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How to get more organised using a blank notebook

blank notebook

I have in the last 2 years started using a paper based diary instead of an electronic diary.  I do this firstly because its very easy to just click snooze on things that pop up on your electronic diary and I was the queen of it.  Secondly having a paper planner sitting on my desk with my list of things to be ticked off is more satisfying for me and there is actually research saying that ticking things off a list gives you a dopamine hit, and who doesn’t love dopamine huh? Finally there is also research that shows that writing things down instead of typing actually helps you commit things to your memory better.

So the next question, why would you use a blank notebook productivity system instead of a pre printed diary?  I find that I feel constrained in what I can put in a pre printed diary, compared to a blank slate where you can use each page or section for something different.  I then don’t have to have one book for planning and another for ideas or journaling, it can all go in to one notebook organisation system, if you want to call it that. You only have to carry one book around with you and it will suit for whatever you want to write. If you have to have different notebooks for different things I would recommend a travelers notebook and the brand I recommend is Mumsy and Bub but that’s another article entirely.

There are so many different styles of notebooks out there the mind boggles but I love Rhodia and Nuuna.  Both of these brands are fountain pen friendly which is a must for me and my obsession with the fountain pen.  Nuuna though has these amazing different covers that I love.

Nuuna deadlines notebook

As to the style of the inside pages, there are a few main ones:

  • Blank
  • Lined
  • 5 x 5 grid
  • Dot grid

 I like the dot grid layout myself, it’s more flexible than lined but still gives you guidance.  It really doesn’t matter though with my style of organisation system.

Supplies I use: 

  • A notebook of any style. I like an A5 size notebook but any size will do.  I am currently using a Rhodia notebook 5x5 grid 90gsm and a Nuuna notebook dot grid.  One for work and one for personal
  • Fountain pens with different coloured inks.  If you don’t have these, any coloured pens will do really.
  • Stickers.  I am a convert from using an Erin Condren Life planner and I use stickers for everything.  Etsy is your friend here. I usually type bullet journal stickers or planner stickers in to the Etsy search function.
  • A ruler.  Not a must but can be useful

My Basic Setup

When I start a new notebook I go through a basic setup before I start using it. My setup has elements from bullet journaling and elements from the Ivy Lee method.  I have purposely not added pictures of my set up so that your view of how you want your notebook is not skewed by how mine looks

  • I save the first 3 pages for an index or contents page.  For this to be effective I would suggest numbering your pages as you use them and updating your index page.  It makes it so much easier to find things if you have this set up.  
  • I then go straight in and create a to do and appointments list for the month, I save a couple of pages for this. This to-do/appointment list is broken down into 4 headings, Home, Work, Errands & Calls/emails.  
  • Then an Ideas page for the month, this is just like a brain dump of ideas that you would usually just forget about. Save a couple of pages if you think you need it.
  • Then the current weeks to do and appointment list is next.  This is also broken down into the same 4 headings.  I use a two page spread for this.
  • Finally the daily to do list and appointments.  I do a different process for this list because I have found it works for me.  Firstly I always list at the top, the “Most important outcome for the day”, then I prioritise everything on my list from A to C of how important it is to my day to get done. 


When it comes to journaling I tend to put this type of stuff straight after my last entry and add it to my contents page. Studies have shown that journaling can boost your immune system, lower heart rate, and lessen mental health symptoms.  I and many others call this a brain dump. I find this most helpful at night if I can’t sleep and my brain is whirling. My process is to jot down anything that comes to mind doesn’t matter what order or if it makes sense. Then organise them into categories on a fresh page.  You can then analyse them further or not, they are out of your head now anyway.

I read somewhere that you should give yourself 30 minutes or 3 pages in your journal to vent or journal. Then spend 10 minutes writing positive affirmations or questions to ponder about your journaling session.  I have found this helpful when I just need to get things off my chest or I’m conflicted as to what I am feeling as sometimes I can’t name my emotions and figure out what is making me feel bad. These are just a couple of ways of journaling, there are many more that you can easily incorporate into your notebook.

Other things to incorporate

Once you have your basic setup in your diary you can start incorporating other things to make it prettier or more useful.  Depending on my schedule and inclination I sometimes create a monthly title page. This is just really the month and year written and some illustrations if I’m feeling artistic.

April planner page

Something I have in the back of my notebook is a range of what bullet journaler's call collections.  This is a list of things relating to a specific category. For instance I have a collection for each of my children with birthday and christmas present ideas. Another idea is a bucket list or a long term goals list.  Something that I am going to start is a 15 minute tasks list as this will motivate me to clean my house more.

Here is a list of collections that may help you

  • Business plan lists
  • Trackers such as food, water or pain
  • Weight loss tracker
  • Self care ideas
  • Journal prompts
  • Personal goals
  • Wish list
  • Skills to learn
  • Shopping list
  • Chore list
  • Daily cleaning to do list
  • Event planning
  • Savings track

You get the idea, if you can think of something you can make a list for it.

As you can see you can combine all of the above into one very important notebook productivity system and make it work for you.  Without the pre-printed pages to get in your way you can really design your own system. Your notebook is a tool to a more organised life.

Lee Saul


Lee Saul

That was very comprehensive and a really useful article to read for someone who has never thought about using a blank notebook for a planner before! It has inspired me, although I would still love to see yours!!!

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