Sunday, June 3, 2012

How Do You To Do: Work vs. Personal

My system has worked for me for a long time.  Even with the many changes in binders, I have (for the most part) kept the main innards of the planner pretty much the same.  Since starting with Filofax, I have always kept my work to-dos separate from my Filo.  Work is work, it never comes home with me, so there was no need to include my work to-dos in my personal planner.  (My work schedule—appointments, meetings, and places to be have always been included in my Filo, however.)  But suddenly, I am in need of a change.

My workload has increased dramatically since I started working at the library—I have taken on new projects, many of them very different from each other.  I split my time between the reference desk answering questions and office time when everything else gets done.  Among other things, a huge part of my job consists of creating most of the publicity for our reference department—flyers for our programs, brochures and handouts for our services, bibliographies for book suggestions, and many other things.  Most of these items are time-specific.  That is, they have due dates of when they need to be completed and dates when they need to be removed from the floor.  Plus, there are dates when I need to start working on them, as I need time to create them, have them approved by both the person requesting the item and the director, and time to print the item.  So that means a lot of due dates in my work planner.  (My work planner happens to be an At-a-Glance monthly/weekly spiral bound book.)  With all of the information I keep track of (program dates, due dates, program sign-up dates, etc.), it has always worked well to keep it in a separate book, apart from my Filofax.

The problem is, since I keep my schedule in my Filo, it has been increasingly difficult to manage my time easily.  When scheduling what to do when (based on when I am scheduled to come in and when I am at the reference desk versus my own desk), I’d have to look at my Filo, return to my AAG planner, constantly shuffling back and forth between the two.  For a while I would keep track of my work schedule in both the Filo and AAG.  But this too became a problem—whenever there was a change in my schedule (which happens fairly often), I’d have to update it in four places (the monthly and weekly portions of the AAG planner and the monthly and daily portions of the Filo).  It was just too much.

I began to brainstorm about how to make my work and personal life work together more seamlessly.  I thought about (and tested) keeping my work to-dos in Google Tasks, which I did for a long time before the Tasks started to go wonky in our (work) Google Apps—for some reason, I would always have an issue with moving an item from one date to another.  Tasks would crash; I’d lose any changes to my list and have to keep a written list anyway.  To date, this problem is still occurring.  I have too many work to-dos to even chance losing them and no time to fuss with it.

Then I wondered if I could actually add my work to-dos to my Filo.  Many people do this successfully, so why was it such an issue for me? 
  • The biggest issue I have is that I like the weekly layout for my work to-dos—I make posters a week before a program date, flyers two weeks before a program date, and start creating flyers about three to four weeks before a program date.  So it is very easy to flip to the week prior and add those to-dos.  But with my Filo, I prefer to use the daily sheets so that I can keep track of random notes and thoughts and events that pop up throughout the day that the personal size weekly layout would not allow for.  (I tried switching to the weekly inserts it in the past.  There was just not enough room for all of that.) 
  • Another issue with using the Filo is a question of how I would separate my work to-dos from my personal to-dos for each day. 
  • A third issue is that I plan when items need to be done before I have my schedule in place.  Our newsletter is published quarterly, so I have to plan for three to four months at a time but my schedule is created only a week or so before the start of any given month.  Where could I place my work to-dos in relation to my personal to-dos if I don’t know what hours my work schedule would take place and where I’m schedule to be?  (Originally I was thinking that I could put my work to-dos next to the hour slots that I would be at work, allowing to differentiate between them and my personal to-dos).

There were so many issues working against using my Filo for my work to-dos.  But I was determined to try it.  After all, I have plenty of room on my daily pages to add them.


The layout of a typical day
Thankfully, I had an epiphany about how to separate work and personal to-dos.  Since I color code everything but to-dos in my planner, why not color code between work and personal to-dos as well?  I decided to use black ink for work to-dos and blue for personal to-dos.  I also decided to suck up the weekly layout issue—I can easily figure out a week prior to any date by using the monthly layout (which I use anyway for future planning) and/or flipping to the previous day of the week even though it means flipping through more pages than the weekly layout.  In addition, while I might have to plan to-dos way ahead of my schedule, it’s really a non-issue—for the most part, I know when I’ll be working, and even if my schedule does change, it’s not a huge deal if my work to-dos don’t line up exactly with the time slots I’m working.  I can be a little flexible.  What’s important is that I have everything I need to do written in one place so that it gets done.  And to ensure I plan appropriately, having my schedule in the same place is ideal.


I don’t know how it will all work out in the end.  Last week when thinking about moving all of my work to-dos to the Filo, I wrote everything in there, only to cross it out and continue using the AAG planner, only to then move back to the Filo.  I have to really give it chance before I can say it doesn’t work.  So for now I’m using my Filo for work to-dos, which is unchartered territory for me.  I will let you know how it goes. 

In the meantime, I’m excited about it.  I’ve written date-specific items on the day I need to start working on it.  Anything that doesn’t have a specific due date gets written on the DayTimer Hot Sheet (one side is for work and the other side is for personal items—personal to-do items are managed in the same way).


Typical day now with work to-do items

Thanks to Twitter conversations and especially to Zoe for helping me muddle through this little dilemma by offering me suggestions and tips.  If you have any of your own, please leave them in the comments below—I am always up for suggestions!

