How To Use A Pen And Paper To Stage Up Your Productiveness

As we’ve developed infinite digital techniques, software program, and apps to assist our lives run smoother, there’s an enormous neighborhood of people that have opted to simply strip all of them away and go analog on the subject of productiveness. It’s comprehensible, as all too usually the notifications, updates, new instruments, and deserted instruments are likely to pile up and weigh us down.

As a lot as I like utilizing digital instruments to assist me get issues performed, typically there’s nothing like going analog. Nothing else is kind of as versatile, straightforward to make use of, and private as pen and paper. Harvey Pekar as soon as mentioned of the highly effective simplicity in making comics, “You are able to do something with phrases and footage.” And the identical goes when organizing your life utilizing a pen and pad of paper.

A number of the world’s busiest startup founders and entrepreneurs have discovered a easy pocket book to be completely able to taming essentially the most beastly schedules and to-do lists.

However with the flexibleness and energy of an analog productiveness system comes the battle of staying organized and discovering the appropriate system. In the event you favor pen and paper however want some assist staying on prime of your workload, I’ve gathered six totally different analog techniques that can assist you get issues performed.

Whether or not you want a complete system with plenty of construction or simply some concepts about the way to mark totally different notes, duties, and occasions on paper, it’s best to discover a methodology right here that works for you.

Desk of Contents

5 Getting Issues Executed Instruments Utilizing Simply Pen and Paper

1. Bullet Journal

bullet journal boosting productivity with pen and paper to do list system

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Prior to now few years, the Bullet Journal system has snowballed in recognition. It’s gained converts all around the world, and there’s a vibrant neighborhood on networks like Fb, Pinterest, and Instagram sharing their private tweaks to the system.

The system was created by designer Ryder Carroll. It’s designed for use in any pocket book, however there’s additionally a specifically crafted Bullet Journal pocket book obtainable.

Right here’s an important video that helps clarify the Bullet Journal system, however I’ll additionally undergo a quick overview of the way it works beneath.

The Bullet Journal system consists of some elements. Let’s check out the most important ones.

Speedy logging

Notes, duties, and occasions are all logged into the Bullet Journal in the identical place. Completely different bullets (get it?) are used to indicate what’s a process, what’s a notice, and what’s an occasion. You should utilize this technique so as to add issues as you consider them, or return and notice down what occurred through the day as soon as it’s throughout. It’s a to do listing and a journal in a single.

rapid logging to boost productivity using pen and paper t do list system

Picture credit score: Life Thinkist

The thought of fast logging is to make every thing brief and candy. As Carroll says on the Bullet Journal web site:

…the extra advanced the entry, the extra effort is expended. The extra effort expended, the extra of a chore it turns into, the extra possible you’ll underutilize or abandon your journal.

Matters, web page numbers, and the index

Every day’s process listing makes use of the date as its matter, however you may also have lists on your initiatives, buying lists, books to learn, or assembly notes in your journal. It’s designed to be a one-size-fits-all pocket book system. In these circumstances you may write “buying listing” or the undertaking title on the prime of the web page, and use that as your matter.

To make every thing straightforward to search out later, an vital a part of the Bullet Journal system is utilizing web page numbers and matter names to index your pocket book. For that reason, Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, or the Bullet Journal pocket book itself, are beneficial. They arrive with built-in index pages and all of the pages are pre-numbered.

As you add new pages to your journal, writing their web page numbers and matter names on the index pages means you may simply look them up once more later. This additionally provides you the liberty to all the time flip to the subsequent clean web page in your pocket book, no matter whether or not you want a spot to doodle otherwise you’re making a centered process listing.

Future log and month-to-month log

Since you may all the time use the subsequent obtainable web page for something you want, there’s no pre-dating day by day logging pages. You merely create a brand new day by day web page at any time when a brand new day begins. However in the event you’re going with an all-analog system to remain organized, you’ll want a spot to notice down future occasions or deadlines.

That is what the long run log is for. It’s a easy unfold throughout two or extra pages to listing down occasions and deadlines developing in future months.

The long run log doesn’t maintain a lot element, so there’s additionally a month-to-month log web page kind. That is merely an inventory of the times in a month, with occasions subsequent to every day. On the alternative web page, you may create a month-to-month process listing to consult with as you add duties to your day by day to-do lists.

A part of what’s nice concerning the Bullet Journal system is the large, supportive neighborhood. Since analog group is versatile by nature, pen and paper techniques lend themselves to private changes. The Bullet Journal neighborhood is all the time sharing numerous reinterpretations and extensions of the system to make it match their private workflows.

The Bullet Journal method can also be nice if you wish to have a combination of group and reflection in a single pocket book. It lends itself to each, and you may have as a lot of every as you want.

