Friday, November 29, 2013

My 3-part indexing system in my notebook

This originally was part of my post on the 2014 Star Wars notebooks, but the indexing part got so big I decided to take it out into a separate post so it was more easily referenced.

This is the notebook I will use first in 2014 as my daily records, lists and notes. It is the Moleskine 2014 Star Wars notebook, large unlined with Yoda's quote. You can see more details of this specific notebook in my review post. But my indexing systems can be used in any notebook or Filofax.


I'm planning to use it as a sort of Bullet Journal. First I numbered all the pages:

Monthly Index:

At the beginning of the book I labeled pages for January through June, with a two-page spread for each month. (I figure it will take me six months or less to fill this notebook.)
This will be my monthly index where I will index events from my daily pages, which I will start right after the months and work from the front. So for example on my daily page I would write that my son's tooth fell out, and on that month's page at the front of the book I would write the date and that his tooth fell out that day. That way I'll be able to reference events easily.

Index pages at the back of the book:

At the back of the book I labeled several pages for my Index, where I will reference information like lists and non-day-specific notes (which I will write in the back of the book). For example I will write which page my household maintenance list is on. That way I can find information easily.
So my daily pages will start from the front of the book, and my lists and non-day-specific notes will start from the back. When they meet in the middle, the notebook is full!

At first I was disappointed that Yoda was only available unlined, but now that I have it I think I will enjoy the freedom of open, unlined pages.

Color-coded index:

I used an undated notebook for about a month in October and while I liked the freedom, by the end of the month it was starting to turn into a jumbled mess despite my index system. Looking through the notes and lists pages I discovered I had a limited number of specific topics: home, blogs, Plannerisms planners work, kids, personal, job search etc.  I am tempted to switch to a Filofax with tabbed pages, but I do want the permanence of bound pages especially for my daily record. So I will incorporate a version of DIY Fish's genius color-coded index for my topics so I can easily find related pages in my book. You can see the details of DIY Fish's color index system in her guest post she did awhile ago here on Plannerisms, click here to see.

Once I had this idea, I couldn't wait to set up the color-coding index! Here are some quick photos (sorry for the poor image quality taken hastily in my sunny windowsill):

On the back and front endpapers I wrote my index code: purple for me, pink for my daughter, orange for my son, light blue for my husband, green for financial/ home/ car, dark blue for my blogs and planner/ notebook stuff, black for the publisher of my Plannerisms planners.
So for example, when I make lists of weights of notebooks and planners, those pages will be tagged with a dark blue square at the edge of the page. When I write my notes on updates for the 2015 Plannerisms planners, those pages will be tagged with a black square.
 You can see the colors at the edges of the pages.
I'll match the location of the colored squares on my written pages too, for easy indexing. Within my written pages, I'll use that corresponding color to circle or underline the referenced information. That way if I have a lot of different topics (on my daily page for example) I can find each referenced bit of information easily. This also allows me to write in whatever color pen I have with me, and use my color references later when I index my pages.

I have specifically not used red yet, and am saving it for something important. I might decide to use it for very important things in general, or if a topic comes up that specifically needs red I'll use it for that.

Running 3 types of index systems simultaneously (dates, page numbers and colors) will be an interesting experiment to see which is most useful to me.

***Update January 27, 2014: I've been using this notebook for almost 2 solid months now, and it's 3/4 full. Here's how I'm using each individual indexing type:

Colors: I stopped doing the color-coding at the page edges after just a few days, it was too much to keep up on. However I do use colors on the pages by circling things relevant to my kids in "their" colors. That way I can find things relevant to them easily.

Page numbers and Index pages: I haven't been using the Index pages in the back of the book at all, and stopped writing in them after about 3 weeks. I have my daily record starting from the front of the book and my lists from the back, so it's easier to just page through and find what I'm looking for than it is to look it up in the index. I do like the numbered pages though, because I reference them within the book. For example "see list pg 38" or "see phone number pg 82" so I don't have to rewrite info within the book. I'll continue to number the pages in my future notebooks.

