Life Planning & Journaling with OneNote

I recently spoke at the Learn OneNote conference 2016. It was a virtual conference, with all the talks being recorded in advance of the day and then released over the space of a few days to match the schedule.

This talk describes my productivity system in detail, a system that has evolved over the 10 years that I’ve been using OneNote.

It’s a system that works really well for me. I have A.D.D. and without a tight system around me I’d fall into a rabbit-hole of procrastination, forgetfulness and disorganisation. This system means that I turn up to work motivated and clear on my objectives for the day. It makes sure that I get things done, consistently, day after day.

In the talk I go though:

  • Goal setting
  • Month planning
  • Week planning
  • Day planning
  • Journaling
  • Routines

I also touch upon Notebud, the app I’ve been building as well as some tactics to reduce stress & anxiety by use of mindfulness techniques.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Notebud you can visit the site here, there is also a short survey that we’ve put together to better understand what sort of features you think the ultimate productivity app for OneNote should contain.

To support the talk I have also put together a OneNote notebook containing a summary of my workflows as well as some example templates, you can get that here.

The video is below, as well as a full transcript of the talk.

Full transcript


Hi, welcome to my talk on journaling and life planning with OneNote for the Learn OneNote conference 2016. My name’s Darren Beale. I’m situated in the U.K. and I run a software development company. I’ve been using OneNote for about 10 years and I use it to plan both my life and my business, and I would be completely lost without it.

Today, what I’ll be covering is how I plan my life and journal throughout my week. I’ll be giving you a quick drive by initially of how I set my notebook up. I’ll be showing you the layout, the different aspects that we’ll be discussing and that will give you some time to familiarize yourself when we go in deeper later on in the talk. I’ll then cover in some depth month planning and week planning as well as then day planning and what I call journaling, although you may use it by a different name. To finish off, I’ll go through how those fit through my week and my month, basically the routines that I have in place, and how to do all those things.

In other words this talk is going to show you how to plan your life with OneNote and how to get stuff done. I’m going to be leaning heavily on my own system. It’s a system that has evolved over the last 10 years but where appropriate I’ll be mentioning other ways of doing things as well.

Now, productivity systems are private, certainly very personal, and one size definitely does not fit all. I’m sure if 20 of us were to go into a room, we’d all have 20 different systems and we could discuss the differences between each one. This is my system. It works for me. Obviously yours is going to be deeply personal to you. You’ll probably think that mine seems quite regimented and it’s certainly quite fixed. I have ADD and I need quite a tight framework around me to get things done. The idea here is that I’m showing you what I do, you’re going to maybe throw away 50% of it, 75% of it, but I’m hoping I’m going to leave you with a couple of nuggets of things that you can use to insert into your workflows or seeing how I use OneNote in this way might give you some inspiration to use it in different ways yourself. My system, see how you like it, take what bits you want from it, but I hope you find valuable.

Drive-by / Familiarisation

As discussed, before we dive too deeply into my system, what I want to do is give you a quick overview of my notebook and how I lay things out just so you’ve got a feel. This is my primary notebook, it has all of the things I’m currently working on and I basically live in this notebook, particularly this section here, which is a section per month. The section is created previous month. I then, during my month planning phase, towards the end of the previous month, start populating and you’ll see how that happens as we go through. In terms of the sections themselves I won’t delve in too much detail but we’ve got some colour coding going on here, we’ve got some lists, we’ve got some projects, and then we’ve got specific sections for my business, personal stuff, and this 2016 section here is where I kind of set goals and ideas for the future.

This isn’t my only notebook. I have tons of things. Some of them are shared with other family members, some are shared with colleagues, and some are used for me so I don’t for instance have to carry around heavy notebooks in terms of data, say on my phone, so I tend to keep my top level notebook quite light, so synchronisation is less of a burden.

