Special Sections For A Work Planner | Giftie Etcetera: Special Sections For A Work Planner

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Special Sections For A Work Planner

For the most part, my planner set-up, complete with Dashboard, Projects, Tasks, Monthly and Weekly, Future, and Notes (also called ABC or Files by some) works for all situations. It is purposefully flexible. You can have two current projects or one hundred current projects. You can schedule, list tasks, and get things accomplished with the set-up. That said, I am about to start using a second planner for work.

Since my work will all be at home and my planner does not need to be very portable, I'm using a Classic-sized Franklin Covey planner in simulated leather. Classic size is about A5 or half the size of a letter sheet of paper, but be aware that FC has different hole punching from Filofax. This particular binder is no longer on the Franklin Covey website, but similar binders are there for about sixty dollars.

While contemplating a second planner for work, I thought of two special sections that have served me well throughout my career - a communication log and a billing section.

TIP: As a lawyer, I log every communication. If you only need to log a few of your meetings or phone calls, as is the case in my personal planner, just designate a place on your weekly pages or make a communication log a part of your Notes/Files.

I am setting up my second planner to mirror my first. The sections will be in the same order, so that I don't get lost.

I made a color-coded index instead of labeling the tabs. Once I am sure this set-up works, I'll probably go ahead and label the tabs.


Graph paper, printed out at home, would work well here. I happened to have some legal-lined paper, so that's what I am using.

Communication Log

The communication log is one of the big differences between my personal planner (where I would simply note an important meeting in my Notes section or a phone call on my weekly pages) and my work planner. 

For any job that I've ever had that involved a desk - lawyer, school teacher, compliance officer - having a communication log has proved invaluable. Someone claims you didn't call them? Turn to the date, time, and details of the call. Long meeting with lots of notes and some follow-up tasks? A communication log keeps you on track.

(In the picture below, I hide some details to protect the innocent.)

TIP: Use a box in the upper right hand corner to identify each page as a "Comm. Log" for easy filing within your planner.

TIP: Put date/time in the left hand column and a box around the name of the interaction (for example, TC to AMB means "telecom to my husband using his initials).

TIP: Indent the actual notes.

TIP: Write tasks or scheduled event reminders, or an * to show that a task or event or other follow-up is to the right, in the left-hand column.

TIP: Circle the items in the left-hand column as they are processed into other parts of your planner or completed.

TIP: At the end of each communication, draw a wavy line. Keep a continuous log on both sides of the page to save paper.


Projects are treated just as they are in my normal planner.

TIP: Do not duplicate information if you don't have to write it twice. This includes projects. A project that goes in your work planner does not have to be put in your personal planner.

EXCEPTION: A huge project with a big looming due date might be worthy of a brief note in your personal planner on the weekly pages, if getting the project done on time will affect your personal life.


For me, the monthly pages are only for scheduling work.

On my personal planner, I'll write "work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m." or whatever my work schedule happens to be. On this planner, I'll write down the 3 p.m. meeting with the client.

See yesterday's blog entry for an example of this.

I use the weekly pages to list my work-related tasks.

Again, I do not duplicate entries in my personal planner and I only note deadlines in my personal planner that will affect my personal life.


Billing is another big difference between my personal and work planners. I keep extra calendar pages (in this case, undated Franklin Covey pages) to track the hours that I will bill. Obviously, lots of jobs do not require you to track billing. But for lawyers or self-employed business people, tracking billing is critical.

TIP: Even if you only use one planner, consider a second monthly or weekly calendar for billing purposes. That way, if you need to prove your invoicing, you can simply make a copy of that portion of your planner without showing your bosses or clients anything that is not their business.

The monthly pages that I am using include an index page, where I will summarize my hours to track that I am working enough to reach my billable goal.

It also includes a monthly Master Task List where I plan to track completed projects and tasks, so when the performance review asks "what did you accomplish," I can answer honestly.

TIP: If you work for someone else or ever need to make a resume, consider a note page called "Accomplishments" and add any achievements to it once per month.


I don't have a future section yet, but as soon as anything comes up for 2015, I will make one.


I have enough room in the classic-sized binder to use the ABC tabs. I will still use the first page to index whatever I file in this section.

The rest of the binder looks pretty much like my personal set-up.

I hope this makes work a little less painful for you. And I hope this post was helpful even to people who will continue to use only one binder or not work outside of the home.



Josh LaPorte said...

Spent a while yesterday thinking about how I could make a work binder work, first thinking about putting all work reference info and project documents in without any calendar section. Dual calendar sections are where prior attempts at dual planners have failed; I get confused or simply spend too much time trying to maintain the system. So go without, just have a book for all the confidential information to keep at work and take to meetings. But then I realized that without the calendar the planner is not really very useful. And eventually just got back to the place where I see that one planner is really best for me. So instead I went through my planner to see if there was any obviously confidential information within; and there was one page, which I removed.

Keeping track of time for billing purposes can be a pain, but I think that even if your job doesn't require billing it is useful to track your time at work. It helps you understand how much time you spend on various things and can help you identify where your time "black holes" are. It can also demonstrate to your manager why you are always busy or help you illustrate the need for more staff if they expect you to take on additional duties. I don't track time on a continuous basis but I do track time for a week or two at a time several times a year.

My favorite planner insert for tracking time is the Daytimer 2PPD in desk size (same as the FC classic). It has the notes page faintly ruled for time-tracking if you want to use it that way. If you don't, you can just write over the faint lines. But it allows you to note the client or project, what was worked on, and how many tenths of hours you spent on it. The facing page has scheduling, tasks, phone log, and expenses log.

Unknown said...

Great post! While some of your points aren't relevant to me at the moment as covered by my employer's systems, I will definitely keep them in my mind for any future work I do on my own. For my work at the moment I'm just using a notebook in a bullet-journal style to track tasks. In my work I'm always sending documents out to clients to sign and return, which often doesn't happen promptly! I keep a running list of everything I send out to clients and then tick off when received. Easy then to see what is outstanding and to never lose track and forget about something.

Anonymous said...

Love the idea of the communication log and will borrow this. I have a job where I speak to several different clients in a day and this is such a good way to keep track of that. I especially liked how u organise the log and schedule in follow ups. I so needed an idea like this. Thanks!