14 comments:

  1. From Sheila:

    As you do not need to worry about your work to-dos away from work, have you though about using your Outlook calendar? I have a running list of tasks with two types of dates: "No Date" and everything else. I find the "No Date" reminds me of the actual projects I need to work on - and they default to the top and their own section, and the others are underneath, with the "soonest due" dates at the top - this is great for the parts of any particular project. What is also nice about this - I can just "flag" e-mails and they are automatically added to the "Tasks" list. This is great for things I need to follow up on quickly, but "later or tomorrow" (or rather, the next time I am at my own desk and not the reference desk). Now mind you, these have a "today" date, but that's good, because it brings them right to the top, and in my line of vision. I find this keeps me very organized at work, and lets me truly leave work at work. The only items for work I put in my planner are vacation days, work functions, and my "alternate" Fridays where I work from 9-5 rather than 10-6. (Now, you can somehow sync Outlook across accounts - like Google calendar, but the tasks work. Besides, that would defeat the purpose of separating work and pleasure!) Good luck with whatever system you choose!

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    1. We don't use outlook at work, but this was the same thing I was trying to accomplish with google tasks. I could use a different electronic format but considering the trouble I had before, I'd rather not chance it. Now I could use the iPad but then I'd have to bring it every day - I don't know yet whether that will happen. So for now, I'm going to stick with paper I think. So far it's going okay.

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    2. Outlook definitely works - which is why it has replaced all other systems in Corporate America - but if you don't have it, then that won't work very well! I just have one question - what if you get too busy to complete your to-do list for a day, do you have to re-write it? Are you still using your frixion pens?

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    3. Yes, for anything I don't complete in a day, it gets rewritten on a day when I think I can get it done. Sometimes it's annoying to rewrite, but for the most part, I don't mind it.

      I have switched to the Staedtler pens, as recommended (or posted about) by J. They provide more color options than the Frixion and I have been looking for a replacement upon hearing that the Frixion ink will fade in heat - we can't have that! ;)

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  2. Well, I was going to offer some suggestions, but you've thought of them all already! I only keep my one Filo, with both my work and personal life inside. Here's what I do:

    1. Color code- My work to-dos are brown, personal are aqua. Super easy to tell apart! I also have wedding to-dos in orange and blog posts in pink... I'm a bit color crazy!

    2. Use the monthly calendar and hot sheets. I use "deadline" stickers on my monthly pages so I can easily flip there and see when something is due. Then, I just have to flip to that daily page to get more details. I'll also use the hot sheets for longer lists of to-dos or projects that need to be broken down. I stick them to my today marker, and just move them each day!

    3. To combat the small size of the Filo, I keep a separate notebook at work where I'll jot down more details of any specific to do. For example, I might just write "program flier" in the Filo, but I'll have a separate document that has all of the info that needs to be on the flier, deadlines, approvals needed, etc.

    Whew, that was a bit long winded (and I think you knew it all already) but oh well, there's my two cents!

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    1. Yes, I think color coding is the best way to differentiate. I bought two packs (one for work and one for home) of the pens you recently reviewed since they have more colors than my Frixion pack did. Hopefully that will help with the work vs. personal to dos.

      I do use the monthly calendar, but mostly for forward planning and being able to see my work schedule for the month. I am a pro at using the hot sheets now. I've always used them, but for personal only. Having the two sides makes it very easy to have both on there.

      Thanks for the tips!

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  3. I am curious about what brand of pens you mentioned above? I was just about to purchase a package of Frixions, myself, but I may need more colors. Thanks, and good luck with your work/personal integration!

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    1. Sorry - I should have linked directly to J's blog post. You can see her write up about them here . I bought them after reading her post since they provided the amount of colors (plus one or two more) I needed. I hope to do a post about them myself at some point in the future, probably when I do my work to-dos update post.

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  4. Was just wondering why you never tried multi-pens. Or you may have and I just missed that post. (: Having a box of pens would drive me nuts, not to mention how much added bulk and weight they would add to my filo.

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    1. I have used colored pens for a long time, just not enough colors to incorporate work items - I never needed to in the past. I don't keep the pens in my Filo. I have two sets - one that stays at work and one that stays at home. In both cases, I have a pen bag where they are stored. If I need to put anything in color while I'm out and about, I use Post-it flags (which are kept on the Filofax Post-it accessory at the front of the binder) as a temporary holding spot. Then, when I can, I will add the item to the planner in the corresponding ink color. It might be more work than necessary, but it helps me see at a glance what's important, what belongs to what category and the like.

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    2. Having 2 sets of pens certainly solves the problem of carrying them around (: Why didn't I think of that? Thanks for your reply.

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    3. Again, it might be overkill but it works. =) Thank you for reading and commenting!

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  5. My personal experience is that things are winding down into one big blur of chaos as soon as I try to seperate work and personal (as in having two different binders). Which is why I have it all in one A5.
    I use the 2PPM for the grand overview (tabbed, so I can find them in a heartbeat), then the weekly pages for the upcoming schedules, then 2PPD for the actual lists and Todo's. My weekly Todo-list doesn't fit on the weekly FF pages (I use the columned layout). I will change that after the summer, since I just ordered the Family Life Book from Organised Mum. I need that grid layout more than anything! I will repunch the pages (which are a perfect fit btw), and I will also have room for weekly todo's. Back on topic:). Therefore I use the hotlists from Daytimer for Work todo's on one side, and Personal/Family/Household on the rear side.

    I color-code all entries, no matter where. I use Frixion pens to do so, because I can erase them easily should things change. I have purple for personal, pink for family, lime green for household and aqua for work.

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    1. I was using Frixion pens, and I like them, like to be able to erase and there's no bleed through. But they were one or two colors short of what I would need to add work items, so I switched. The pens I'm using now (the same as J, see above) provide all the colors I need. There is a little bit of see-through on the page of the FF pages, but not enough to cause a problem.

      Having my work to-dos in the Filo is working out better than I thought I would. I love having everything one place and I think I've got it tweaked enough to a final layout. I will do a follow-up post soon!

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