Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Guest post: Christine's Bullet Journal system in her Day Runner Harmony desk size binder

Huge thanks to Christine for sharing her Day Runner system with us! Her work situation recently ramped up enormously, and she's using her new system to get her through this super-busy time. Here's Christine:

One week ago I learned that my boss is retiring in May and I’ll need to cover for her until her replacement can be found, which takes typically 4-6 months. In the interim, my weekly job hours will jump from 20 to 40. 

This is not precisely a happy development, since I know from long experience that working full time sends my diet and exercise programs into a tailspin, plus my writing is just now being published and I want to keep that momentum going. 

However, it is what it is. I will have 17 events to coordinate before October (by which time her replacement will surely be found). Most of them will be pretty basic, lasting just a few hours and requiring at most a single performer, but one will be an all-day event with multiple performers. 

Prior to this rather overwhelming development, I had been vacillating between a Moleskine bullet journal, a Franklin Covey compact binder with a two page per day diary, and a Day Runner Harmony classic size binder with a weekly calendar, unable to decide on a final format. I happened to be carrying the Harmony planner on the day I learned the scope of what was coming, and I am very glad for that, because only that format is capable (in my estimation) of handling this job. 

I put all relevant event details into the monthly calendar, and all the contact info into the A-Z, and there is no way I am going to jeopardize this data by changing formats until all these events are complete. So guess what, my 2014 planner decision has been made, at least until October, when my requirements will change again. 

Here is the Harmony Day Runner Planner. It holds 8.5” x 5.5” paper, with 7 rings. 

The binder is fabric covered and much lighter than comparable leather binders. It has a secretarial pocket, a few cards slots and a notepad in the back. It features an undated monthly and weekly calendar format, and the divider tabs included are Calendar, Notes, To Do, Information and Addresses. After Addresses are the A-Z Tabs.

I have of course completely gutted, replaced and rearranged everything. Here is my layout:

First, I have a flyleaf in front of a meal plan and shopping list I found at the Goodwill.

Behind that, I keep my annual goals, projects and resolutions on a single page.

Following that are my separately purchased monthly pages. 
These are Day Timers tabbed monthly calendar pages I bought at WalMart for $10 last year. They are so functional: 6 rows of weeks mean no cut off days at the end of the month, and lined day boxes are helpful. Also the “action list” at the end of the week is a perfect place to write down the 8 most important things to do that week. 

The front and back of the monthly pages are big lined pages dedicated to lists and notes. The months are separate, so you can insert pages between them. This is the first monthly format calendar that I’ve really loved and found workable.

In between the months I put the project pages chronologically for each event in that month. I was going to put them in the A-Z pages but there are too many (sigh). I’ll use top tabs to separate them as the information builds up. In the A-Z I keep a master checklist of all programs with a grid for every publicity venue to check off as they are promoted, and I also have a template of the procedure for hiring performers, and a master budget sheet so I can see whom I can afford to hire. 

After the month pages there is a section tabbed “To Do,” and this is my bullet journal section. 

I replaced the weekly pages from this planner with a bullet journal. Notes, daily and weekly plans and lists are written on quad paper. I made a pretty today page marker because I don’t usually decorate these pages. At the weekend, I bring forward all undone tasks, add events and notes to the monthly calendar, transfer lists into the A-Z, then unceremoniously dump the older pages. So, unlike my Moleskine, this adaptation of a bullet journal has no permanence. That allows me to write fast and furious, dump my anxieties and fears along the way, and not worry about how it looks or if anyone will ever read it. 

Given the circumstances, I absolutely must keep everything as simple as possible so I don’t lose information and have terrible crises and nervous breakdowns. Abandoning the weekly calendar is forcing me to use the monthly pages to full capacity, which is why I love their design, with plenty of room for lists and notes! 

The A-Z (which has an archival counterpart in a separate binder on my desk) has an index at the front and holds only highly relevant information. 

Information like the book club and writers group rosters and schedules, expense registers, petty cash envelope, lists of home and car maintenance tasks, procedures and routines for both work and home, major purchases, health notes, prescription numbers go in here. Plus of course address and phone numbers for work contacts. 

Yes, I’m mixing work and personal, and I do work for local government, so that’s probably not smart. I can take personal pages out of the A-Z pretty fast, and there’s never more than a week of bullet journal in there anyhow; I’ll just back up my monthly calendars in Evernote so I don’t lose my personal dates and deadlines if worse comes to worst and the planner is seized for some legal purpose (I even have a backup Harmony in my supply cabinet). 

This is probably the simplest ring bound arrangement I’ve ever used. Plus, I’m taking all my notes on 7-hole punched classic-sized notepads, so I can put the information straight into my binder without rewriting. I don’t want to take any chances at all right now! Zero replication of data, zero rewriting and weekly removal of deadwood are my three magic bullets to get me through the coming challenge. 

The binder fits into my handbag and weighs in at 1.12 lbs. or 508 grams. It’s no trouble to carry. 

In case you wonder, I have 4 other desk-based books in service: The first is a classic sized Aurora binder for bill paying and budget tracking, one is a classic sized Day Timer Malibu that holds vehicle data plus gardening and home repair notes, one is the aforementioned A-Z archive, and the other is my Plannerisms planner, the only bound book of the bunch, in which I am tracking my diet and exercise. 

Christine thanks again so much for sharing your system with us, and best of luck during this busy time!


  1. Regarding your annual goals, do you break these down further by month or quarter? (For instance for the character development will you approach one a month?) How will you fit your goals in around the 17 events? Will you also have project sheets for what you want to achieve against each goal per month?

    Sorry I don't mean to pry - I am just very interested.

    1. I break out my annual goals by month and put them on the monthly to do sheet. When I write up a weekly list in the bullet journal, I check the monthly to do sheet to see what I can fit in. I have not set up a separate tracking page for any of my personal goals except for the health related goals which go in the Plannerisms planner and are treated entirely separate to my other projects..

  2. That makes sense - thanks for clarifying.