4 min read

My New Three-Notebook System

I’m self-employed, and I work from home (mostly alone). Thus, I have to be in charge of my own organisation and motivation.
My New Three-Notebook System

If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time, you’ll probably know the following things about me:

  1. I love notebooks.
  2. I love being organised.
  3. I love getting stuff done.

I get a fair bit done on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. However, recently, I’ve had this nagging (and growing) suspicion that I’m leaving productivity and performance “on the table*.”

*While still enjoying my work and having a balanced life.

Leaving Performance on the Table
I love my “job”, but I could be doing more.

I’m self-employed, and I work from home (mostly alone). Thus, I have to be in charge of my own organisation and motivation. No one will be telling me what to do (except the wife) on a daily basis. I’m the master of my own destiny. That’s great, but it does mean I am also responsible for my own productivity (and my lack of productivity).

As I plan a large and challenging project for the tail end of 2022 and 2023 I’m wondering if I need to reorganise my organisation.

I’m a big fan of bullet journalling and have tried a variety of methods and systems within that over-arching scheme. I’ve tried yearly notebooks (they never last the whole year), and I’ve tried a pocket notebook a month (which I really, really enjoyed). Both methods had their drawbacks. Then again, what system doesn’t?

As I stand on the precipice of a large self-inflicted challenge, I need a new system. After all, there is no point in succeeding at a new challenge if I start failing at all the other things I need to do.


Three Notebooks

This system rests on three A5 Leuchtturm1917 notebooks. I am dangerously patriotic; thus, I had no choice but to go with red, white and blue notebooks.


Each notebook performs a specific, important role in my new system.

Red: Commonplace

In bullet journal parlance, this is where I keep my Collections.

I have found my previous bullet journals don’t always last long enough to finish a large project. That means I end up copying collections from one book to the next. That’s not ideal, as it just creates extra work and creates the potential for me to miss transferring critical information.

My commonplace book will contain all the really important stuff—thoughts on new projects, research and so on. I’m hoping this book lasts me at least a couple of years. I think with increased longevity comes increased utility.

White: Time Blocking

I’ve dabbled with time blocking from time to time, but it has never stuck. I know, however, that when I time block, I get more done.

The thing with time blocking is that it takes up a lot of space (but luckily not time). Going with a page-a-day allows me to keep track of my time block plan and my time block reality. I can spot trends and patterns and eventually end up working better. I think there is will be key learnings and suchlike hidden in the difference between the plan and reality.

I don’t want this information cluttering up my Commonplace book—assuming a page a day my books would fill up insanely fast. So, a separate book is the way forward.

Blue: To Do

I run my life—both professional and personal—through several reminder/to-do systems and apps. I’m also a huge fan of tickbox systems, as long-term readers will note. I find tickbox lists motivate me to get stuff done, as I do so like a completed to-do list.

These “day lists” are critical to my productivity, but once a week or month is finished, I rarely refer to old lists. Moving this information to a separate book keeps it out of the way and—again—doesn’t clutter up my commonplace book.

Three Notebooks?

I know: three notebooks is a lot of notebooks. Two of these notebooks will rarely leave Global HQ; I cannot foresee a need to wander about with my time block planner under one arm. If I really need to make a list of things to do or keep a time block plan with me, I shall deploy a couple of trusty index cards or a pocket notebook.

My commonplace book, however, will rove with me. Sometimes I wander about the locality to work—a change of scenery is good—and I’ll need my commonplace book with me when I do this. This means I’ll be dragging around one A5 notebook; given, though, I’ll also be carrying a MacBook, I’m not seeing a huge problem.

The Last Word

This system might not work. I might find it too bulky, cumbersome or time-consuming. However, even if it fails, I’m sure to learn something, and I have not yet tried a system like this.

If I was a “mobile worker”, I could do the same with pocket notebooks. Think of the notebooks I could justify buying. Maybe that is the next thing to try if this “big” system fails.

What Do You Think?

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Creighton Broadhurst is the Publisher of Useful Items at Raging Swan Press. He lives on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity. He is not planning to voyage far.