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2. Strikethru

strikethru method

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Strikethru is a lesser recognized method than the Bullet Journal system, however it’s simply as helpful and versatile. It’s extra centered on to-do lists and staying organized than on journaling.

Strikethru additionally has a useful explainer video, however once more I’ll clarify the fundamentals of the system beneath.

Strikethru additionally differs from the Bullet Journal by suggesting that you just part your pocket book forward of time, moderately than utilizing the subsequent obtainable web page for something you want.

The system is designed in tiers, so you may follow the fundamentals if that’s all you want, or add superior sections in the event you want a extra sturdy setup.

Right here’s how the totally different sections work:

Reside listing

That is your principal to do listing. You possibly can both create a brand new one every day, or simply create one whenever you’ve accomplished every thing on the present listing. The dwell listing is restricted to 9 duties so that you don’t get overwhelmed, and it’s the one place you’re employed from within the Strikethru methodology, so there’s no confusion about engaged on objects from totally different lists all through the day.

Prioritization is inbuilt, as every process has a circle on the appropriate margin the place you may rank from 1-9 primarily based on precedence. You can even go for an easier methodology and easily add an asterisk within the circles of your most vital duties.


The vault is a bit of your pocket book close to the again the place you retain undertaking lists, buying lists, concepts, targets, and so forth. You can also make these lists extra condensed to suit extra objects on the web page in the event you like, as you’ll by no means work straight from them.

If you need to work on one thing from the vault, you may carry over a single process or an entire listing of things to your dwell listing.

Not like the Bullet Journal system, Strikethru doesn’t use an index. It does make use of web page numbers, although, so once more it’s useful to make use of a pocket book that comes with numbered pages.

If you create a dwell listing or vault listing, you begin by writing the duty numbers down the left-hand aspect of the web page. The web page quantity and process quantity create an index quantity for every process—so, as an example, 201.4 could be process #4 on web page 201.

With this numbering system, you may transfer a process from the vault (or the dump, which is the subsequent part I’ll clarify) into your dwell listing by including its index quantity as a substitute of writing the duty description out once more. It’s additionally straightforward emigrate incomplete duties to tomorrow, with out rewriting them time and again.


The very again of your pocket book is reserved for the dump: pages the place you may doodle, take notes, plan concepts, or anything that doesn’t match neatly into an inventory. Something within the dump that requires motion will be carried over to the vault or your present dwell listing, however as with the vault, you by no means work on duties straight from the dump.

You might not even have duties within the dump. However in the event you use it for assembly notes, as an example, you may discover you’ve acquired a few actionable objects combined into your notes, which will be moved to the vault or your dwell listing.


Within the first few pages of your pocket book, you may add a calendar to maintain monitor of time-based occasions and deadlines. The calendar is an easy template you may hand draw with area for writing in occasions and day by day duties, weekly duties, and month-to-month duties.

The Strikethru methodology is all about staying on prime of your workload. It was created by Chris Kyle, who wanted assist to maintain issues from falling by means of the cracks. In his phrases:

6 months in the past my life was a large number… So I started searching for one thing to assist carry order to my life.

I couldn’t discover one thing that labored for me, so I made my very own system primarily based round one to-do listing every day and I referred to as it Strikethru.

Oh, and the Strikethru title? It comes from the concept that moderately than a easy checkbox, this technique advocates the extra satisfying apply of putting proper by means of a process when you’ve accomplished it. There’s nothing fairly like that feeling!

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3. Sprint/plus

using pen and paper to do list to boost productivity

Picture credit score: Patrick Rhone

The sprint/plus system is extra a markup system than a way for getting organized. That’s, it’s all about bringing order to your notes and duties with a set of bullets and signifiers. It was created by writer Patrick Rhone. Rhone calls it “a metadata markup system I created for paper primarily based notes to mark the standing of motion objects on a to do listing.”

The fundamental sprint/plus system consists of the next bullet sorts:

  • Sprint: Incomplete motion merchandise
  • Plus: Accomplished motion merchandise
  • Proper arrow: Motion merchandise presently ready for one more motion or particular person earlier than it may be accomplished
  • Left arrow: Motion merchandise that’s been delegated to another person
  • Triangle: Word
  • Circle: Motion merchandise moved to a different listing

Right here’s how Rhone describes the flexibleness of his system:

The fantastic thing about this technique is that it’s all constructed upon, and extensions of, the unique sprint. Subsequently, it’s straightforward to vary objects from one state to a different (an undone motion merchandise to a performed one, an undone motion merchandise to ready or delegated) and within the case of an non-dashed merchandise altering fully the merchandise is circled to indicate that.

