Monday Feb 20, 2023
The Analogue Time Sector System
Monday Feb 20, 2023
Monday Feb 20, 2023
This week, The question is all about implementing the Time Sector System using a paper-based method.
You can subscribe to this podcast on:
Podbean | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | TUNEIN
Email Me | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Linkedin
The Working With… Weekly Newsletter
The Time And Life Mastery Course
The FREE Beginners Guide To Building Your Own COD System
Carl Pullein Coaching Programmes
The Working With… Podcast Previous episodes page
Episode 264 | Script
Hello and welcome to episode 264 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
There’s something special about pen and paper. The feel of the pen moving on paper and the simplicity of collecting notes, ideas and even marking off tasks feels better than tapping your mouse or trackpad on a task.
Sadly, technology has made task and appointment management extremely convenient. It’s fast and easy to add and check off tasks and it’s far easier to carry a phone than to always having to make sure you carry a notebook with you.
While I love technology and the convenience it brings with it, I do miss being able to slow things down and handwrite notes, ideas and lists of things I want to do and it seems many other people also prefer the more naturalness of using pen and paper to manage their lives.
So, wit that said, let me hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.
This week’s question comes from Max. Max asks; Hi Carl, The problem for me lies in the tools. Before coming across your work, I used a paper notebook and generally followed the Bullet Journal methodology. I have found that I do not enjoy using digital tools for organising, note-taking and general brainstorming. Something about moving a pen across paper just works for me. How would you implement your Time Sector system with a paper notebook and a pen?
Hi Max, thank you for your question.
One of the benefits of using a digital system is that all your repeatable routines and areas of focus tasks automatically show up in your list of tasks to do today. These will need to be manually transferred to your today list when you do your planning with a paper based system.
The good news here is, if you do a daily planning session, you can pull your recurring tasks from your routines and areas of focus lists and add them to your list of tasks for tomorrow. This gives you the opportunity to decide whether you can do those tasks for tomorrow. This would likely mean you will be copying five or six tasks each day from a master list to your daily list.
Personally, I like this as it forces you to deliberately consider what you will do today.
However, to make this more concrete, so you don’t miss anything, I would create a page divided into seven boxes. Each box represents a day of the week, and you can add your recurring tasks in there.
For monthly and yearly recurring tasks, I would put them on your calendar. As you are only doing this with your monthly and yearly recurring tasks, it won’t overwhelm your calendar.
Okay, aside from that, the Time Sector System works very well through a paper based system.
In all task management systems whether they are digital or not, the most important list is your today list. The key with this list is it is curated, relevant and up to date will all the excess removed.
This is one of the disadvantages of the digital system. Because it is so easy to add a date to a task and then “forget” about it—the date and forget problem—we add random dates to tasks and then our daily lists become swamped before we even start the day. The paper based system avoids this because for you to create a daily list you manually need to add tasks to it.
So, what about the folders? Well here I would create a This Week list every eight pages in your notebook. (Or 14 pages if you have two pages representing a day) You can then add tasks you want to do that week to those pages.
These lists would take care of your Next Week lists so you would not need to create a Next Week list.
For the This Month list, That I would add to the beginning of each month. These are tasks you know need to be done sometime this month, but are not entirely sure when you will do them. This is a list you can review each week and bring forward any tasks to the appropriate list.
Long-term and on hold lists would be kept either at the beginning of your notebook or at the end. You can decide where that list is best kept in your notebook.
One of the downsides to running an analogue system is you need to set up each notebook you use. This is the same with a bullet journal as well as a non-digital GTD system—something I did when I first began using the GTD method years ago. You will need to set up the pages each time you start a new notebook.
The good news here, is this process does get faster with each new notebook and each new notebook gives you an opportunity to refine your system.
The focus with the Time Sector System is on “when” you will do the task, rather than “what” the task is. This means the most important page in your notebook is today. Nothing else matters today when you are doing your work and relaxing in the evening. Tomorrow comes in to play when you do the ten minutes planning the evening before.
That’s the set up, what about collecting stuff? Where would you put the inbox? When I ran an analogue system, my inbox was the daily page. I would add new tasks and reminders to the bottom right hand corner of the page for processing later in the day. Once I had transferred the new tasks to their relevant week, I would cross them out. This way, when I did the weekly planning, I could do a quick check to make sure I had caught everything and I wasn’t looking all over the page for tasks I may have missed.
Your project notes want to be kept at the back of your notebook. When you transfer to a new notebook, you want to only put in your current, active projects. If you have projects not due to start over the next three months, you can add these to a master projects list on a separate page.
However, here comes another issue with analogue systems. Email and digital documents such as Google Docs and shared Office files. You will need a digital system to run along side your notebook.
Managing your actionable email would be fairly easy as you can put a single recurring task reminding you to clear your actionable emails. Adding links to documents in the cloud will obviously be difficult. For this you will need some form of digital system to run alongside your paper-based system.
However, there is another way you can do this which is more of a hybrid system. You notebook can be used as your collection, and planning tool. It can also contain your list of tasks for today. You can also use your notebook for all your meeting notes.
However, you maintain a master list in a digital format. For instance, keep all your recurring routines and areas of focus in a digital app. You can also transfer all your collected tasks into your task manager and move things around your time sectors there. Then each evening, when you do your daily planning you can transfer you daily list for tomorrow to your notebook.
This method has the advantage of overcoming any issues with the digital world. While we may want to maintain everything manually, the world doesn’t operate like that and we do need access to shared documents, emails and text messages.
It will also save you a lot of time when you fill a notebook. You won’t have to set up a new notebook as the backend information will always be maintained digitally and all you are doing is transferring information to your notebook on a daily basis—a great way to force you do to a daily planning session.
I’ve experimented a lot over the last few years with different methods, and my love of fountain pens and quality notebooks has had me try a paper-based system. Sadly, I’ve struggled to run a 100% analogue system because the people I work with operate digitally. That said, many people I know still take notes in meetings with pen and paper and keep that notebook on their desks while they are working and takes notes directly into it through the day.
So, it is possible to run the Time Sector System via notebook. It’s a bit fiddly, but certainly doable. Analogue systems do assist the planning sessions, because if you are not planning regularly your notebook will rapidly be out of date. However, the best approach would be to run a hybrid system where all your project details, regular recurring tasks and areas of focus are kept digitally and on a daily basis when you do your daily planning you can transfer everything over.
And planning out goals and projects will always be better on paper. AS you said in your email, “there’s something about moving a pen across paper just works for me.” And if it works for you, then don’t change it.
I hope that helps, Max. Than you for your question. And thank you to you too for listening.
It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.
To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean or
To leave or reply to comments,
please download free Podbean App.