In terms of the pages we’re going to go through, or the sections we’re going to go through today, as I say, these section per month is pretty much where I live. It’s got an overview page for the month. This is created during my month planning phase and it has ideas of projects I’m going to work on, including side projects, quite importantly things I’m going to be avoiding this month, what my focus is, general sort of random thoughts, and then the habits that I’m trying to build into my life.

During the month this will get updated but I don’t add new tasks. I tend not to do that. I will do that during the week or the day views, but at least I can kind of see by the end of the month what I’ve completed, how well I’ve done. Then we have a page per week which is generated during the month plan initially where there are quite tease bullet points about the amount of time I’ve got available for that month and the things I think I’m probably going to get done. Then during the week previously I might dump things into here and certainly on the Friday afternoon when I do my week planning for the coming week I’ll then flesh this out a little bit and add specifically what I think I’m going to be getting done and any things to remember.

Daily I have this page. The tasks here come directly from my to do list manager. These are manually added and they are taken manually from my week plan and particularly my calendar which I go through in the morning when I do my journaling session. We’ve then got some small sections for things to remember and there’s some questions that I ask myself each day which we’ll go through when we get to that section.

That’s the basic outline of my notebook. There’s a bunch of stuff, projects and lists and things. Most importantly is this section per month which is my inbox and pretty much where I live. I then have an overview page which maps my month out and then I have a page per week, which gives me an idea of the things I’m probably going to be working on and it gives me a place to dump stuff. Then again, I have a page per day where I have quite a focused agenda but also a place to write thoughts and to generally capture as I go through my day.

Just a quick note on automation that I eluded to earlier. I’ve written code that interacts with the OneNote API and then during the latter part of a month it automatically writes a new section for the coming month. It adds an empty page for that month. It also adds a week commencing page and then subpages for each one of those, which are the days per week. For years I’ve done that manually. It’s not a massive overhead, but that automation just removes one less thing for me to do during my week.

This is quite nice because what also happens is these here as I say are coming directly from my separate to do list manager so there’s a separate API call to my to do list manager, these get written over every day to save me cross referencing the two systems. This is quite nice because it allows me to create what is effectively a GTD tickler file so I can add tasks or reminders to my to do list manager and I can set a due date for 6 months’ time, a year’s time; and they will just magically appear on that day within my OneNote page to remind me that that needs to be done. Obviously I may also see it within my to do list manager but the idea being is the page per day is where is spend all of my time.

Month Planning

The first thing we’re going to be talking about in detail is month planning. Why is month planning important? In my opinion month planning is extremely important because it allows you to set your expectations for the month. What stuff are you actually going to get done? How much time do you actually have? Can you then prioritise what you can get done within the time that’s actually available? One tendency might be, and I’ve been as guilty as the next person of doing this, is to absolutely just at the beginning of the month, even if I bother planning anything, and I didn’t use to plan for many years, is to just chuck everything in a list and go right I’ve got a thousand things I need to get done, I’m going to get them all done, and get stressed out when you don’t get any of them done or you feel in some way a failure or a loser because you said you’d get 15,000 things done and in the end you only got 10 or 15.

You’re human, you’ve only got a set number amount of hours per day, and per week and you’ve got fixed routines, you may have a family, you may have a business, you may have a career, you’ve got to fit it all in and actually when you start planning it out, quite literally on a piece of paper, you realise you don’t have that much time available, especially if you’re going to do a good job and be very deeply focused when you’re doing those tasks. The idea of month planning is to set yourself up to win. Not to load yourself up with unrealistic goals because you could get stressed out, you might burn out if you keep doing that over a long period of time. You’re here to be able to get things done within a realistic time frame.

The idea, also, is that you can positively frame your life so you’re setting realistic goals. You’re setting realistic goals meaning you’re going to achieve those goals. That means that you’re going to get a sense of accomplishment, you can congratulate yourself, you’re also going to end up feeling more motivated because you’re actually getting things done rather than being on that back foot because you’ve got unrealistic expectations about what you can and can’t get done.

