My work notes organically evolved into a bullet journal-esque system. I’m just using a simple spiral bound steno pad I got from work, but it seems to be doing the trick. 
This book is strictly for notes and tasks, so I don’t need to worry about forward planning. I start each day by writing out the date and boxing it in. Then, any notes or tasks that come up during the day are written down. I use the following symbols for my system:
  •   Appointment Notes

     >     General Notes
     [ ]    Tasks
     ! >   Important Note
     ? >   Question
Any important notes also usually get bumped up to the index page, which I keep at the front of the book. This allows me to access important details quickly.
This system is working great for me so far. I think the key is that I let it grow organically – I didn’t walk in on day one with a system that I was going to force to work. Although I of course want to use a beautiful Filofax whenever possible, this system was simply the most practical and beneficial. 

What do you use for your work planner? Do you keep everything together? I’m sure every career field is different – what works for you?



  1. First, how awesome to work for a college/university. In college I was very much involved with student government, and so worked closely with some staff. I loved going in to their offices and seeing "work" in action. I always thought I'd like to work for a college. (Not that I don't love where I am now, mind you.)

    This is a great system, mainly because it is so simple. I tried many different work systems throughout the years, but what I have going seems to work the best: I keep all of my hours and meetings and appointments in my Filofax. All of my tasks and deadlines go into Wunderlist. I found that I needed the work appointments to go in my personal planner because I was forgetting things. I needed to see it at home the night before. I kept two planners for a while and kept track of all appointments in both. You can imgaine how well that worked — too much maintenance. And since many of my tasks repeat and/or have multiple steps to them, I found Wunderlist to be the best option to minimize recopying most of my tasks. Plus, if I'm home sick, I can look to see if anything needs to be handled by someone else while I'm out (much of my work is timely).

    Reading your post makes me want to go back to a paper based system for work, but ultimately I think what I have is the best for me. I can't wait to hear more about how you manage your work time and tasks!

  2. When I was working full-time at a law firm, I used outlook for my very long list of tasks. I'm not a digital planning girl but it made the most sense for my situation. I also had a spiral 6×9 notebook that I took with me everywhere! I used it to record information from phone calls, notes other employees told me, notes from meetings, dictation from my boss, etc. No matter where I went in the office, people told me things and I wrote them in the book. As soon as I had an opportunity, I went back to the last unfinished page and started working on the tasks. When they were finished, I drew a line through them so I knew they were done. When a notebook was full, I dated it and put it away. I can't tell you how many times I referred back to those notebooks for some bit of information. But the outlook list was my "to-do" list. I had it sorted by type of work, deadline, etc. And it was available to others. I used my personal planner for personal stuff only. The only crossover was if we were having an office potluck or I had a day off. But everything work related stayed at work. I had a 9 to 5 job so that was very efficient.

    Good luck on your new job!

  3. That looks like a great system 🙂 I use a Filofax, but keep my setup very basic, otherwise I end up spending all my time trying to tweak it to make it perfect (which will never happen) 🙂

  4. Let me know how it goes! I really didn't think I could do it, but it has been working SO well!!!

  5. Yeah, I never imagined myself working for a college, but it is really awesome so far! The system is also still working great, I think mainly because most of my tasks are set up in the computer so I really don't need a complicated system for task tracking!

    I do have a wunderlist account – I should check back into it!

  6. Thanks! And yes, my book is becoming something people know I've always got to have with me before they start a conversation!

  7. Exactly! And that's why I kept it simple – I need to be there to work, not play with new systems!

  8. Great setup. I love steno pads. I use one as my call log, as I have a reasonably high amount of phone transactions, and our in-house database isn't always ready to log any interactions, so pen and paper to the rescue!

    Work and personal are very much intermingled for me, as even when I'm not doing two other peoples jobs, I work evenings and weekends fro home certain times of the year (in addition to my regular daytime hours – the life of a nonprofit!) I can really handle keeping my calendar digitally, it's the project and task management that gets me every time.

    So I just moved into an A5 FF for the first time, with day per page. It wasn't quite right after a week, so I added a bound planner with monthly and weekly views so I can forward plan a little better. We'll see how it goes.

  9. Oh yeah, I definitely understand the life of a nonprofit! I'm still trying to get used to the fact that my new job pretty much ends when I walk out the door and I have weekends all to myself!

    It sounds like you've got a good system worked out there – I hope the improved version works well for you!

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