Monthly dated index at front of book: This is the only index I actually use. I will continue to do this, but in future notebooks I think I will draw grid calendars for the monthly index because it's easier for me to remember events spatially on the page with the month grid calendar.

**Updated again:  I made a monthly booklet that I put in the back pocket of my notebook for my monthly dated index. It has 12 months of month-on-two-pages grid calendars where I write my daily index. I can move it from notebook to notebook as I fill each book, and still have the full year indexed in one booklet without having to re-draw grids every few months. You can see how I made this monthly booklet in this post.

I have really enjoyed having unlimited space to write each day. I usually use two pages for each weekday, with my schedule on the left page and the right page for notes and journaling. Saturday and Sunday usually only need one page each. I'm working on ways to add more structure to my pages. I'll keep you updated on my use as it evolves!


  1. I have an "index" in my current journal, which is just a list at the back of the notebook with page numbers and content, skipping dated entries. It is faster than re-reading the notebook but when I read about the bullet journal I thought, "Doh! Topical index." I will finish this notebook by the end of this year and will start a topical index in the new one as I have discovered previously that indexing previous entries is so tedious I don't do it; it needs to happen as I go. But I am anxious about how exactly it will work as if a system is too complicated I won't stick with it. I will be very interested to see updates on how this system works for you.

    I am still keeping work planning in a separate book that stays at work; will you do that or will you mix the two if your job happens? Best of luck with the job!

    1. Thanks mstraat! The job is part time so at the minimum I will write which hours I'm working each day in my Plannerisms planner so I don't schedule anything else during work hours, and to help me prepare for after work (kids' after school activities, etc.). Whether I will use it for scheduling actual work meetings, I don't know. I'm assuming the whole office is on Outlook or similar for scheduling meetings.

      Also, this notebook would be my personal stuff only. I will use a separate notebook (large Rhodia webnotebook) for my work notes, and it will stay at work.

      Compare that though to my Plannerisms planner work, which will go in my personal notebook because I come up with ideas all the time that I need to write down, things to follow up with my publisher, etc. Because I do that work from home online it's more incorporated into my daily life. My office work will stay at the office because that work belongs to the company, if that makes sense.

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  3. Sorry. Something very odd happened with the comment I deleted!
    I have thought long and hard about how I will make my system sustainable for the year. What I have got so far (still giving myself time to think it over) tries to address my desire to have the flexibility of a filofax with the portability and page size of a bound system. I considered trying the colour coding but as lovely as it would be to have it done I suspect that if I fell behind with it then it would become too much of a task to catch up with and I would give up. }

  4. Thank you for showing another way to use the color-coding system, especially in a bound book. It makes more sense now, and I prefer bound over rings. I started using the Bullet Journal in my work notebook and it has been working pretty well, but I need to catch up on my indexing.
    I received my dark blue 2014 Plannerisms planner. Love the cover, although it doesn't have the same soft feel as the teal Plannerisms planner I'm using this year. I made it my own by using silver sharpie to gild the edge of the pages.

  5. I am studying this year and have decided to use a colour coding system to sort my notes, very much as you have done here. I have colours for general notes, once those notes have been reviewed, anything I need to look into further or at a later date, once the additional work has been completed, a page that contains glossary items, questions, activities, diagrams / graphs etc. If I sort and reference my notes as I go along it should make referring back and revision much more manageable.

    When my 2014 Hobonichi Planner arrives I intend to use a similar system to organise my daily ramblings too.

  6. Wow Laurie. This is great. You seem to be godmother of indexing.
    I use a notebook for capturing everything under the sun - my work notes, my personal project notes, meeting minutes, to-do lists, task lists, project lists, etc...

    However, creating an indexing system, saved me a lot of confusion. I gained a lot more clarity in navigating through my notebook, which I always felt an paper-based system fails.
    Here is how I use indexing system for my notebook.