To our system then. We’ve already talked about this month page, which here I’ve already filled out. As you can see I’m working through tasks as we go. Initially what you want to be thinking of doing is having some goals for the month. I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase S.M.A.R.T. so goals are achievable and timely and rather than just saying “do some running”, you might say “go out for a run twice a week”. You set time limits, they’re achievable, they’re realistic, those sorts of things. If you don’t have any goals, and a quick aside, I would set my goals within a brainstorming session so every 6 months I do that and then what you would do is you would pick a few items from that brainstorm list and you put them into your plan for November, and say, these are the things I’m going to get done this month.

If you’re new to goal setting, then actually just blocking out an hour and having a 2 part brainstorming session where the first part of that session is a dreams session where you just scatter gun a bunch of things that you’d like to achieve over your lifetime or the next month, next year, and don’t worry about the blue sky. Note them all down and then pick the top 3 and then add some achievable actions for each one of those things to get you closer to that goal. You should end up with then 10 or 11 tasks.

Optionally, depending on where you are in your life or what state you’re in, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, if you’re feeling unhappy you might also want to do an 80/20 analysis on the problems that you’re facing at the moment, so list out the things that you’re unhappy about, or things that you’d like to change, and then choose the 20% of things that are causing you 80% of the problems. There’s going to be a few at the top of that list that might be – ‘being really stressed out’ or ‘always tired’ or ‘not having enough time in the day’. Whatever they are, you then want to do the same as you did with your dreams, you want to be adding 3 or 4 tasks per problem area and again you should end up with a handful of tasks for things that you can do to improve your situation at the moment.

You’ve now got a bunch of actionable tasks which you can put in a page somewhere within your system and type goals and what we then want to do is bring that back to your month plan and then you then want to take a number of those tasks from your goal section and write them out in long hand and then here, I’ve set some approximate times I think it’s going to take me to get them done.

I also have a number of habits that I like to form, or over time I’m learning new positive habits to improve my life or make me feel happier or improve other people’s lives around me. I normally list this section out here. This is things that I’m working on, that I have worked on that I kind of locked in and I just want to keep on top of them. This is just a simple reminder of the things, and then I’ve got things that I’m focusing on for the coming month. This has been on my list for a year. I am drinking more water for example but I always forget so I always put it at the top of the list just so I don’t forget, and then there’s some specific things for the month that I’d like to get into my flow.

Next, you want to go through what it is that you track your tasks with, whether it’s a separate to do list manager, whether it’s in outlook, and you want to add those to your tasks for the month. Remember, we’ve already taken some of our goals and now we’re going to take tasks out of our to do list manager and again we’re going to take the highest priority items and we want to put them also in this list. I’ve got 3 sections here, business, personal, and side project. Some of these have come from my goals. For instance with my personal ones like running and cooking, whereas the Notebud and Siftware tasks are coming directly from my task management system. I might have had a goal of improving my websites SEO capabilities, these tasks themselves have come from my to do list manager.

It’s important to say don’t worry too much at this stage about whether you’ve put too much in because we’ll come to that in a moment, when you’ve done a bit more deeper planning. As I say, for each one of the things that you’ve put in, whether they’re from your task manager or whether they’re from your goals section, put some average times or very approximately and conservative times for each one of the tasks.

The next thing to do is to get your calendar. This is a screenshot from my calendar. I’ve unticked all of the different calendars, my staff calendars, my personal calendar, family calendar, and I’ve just got a blank slate. You want something that looks like this and you want to print it out so you can draw on it. Obviously if you’ve got something like a tablet, you might want to do that electronically but I go old school and I print it out.

The next thing you want to be doing is blocking out known appointments you’re going to have, through your month. You’re going to know that you’re going away on Friday or on Tuesday you’ve got that thing, just literally in half day blocks or day blocks, scribble out any days where you can’t do anything that day or you can only do something for half a day. This should take about 10 minutes. It really is quick. Just in front of your calendar with a blank calendar and a sharpie, scribble out the bits you’ve got. Don’t get too detailed. Two blocks per day, morning and afternoon, work out what days or parts of days are reserved and then however many half day slots.