So every thing begins as a splash, as a splash can grow to be a triangle, a plus, or an arrow. And when it is advisable change one thing that’s now not a splash (as an example, a “ready” arrow that’s now not ready), you may add a circle to point the merchandise has been moved, and rewrite it on a brand new listing with a brand new sprint.

boosting producivity with pen and paper to do lists

Picture credit score: Patrick Rhone

Rhone additionally added some additional signifiers to the system later:

  • Gentle bulb: An thought
  • Asterisk: Journal/diary entry

With these additional objects, sprint/plus can be utilized for note-taking, journaling, and preserving on prime of your workload.

Sprint/plus is basically only a technique to distinguish objects in your pocket book, so you could possibly use it with or with none of the extra in-depth techniques right here, like Bullet Journal or Strikethru.

4. GSD, or Getting Sh*t Executed

Within the phrases of its creator, designer Invoice Westerman, GSD is “fast, it’s soiled, and it doesn’t require a variety of preparation, particular supplies, or rigorous considering.” When no different strategies labored for him, Westerman created GSD to assist him get issues performed, moderately than wrestle with instruments and techniques all day.

Listed here are the sections that make up the GSD methodology:

Grasp listing

That is merely a stream-of-consciousness listing of every thing it is advisable get performed. Every merchandise will get a checkbox. However there’s one vital half to this listing: every process needs to be actionable. In keeping with Westerman:

Not “determine dishwasher restore”, however “make listing of 5 dishwasher restore individuals and cellphone numbers”. In any other case, they’ll simply linger there on the listing, mocking me, and by no means truly get performed.

Each day listing

Just like the Bullet Journal system, every new GSD day by day listing is created on the subsequent obtainable web page. Every day by day listing will get the day and date written throughout the highest. Westerman makes use of a sticky tab to make right now’s listing straightforward to entry.

The day by day listing begins with a mind dump of every thing that should get performed right now. Then, yesterday’s duties are migrated. For every process that’s not performed on yesterday’s listing it both will get cancelled or migrated. Migrated duties have a diagonal line drawn by means of their checkbox and are rewritten on right now’s web page. Cancelled duties are marked with an X within the checkbox.

When all of yesterday’s checkboxes are marked not directly, Westerman provides a verify mark within the prime nook of the web page to indicate the web page is accomplished.

Lastly, something on the grasp listing that must be performed right now is added to the day by day listing. Just like the dwell listing within the Strikethru methodology, solely duties on the day by day listing will be labored on. Earlier than beginning work, Westerman provides a dot within the checkbox of the highest 3-4 objects he needs to get performed first. When these are performed, he chooses the subsequent most vital objects, provides a dot to these containers, and will get to work.

Time ladder

An non-obligatory additional is a time ladder. That is merely a breakdown of your day primarily based on one-hour blocks. Duties will be assigned to the time ladder in 30- or 60-minute blocks in the event you want extra detailed group.

The GSD system may be very easy, and doesn’t embody any form of calendar or occasion administration. If all you want is a extra particular methodology for monitoring your duties on paper, this technique may give you the results you want.

Phrase notebooks

using word notebooks

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In the event you like the thought of an analog system, however don’t need to put within the effort to arrange every new web page with checkboxes, the Phrase notebooks are for you. These notebooks come pre-printed with a bullet system that can assist you hold monitor of duties.

Every line in a Phrase pocket book is printed with a bullet level. You possibly can circle across the bullet to indicate a process is vital, cross by means of it diagonally to indicate it’s in progress, and cross by means of it once more (to create an X) when it’s full.

The notebooks are pocket-sized, so that they’re ultimate for carrying round with you through the day.

5. Strikethrough

Mike Vardy’s Strikethrough system relies on an identical rule to Strikethru: Any process or notice with no line by means of it’s incomplete. Strikethrough makes use of an arrow to indicate a process or notice has been moved to a different web page or to an app like Evernote. In any other case, it merely makes use of a line by means of duties or notes to indicate they’ve been handled.

Vardy additionally makes use of some symbols and color-coding so as to add context to his duties. He provides these letters in a circle to the appropriate of a process to indicate what vitality degree is required:

  • H for Excessive Vitality
  • N for Regular Vitality
  • L for Low Vitality
  • E for Errands

Vardy additionally makes use of these colours to indicate at a look what kind of process is on every line of his pocket book:

  • Inexperienced: Skilled duties/concepts
  • Orange: Private duties/concepts
  • Blue/Black: Normal duties/concepts

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Extra Getting Issues Executed Instruments

The very best a part of all these strategies is that you just’re not caught with how the creators use them. You’re free to make changes, attempt new issues, and construct your personal method to swimsuit your workflow.

I’m presently utilizing a hybrid system that mixes parts of Strikethru and the Bullet Journal strategies, with a couple of distinctive touches that I created from scratch. It doesn’t match into any of those classes precisely, however it works completely for me.

Be at liberty to experiment and take the elements of every methodology that fit your wants.

For extra productiveness instruments, try our free coaching sequence the place you’ll be taught every thing from mindset to time administration to assist develop your online business.

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