How Do You To Do: Take Two

Back in the beginning of June, I discussed my issue with my work to do lists.  I am happy to report that my experiment in writing them right in my Filo is working out well.  I started to add my work to dos to my daily pages, and while I was skeptical at first, this has proven to be the best method for me (for now).

In short, I used to have a separate spiral bound planner just for work items.  My work schedule would be added to my Filo, but the to dos would go into the work planner.  This worked for a long time, but when it came to time management and deciding which items needed to get done when, based on my schedule, flipping back and forth between both planners became too cumbersome.  And since my work schedule has to go in my personal planner, I figured I would try adding the to dos as well.

So how have I managed to keep work to dos separate from personal to dos?  Color coding of course!  I have talked about my color coding system before, but I’ve had to tweak it just a bit.  First, for my color coding, I have switched to the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner.  I made the switch after reading J’s review of them.  They offer more colors than I previously had with the Frixion pens, and with the addition of my work items, I needed more colors. 

So here’s my system:

For general writing and to dos, I use my favorite pen, the Uniball JetStream RT.  I use the blue for personal to dos and the black for work to dos.  I do have some of the red pens, and those I use at work for various things.  I absolutely love these pens!  They are gel but glide like a ballpoint.  If they made these pens in all of the colors I need, I would use these for everything, hands down.  But, alas, they do not, and so I only use them for to dos.

The Staedtler pens are for everything else:

Black – to write the hours in for the weekend days (Filofax inserts do not include hours for Saturday and Sunday, so I compromise and write them in myself—see photo below)
Blue – Exercise items
Red – work schedule
Aqua – personal appointments and events (I had to switch to this from purple since this pack does not include purple—an adjustment since I have used purple for this for many years)
Brown – work due dates (projects, etc)
Green – personal due dates (bills, library books, etc)
Pink – work notations (if a coworker will be out and I’ll need to fill in for something)
Orange – personal notations (birthdays, anniversaries, if an immediate family member will be away, etc)

The pack also comes with a light green and a yellow pen—the light green I will use if/when the main green pen runs out; the yellow I don’t use because it can’t be seen on white paper.  They really could take out the yellow and add in the purple.  Just sayin’.

Once I got the color coding down, it was all about how to organize the items on my daily inserts.  Here is an example:

For any given work day, I divide my pages up by schedule and to dos.  The schedule always goes on the left, right next to the hours listed.  Anything that needs to be scheduled for a specific (or round-about) time will go here.  My to dos go on the right side.  I try to line up my work to dos so that they’re next to the hours that I will be at work.  This doesn’t always work because I add to dos and deadlines to my pages way in advance of when I get my schedule for the month.  For the most part, my schedule stays the same—Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday I work 9 to 5, and Thursdays I work 1 to 9.  So I typically will write my to dos based on that.  However, there are certain times of the year I don’t work late on Thursdays, or my schedule can change at the last minute if I need to rework something or if a coworker asks me to switch the night shift.  It all depends.  Ideally, I would like for all of my work to dos to line up with my work schedule, but I know that it won’t always happen that way, and I have to accept it (my OCD doesn’t like it very much, but I’ve mentally allowed for an imperfect layout once in a while—see, I am flexible!).

Personal to dos get listed for the evening hours when I’ll be home.  For the most part, I don’t have a lot of personal to dos for any given week night, so the small amount of space designated for this list is enough for me.

The weather is written down at the top of the page, on the right-hand side, before the work to dos.  I differentiate between the two by color—weather is in blue because it’s not a work item (all of which are black).

For work items that don’t have a specific due date, I write them on one side of my DayTimer hot sheet.  The reverse lists my personal non-date-specific to do items.

Work items are listed in black and personal items are listed in blue so that I know which list needs to be shown depending on the day (work items are shown during the week and personal items on the weekends).

(The above picture also shows how I write in times for Saturday and Sunday.)

The weekends work a little differently.  If I work on a weekend day, there is no to do list.  On Saturdays and Sundays, I’m scheduled to the reference desk for the entire day.  I am limited to what work I can do while there since my main purpose for being there is to answer reference questions.  So I don’t usually work on anything from my to do lists on the weekends.

My personal weekend to do lists are usually longer and more involved than they are during the week.  Because Saturday and Sunday are listed on the same sheet, I can use both sections for the entire weekend.  So if I have something that needs to get done specifically on Saturday or Sunday, I will list it on the appropriate day.  But, if I need to get something done at any point during the weekend, I will add it where there’s room.  There’s no need to move an item from Saturday to Sunday since I see both days at one time.

Here is an example of a work day that has both work to dos and due dates:

The due dates (in brown) are listed last, starting at the last hour I will be at work, building upwards above that; my to do list is built starting at the beginning work hour, and built down to the due dates.

Here is an example of my to do lists being created way in advance of my work schedule:

My work to dos are based on when our newsletter is published.  The newsletter is published four times a year, so every time the newsletter is published, I know what my due dates and corresponding to do lists are three to four months in advance.  My (official) schedule isn’t given to me until a week or two before the start of a month (for the most part, I know what days I’m working and the hours—what changes is where I’ll be, the reference desk or in the office, which determines what gets done when).

Any personal or work to dos that are not accomplished on a given day will be moved to the next day or whatever day allows for time for that item to be done.  It might be a lot of rewriting in some cases, but this is the best system for me.  I need to see what items need to be done on a specific day and where I have time to work on something that’s not date specific.  Plus, if I feel I’m moving a certain item too many times, I know that I’m procrastinating and need to just get it off of my to do list.

That’s it, in a nutshell.  All in all, I am very happy with this set up.  I plan to continue with it for 2013.


  1. Yay! I'm glad the fineliners are working for you- I am still totally loving mine. Although I completely agree on the yellow one- it should definitely be purple as the yellow is useless!

    1. Yes, J, I love the fineliners. I even bought a pack to keep at work. Maybe they'll come to their senses a get rid of the yellow and purple, since the yellow is pointless. What paper did they use to test it???

  2. What I always wonder with the color coding is if you carry around all those different colored pens with you all the time? I like the idea of color coding, but being a minimalist, I only want to carry the Filo, not the Filo and a pencil case and etc... So I have never taken it up, at least not seriously.

    1. I know some people carry their pens in a pen bag, which I used to do. I will do that if I'm going away for an extended period of time. However, I don't carry them with me otherwise. I have a set at home and a set at work - that usually covers the two places where I would write something extensive down. If I'm out and about and want to write something down, I'll put it on a post-it (I have a small collection in my Filo at all times) and add the event in the appropriate color in the right place at a later time. That seems to work well for me at this point. I don't write a whole lot when I'm out and about.


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