This is an example of one that I recently did so you’ll see here that, that doesn’t count because that was my previous month because that’s week commencing the 31st of October, but I’ve got a couple of bits where I’m blocked out. It’s actually quite a quiet month for me but at the end here I’ve listed out how many slots I’ve got available for the coming week for each one of these weeks. I mean, that week there is unheard of. I’ve actually got nothing particularly in my diary or anything blocking me that whole week.

Now, it’s important to recognize that things will change and we don’t want to get too granular with our month planning. You might be tempted to start planning out each day during your month planning in quite a granular and a detailed format, you could do that. Things do change and the further you go into your month, the more it will just be a waste of time. I did used to do that, if I’m honest. It did take a while and it sucked. This is very much big building blocks. Can’t do anything on that day, got a half day slot that day, I’ve got these number of slots to get stuff done during my month. It’s going to be amazing if you even get 75% of the things that you do even with this kind of more, higher level planning, it’s going to be amazing if you get more than 75% done during your month anyway. I’d say more likely to be 40, 50% just because things come in, so don’t get too hung up by it.

We’ve already looked at this final done calendar view. What I want to do now is to see how I’m going to apply that to my OneNote week sections. You see here I’ve got 9 blocks available. During my month planning phase I will go through each one of the week commencing page lists and I will write in the upcoming section things that are in the diary that I know about and then the slots that I’ve got. I’ll do that for the entire month. Looking at your monthly task list, what you want to now do is kind of break that out into weeks and go through each of your weeks and add some tasks in here. Again, I’m being pretty high level. I’m not getting too worried. I know this is going to take me pretty much all day. I know that’s going to take me half a day, maybe 2 to 3 hours. Take from your month list and go through each week and say well I’ll get this done this week, I’ll get this done the other week, and the other week and so forth.

Importantly when you’ve finished, you want to go back to your month plan and you want to see what you couldn’t fit in. Obviously if it was there, or thereabouts, don’t worry too much but if you’ve got things that just wouldn’t fit into the month I actually go ahead and explicitly write down what I won’t be working on this month because then you can remind yourself that you haven’t got time to be doing those things so don’t be doing them. For example, I have a couple of other side projects I’m working on which I’m parking. I keep fiddling with my website, my personal website, trying to improve things and just geek out now and again some evenings, I haven’t got time for doing that so I’m telling myself don’t be doing that. It’s really important that that avoid list is made as well.

After I’ve kind of gone through all my goals and my tasks I’ve summarised them for the month, what I think I can get done I’ve gone through and then I’ve added to my 4 weeks of the month, what I think I’m going to get done per week. I’ve listed out my avoids but I also then list the things, just generally what I’m focusing on as well, and that’s kind of month planning done.

I would say you need no more than 2 hours a month for this absolutely tops. If you’ve already got a to do list manager, you’ve got a calendar that you actually use, maybe you and your partner already share appointments and you’re already pretty good at adding your appointments for meetings and things like that. You’ve already got that base so you just go through and you just see what gaps you’ve got and then you fill it in and it only takes a couple of hours.

You’ve now got a loosely planned month, loose is definitely important. You’ve got a list of tasks that you’ve got a fighting chance of getting completed during the month, that you’re also aware that things will change and you won’t get too hung up if things change on a weekly or daily basis. You’ve also got the list of things you’re going to avoid and you’ve got a plan basically.

Week Planning

Now we’re getting to week planning. Week planning, or as I call it time boxing is I think the most important part of my scheduling regime. If there’s one thing that you take away from this talk it’s the idea of being able to plan your week to a certain level to make sure that you’re not wasting any time or that you’re getting things done during those time slots. We’ve already gone through and we’ve planned our week during our month planning session and we know how many slots we’ve got available. We’re going to then refer to our calendar.

