photo of notebook with shapes & tasks written

next steps: my shape system

This is a fun step toward taming the chaos. However I need to urge caution. It’s very easy to go overboard at this point and that will result in a system that’s overly complex. Complex systems aren’t easy to use and often get abandoned. I want you to use your system.

I use the following system both as I start to organize my massive brain dump and throughout all my notebooks and journals.

What do we need to do? We need a way to quickly identify and sort projects and tasks within that massive list. Many people love to colour code. I did for years. However, that’s no longer the case.

Why I no longer colour code

It’s easy really, a simple system will be used. Sure, you can buy a multi-pen and fill it with a rainbow. Have you tried to write with one of those for any length of time? For a while I settled on a second solution, which was to fill smaller multi-pens (I like the Pilot Hi-Tec Coleto 3) and carry several of them.

However this system can break down very easily. What do you do if you don’t have the right pen colour (or you write the pen dry)? It’s annoying to carry all this extra stuff around.

My simplified system

Simple things often work better, at least for me. I don’t want an excuse not to do something because one component isn’t quite right. My systems need to be resilient to uncertainty that is life.

In my system, there are three main components that I need to track: Work (square □, technology consulting and this project), Work (triangle △ , little acorn creations), and Personal (circle ○, aka everything else). There is also a fourth shape I use and it’s to track books I want to read (a diamond ◇).

How I use the shapes

I use these shaped to identify everything hand written. They appear at the top of each project page in my notebook, at the start of each task in a list, and in my calendar.

As I do my initial passes through my brain dump list I use the shapes to identify larger sub-projects. As I rewrite and turn the sub-projects into column headings I add the shape there so I can quickly see at a glance what I’m sorting. I do have clients who are both technology clients and ones I sample knit for, so this definitely helps!

photo of notebook with shapes & tasks written

I start with an outline of each shape, such as a square □. As I start work on the project (or task) I add a dot to the middle, ⚀. When the task is completed, I fully colour in the shape ■.

It’s simple and it works for me.

Keep it simple

Maybe you find colour coding fun and that’s what motivates you to work on your planning. If so, that’s great! Start with simple changes that make it easy for you to do the things you need to do. Maybe in time you’ll discover you need to do something different or more elaborate. That’s ok too. The goal is to make a system that is easy for you to use and that you’ll want to be focused on every day.