This has become a bit of a yearly tradition now, at this time of the year I take a look back at the planning system I used over the past 12 months. I look at what worked and what didn’t, what I liked and what I didn’t and what was missing.
So, let’s take a look back at 2018 and how I think I got on.
What Did And Didn’t Work In My 2018 System
I love the flexibility of a Traveler’s Notebook system. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a Traveler’s Notebook (or TN for short) is essentially a cover that allows you to swap in and out different inserts. This is great as when you fill one notebook up you can just swap it out for a new one, or you can try a monthly calendar and if that doesn’t work you can move to a weekly or daily without losing all of your other notes.
I started off with a Personal Sized TN cover but this proved a little too bulky to fit in my back pocket comfortably so I made my own pocket sized cover. this meant that I did have to re-copy my calendar over but that wasn’t too much of a chore.
When I was made redundant in July I didn’t need anything to fit in my pocket any more so decided to move up to a bigger planner so I could fit more in and it could be a bit more flexible in terms of layout. I initially decided on a A5 size but it was too big to fit in my bag if I did want to take it anywhere with me so I decided to cut down to a B6 which has worked really well size-wise. At this point I’d already drawn up a 2018 calendar by hand three times and I really didn’t fancy doing it for a fourth time so I developed a printable – if you’re looking for a simple layout that’s undated so you can start it any time of the year then check out our B6 Insert available in 3, 6, 9 or 12 month formats.
This system worked pretty well and allows me to keep track of all of my appointments, TV shows I wanted to watch and must-do tasks that week.
In terms of general tasks, I’m still very much following some of the principles of “Getting Things Done” which means that I like to split tasks into contexts and projects.
My contexts are pretty all much computer related so I have broken these down into my various projects such as “General” which encompasses email & community stuff that I do etc. “Blog” for this website, “Reviews” for my new film, tv and book review website, “Etsy” for my shop related activities.
Initially I had all of these in separate pages of a single notebook, this meant that when a page was full I had to “thread” the pages together – that is link pages that don’t run concurrently. Unfortunately I couldn’t get on with this – I like to see all tasks of the same type together in one place so I can flick through and see what is a priority or what I feel like working on.
In the end I whittled it down to two notebooks, using the front and back to separate out the different projects, I then use a separate piece of paper to do a mind dump of everything that needs to be captured.
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I then go through this list, work out the priority items for that day or week and then add the rest to the appropriate notebook section.
Any must-do items are moved to a new sheet so I can keep those separate from other tasks and know to work on those first. If I’m going through my notebook and notice a task that is important, it gets a star by it and is moved to the priority list, if it’s a “this week” item such as pay a bill etc. then it goes into the “This Week” section of my diary.
I keep my priority list out of my notebook as this list changes so often I would be going through no end of inserts whereas this way I can recycle odd bits of paper – and keep costs down too.
I still use Google Calendar to list down my important calendar dates – it adds most of these automatically for me through reading my emails (spooky but helpful) and a lot of the others are repeating tasks which I can simply repeat so it’s easy to add. I don’t usually take my TN out with me so having appointments in my Google Calendar means that I am less likely to double book myself (which used to happen quite a lot!)
Overall I’m really happy with the way that this system is working and I don’t think I’ll be changing it up too much in the coming year. I may play around with some new inserts that help me organise tasks a bit better but there isn’t much to improve.
How I’m Organising FlippingHeck.com
I’m still using Google Sheets that link to Google Calendar to run my editorial calendar this is working reasonably well although I have come across a couple of issues when moving articles around or forgetting to push items through to the calendar and people thinking that spots are free. I’ve set up recurring entries to block out spots that aren’t available to have, and written a handy little script to autp number the weekly round-up calendar items for me which helps quite a lot if I can’t remember what number I’ve got to!
I’ve also changed the way that I manage the Weekly Round-ups using a Chrome extension called “Citable” which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be available on the Chrome Webstore any more. Citable allows me to save links and a summary to a Google Sheet which I can then import into another sheet for that week’s round-up and all the titles, text and links are formatted for me. I have worked out it’s saved me upwards of 2 hours each week which is a fantastic saving.
In addition I’ve written a couple of WordPress plugins that mean I can upload a single single image and text and a Pinterest image is automatically added – this has also saved a considerable amount of time and I can do work on my phone now without the need to use graphics software.
The major time-saver though has been to add a text expander tool to my workflow. A lot of the emails I write require the same response – pointing people in the direction of guest posting guidelines or letting them know I have received content for a Weekly Round-Up.
I had been using a text expnder on my Smartphone for a while – typing on a screen is a lot easier than it used to be but it still leaves a lot to be desired so if you’re on Android I highly recommend Textpand – Text Expander the free version works great but I upgraded to the paid version for more snippets.
I researched a variety of options for my PC and decided on Breevy by 16 Software while the website looks a little dated, the software has saved me upwards of 5 hours a week in responding to emails and I’ll definately be purchasing the full version after my trial is up.
One addition to my workflow that I have made that hasn’t quite worked as well is a system to automatically email contributors when their articles go live, this seems to be a bit hit and miss and it’s probably cost me more time in development and bug-fixing that it would have done just to email the article author directly! Still, it’s a work in progress and something that I will be looking at more in 2019.
Have I Been Productive In 2018?
Overall I think my productivity has increased this past year. Of course, there’s always room for improvement but I think the system I have in place has saved me between 7 and 10 hours a week – that’s essentially given me a whole day back which means I’ve been able to experiment with more items for our Etsy store. In 2019 I’m going to be using this extra time to produce some more great downloads for you (so make sure you’re signed up to the newsletter) as well as some great series and longer format articles.
Over To You
Were you pleased with your productivity in 2018? What did you do well and what could you have improved? Let us know in the comments and we’ll offer suggestions on what you could do to up your productivity even more.