The first thing is the calendar mapped out without any time filled in so this is my calendar with things that I know about that are happening. My wife’s doing something or I’ve got family commitments, or I’ve got meetings. I always have a daily reserved slot for calls and I eat, weirdly, I drive home. You can see here I’ve got a slot for my daily review. It takes about 10 minutes. That’s just a 30 minutes placeholder there. I also add a slot here for Monday morning just making sure I’m on top of any e-mail that came in during the weekend. You then, simply, just go through your list here and you add them to your calendar. It’s that straightforward.

First thing, be very careful about where you put, within your calendar things that you can’t avoid. Let’s say you’re having a phone call with a client. Try not to book that for 11:00 because that’s in the middle of your morning slot and I tend to find that if you do that you’re waiting for the call to happen beforehand and afterwards maybe you’re writing some notes, you’ve lost your morning. That may sound extreme but think about it. If you’re ready to start work at 10:00 and you’ve got a call at 11:00, what can you get done? You might fire through your to do list manager. I would argue it’s much better to book things like calls or meetings to be before or after lunch, first thing in day, last thing of the day, give yourself as much of a slot as possible during the morning and the afternoon to get some stuff done.

The next thing is just to think about the energy that you have. I would always put things in my diary that require the most energy in the mornings for obvious reasons, and then straight after lunch sometimes you might want a half an hour just to kind of get back into the zone after popping out or whatever, but certainly you probably have less energy in the afternoon so maybe have less thinking things in the afternoon.

This is an example of my planned week, based upon these tasks here. I’ve then gone through and put slots in, so you can see for instance I’ve got a couple of slots for doing small bits and pieces. Here’s my week planning slot. I think it’s quite important to always try and leave a slot that is reserved because stuff always comes up. You can then move these things around during the week as well, so if something comes in on Wednesday well maybe I’ll put that there.

Ultimately what you’ve got is what I call these deep work slots for my week now. I can kind of almost ignore this, because it’s in my calendar. Obviously I won’t ignore my day view, which we’ll come to next, but the important part, the absolutely important part is that I can in the morning, when I do my journaling routine, I can look at what I’m going to be getting done for the coming day, but ultimately I’ve got a plan for my week, it’s locked down, it’s realistic, I want to get the stuff done. I’ve got them ordered by the energy that I have to get them done and that’s pretty much locked in stone now for the week.

Day Planning & Journaling

Now we’re going to talk about journaling or day planning. This is the most dynamic aspect of this system, as in it’s updated regularly, daily, hourly. What I thought I’d do first is talk about why journaling? Why I do it, is to maintain a positive outlook and to be thankful for what I have. It allows one to ground oneself and remember that life is for living and not just ticking things off of lists. It reduces massively the amount of thinking I need to do, in terms of what I’m going to get done for the day, and it’s easy to see what I need to get done realistically during the day. Now, I hesitate to call mine a journal. It’s just a list of a few things. Some people journal and they’ll take an hour or half an hour every morning and they’ll write 800 words or something about their thoughts or their feelings or it’ll be simply as part of a larger writing project. They might write down how they feel. They might write down about their opinions to get to know themselves more.

As I say, mine is more, it’s quite practical in terms of here’s a bunch of stuff that I want to get done today, but I also use it to remind myself of things that I can be thankful for. The idea being that you can rewire one’s brain, be more positive during one’s day and regularly doesn’t actually end up rewiring your brain to have more of a positive outlook generally. There is science to back that up.

An OneNote tip basically is you can create a template for a journal and you can then set per section you can say create every new page using this template. I don’t use that aspect because I’ve automated some of the page creation using the API as I talked about before, but it’s important to know that a particular regime you could actually set each of these headings to be sat there waiting for you when you create a new page within the section.

Jumping into the workflow itself you’ve got a page here which has got everything of your day. My journaling is done generally first thing in the morning, quite early. I’ve got a routine where I get up, I make a cup of tea, I sit in front of my computer for 20 minutes maximum, maybe 15, I go through my diary, and I’ll map out my important tasks for the day. I’ll look at the items that my automation system has copied over into OneNote for the day so I can kind of see I’ve got a few smaller tasks to do here, and then I go through my questions. I just list out my habits again, reinforcement, reinforcement. I note what I’m grateful for. Again, positivity. I always make time to think about this one. I will give it a couple of minutes. I’m not sort of closing my eyes and ‘omming’ or anything, just quiet thoughts, what am I pleased about, what am I grateful for?

Then I think a great thing to do is also to set a positive expectation for the day, even if you’ve got an awful day ahead of you, there might be something you can think of, that would be great if at least this thing happened or that thing happened? Then you can get to the end of the day and say well those things happened, awesome, I had a great day.

What I sometimes do is during the planning you may actually end up having things in your list that you know you aren’t going to get done anymore. I would immediately shunt those out of the way. Don’t delete them. You can shunt those into the bottom of the list down here or dump them into your page per week view so they don’t get forgotten about but ultimately you want to make sure that you’ve got a realistic plan here, so by the time you finish your journaling regime, whether you’re writing an essay or whether you, like me, just spend 5 minutes just writing some positive thoughts about your coming day as well as looking at your diary and other entries to see what you’ve got to do, and it should be in that 15, 20 minutes that it takes you to do that, it should be locked down now for the rest of the day.

What I then do is, when I get into my office I’ll use the keyboard shortcut Control + Alt + D, that docks a page to the side of the screen. That then just sits there all day. I can then tick off my tasks as I go. If the phone rings, I’ll write a note at the bottom of the page. If there’s a link on Twitter that looks interesting, I’ll just quickly copy and paste that into my page, and then I just get through my day. I fire through all my tasks and hopefully by the end of the day we’re going to be having a lot of ticked items down here, we’re probably going to have some things at the bottom of the page that I might need quickly to process.

Then at the end of the day, around about 4:30 for me, I’ll take no more than 10 minutes as I’m just thinking about packing up. I’ll go through and I’ll have a look at the items that didn’t get done, they’ll get cut out of here and they’ll get moved back to the week commencing page. Any notes I’ll quickly process them, adding recommendations for books to my reading list, links to read that I didn’t get to during the day, they’ll either get processed or they get dumped again up into the week commencing page for my week processing. I then have a couple of quick questions to answer about my day, so again positive thinking, what amazing things happened today. It could be as much as oh I had a lovely sandwich, brilliant; or it could be something quite profound and fundamental. Ultimately, again, we’re just trying to sort of underscore the day. These are things that happened to my day and made it quite good.

Sometimes we’re not always as perfect. I think it’s also good to reflect on things that maybe we could have done better, whether that’s speaking to somebody curtly or forgetting to do something that you wish you hadn’t forgotten, but again just a couple of minutes. Doesn’t have to take a long time. The idea is that you’re just capturing your thoughts as you go.

That’s about it really for journaling. As I say, because there’s been quite a body of work during your month plan and your week plan, but by the time you get to day planning, there’s not a lot to do. You just go through it quickly, go through your calendar, have a look at what’s on your to do list manager as well, and spend 10 minutes thinking about your day and what you’re grateful for or whatever you might do in your regime. The important thing is you’ve done all the hard work so when it gets down to the nitty gritty of what’s going to get done today, you don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking and that’s the whole idea because you’re in do mode, not planning mode and everything else.


Just to finish off I want to go through and just sort of underline a bit more about the routines that I’ve mentioned during this talk. The routines are here to help your brain so that you’re not always having to think. You’re just doing some certain things at certain times during the day. Like habits they can get learnt, regardless of your age. The idea is that if they get ingrained, these routines, you sort of can work on auto pilot as you’re doing them so you can keep your brain free for the things that you actually need to get done.

I should stress that whilst it may seem that my days and my weeks and my months are very tightly controlled, that’s not actually the case. I don’t do any planning at all for my evenings or for my weekends. I only really plan my productive time, my work time, so that I have between 6 and 10 slots per week to get deep meaningful work done in an undistracted way. I’m not thinking about oh do I need to remember to do that thing or do this thing because I’ve got my routines in place that enable me to plan those things and plan them in a relatively friction free way that don’t take up too much time and don’t get in the way of actually getting stuff done.

Just to summarize those routines, on the last Friday of every month I’ll do the month planning exercise that we’ve already gone through, so that will be printing the calendar out, getting my sharpie out, blocking out the bits that I know I’ve already committed to, say a meeting in London or taking the cat to the vet or whatever it is, they’re all blocked into the diary, I then know how many slots I’ve got available per week to get stuff done. I then do my week planning also on a Friday afternoon so on the Friday afternoon of month planning session, I also then just do a little bit more work there. It actually doesn’t take that much longer because I’m already in planning mode so I’ll just go to the first week of the coming month and I’ll flesh the coming week out a bit more and I’ll block my calendar out for the coming week.

I then get up quite early on weekdays. I go to bed early, that helps, but I get up at 5:30, I’ll then get myself a cup of tea and I’ll sit in front of my computer for no more than 30 minutes, probably more like 15, 20. I’ll look at my calendar, I’ll check my tasks that have been written over by Notebud over into my day, and then I’ll just make sure that that’s a realistic plan for the day and I’ll also add in some more things that I need to get done. I then spend that 10, 15 minutes just going through and thinking about positive things in my life, thinking about ways that I can be thankful for what I have. That then gets quickly docked to my screen and it just sits there all day.

At the end of the day, my final routine is a quick summary and tidy up. I’ll go about 4:30 every day, I’ll quickly look at my list for the day, I’ll see what I didn’t get done. If I didn’t get it done, I’ll move it into my week page again so it’s still in the pool or I might re-jig my calendar to make sure if it’s important that it does get done tomorrow or early next week. I’ll then quickly ask myself a few final questions about the day, what good things happened, and what things I could have done better. That’s it, that’s my routine. Month planning, week planning, day planning, and then reviewing.


In summary for the entire talk, month planning is essential because it manages your expectations. It’s quite purposefully aspirational. You’re not going to get it all done, but it’s also not completely unrealistic. It’s grounded on, and based on the time available and based upon your goals and your dreams and areas that you want to improve. Those are all listed out, thought about for the month and then you’ve got an idea of what you’re going to get done that month and importantly what you’re not going to get done that month so you can manage expectations either personally or with other stakeholders.

Week planning is more detailed. You will map that into your calendar and you really then get a great idea of what you’ve got to get done for that week. It’s more like that stuff will get done because you’ve thought about it and you’ve been realistic about how long things are going to take.

Day planning is super accurate. It keeps you on track and gives you a place also to kind of record things that you will then capture in a GTD parlance. Then at the end of the day you’ve got a routine where you just quickly go through and review and it doesn’t take very long at all.

I hope you found some or all of this helpful. I’ve had to pack quite a lot in to the time available and I haven’t really paused much. I’m always open for people to come to me and ask me questions via e-mail: I love geeking out about OneNote, so if you’ve got any questions or ideas or just thoughts on my routine and how you do it differently, I’d love to hear that stuff. I can also be found on Twitter, I’m @bealers and I have a blog at and if you go to /OneNote, there are some posts relating to our favourite productivity tool.

Thanks very much.


4 responses to “Life Planning & Journaling with OneNote”

  1. So you have any free notebooks that you could send to me?

  2. Hello Bealers, I just wanted to let you know how valuable I found this post to be. Starting the new year this has been invaluable to me.

    Thank you so much – Best of you to you in 2017. May it be fruitful for you and yours.

    Faith in the future – Tom

  3. stephen Avatar


    Thank you for sharing your time tested practice for life planner. Simple and effective. May all your dreams and goals come true. I have my life plan on excel and using your principle I am going to explore Onenote.

  4. stephen Avatar


    Thank you for sharing your time tested practice for life planner. Simple and effective. May all your dreams and goals come true. I have my life plan on excel and using your principle I am going to explore Onenote.

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