Getting Things Done with my Get To Work Book

May 12, 2016 | 21 Comments

This week I received an exciting package – my copy of Get to Work Book(GTWB) for 2016/17. Naturally the first thing I did was sketch it.

The creator of this book is Elise Joy, a lifestyle/craft/goal setting blogger who I have followed for some time. She describes it as: a daily planner + goal setting workbook designed to help you make progress on your big goals by taking things one day at a time. While (sadly) it can’t do your work for you, every inch of it was thoughtfully designed to help you get to work. 

And after using it all year, I can confirm that it has indeed helped me to get to work and to get things done!

I have been using a simplified version of  David Allen’s Getting Things Done system and keep all my next actionable items for each project in a fancy digital productivity app – Omnifocus. (Note: Omnifocus is high end but I started with Todoist which was great too.) But I love having a paper system too which I use to map out how I am going to spend each day.

My attachment to and reliance on this book has truly helped me achieve a lot in the last 6 months, including writing a book in 3 months.

I take it to the cafe every morning. I review, plan and allocate and then just get into it! The ordered way in which I record my tasks in this planner takes the pressure off keeping them all sorted in my brain. And if I hit a slump midway through a day, I pull out my GTWB – reviewing the plan seems to get me back to work!

There are so many things I love about the Get To WorkBook. I use all the special planning pages – check out the videos. But most of all I love the quality or the paper and the monotone simple design. Each week I start by customising the ‘three things for the day’ with little black square boxes and continue I use this theme as I write my lists each day.

The column/list format of the weekly spreads has been a big game changer for me.

This book is making me want to write really neatly which in turn makes me feel in control and even more organised. Recently I have started writing down what I did if it was different (in red) and this has been great for days when I am unable to get my tasks finished and might be feeling a touch discouraged. Once I have written down what I did do, then I either realise that I achieved other things or I get a better sense of how to set more realistic time frames!

I love the three goals for the week and the three goals for each day. The gridded area at the bottom on the page is great to writing extra stuff that needs to be fitted in but I am not sure how. At the moment I am using this for blog posts. (I also have a colour coded digital editorial calendar that maps out the big picture but I have some flexible spots in that so I use my GTWB for working out the details.)

As Sunday is my day of rest I use that column for listing little admin tasks that come up during the week that might not make it into Omnifocus, or that need to be done at sometime during the week. There is a bit of overlap here.

What I love most about the book is how useful and flexible the different sections are – so that you can use the book in a way that suits you best.

Note: Looking at that photo above it appears that I don’t always tick off everything that I have done!

This year Elise has brought out a black cover and although I liked the kraft paper cover (and didn’t mind it getting dirty) I am loving the black look for the next year.

This isn’t the cheapest planner out there, but for me it is worth each dollar (including the shipping to down under!) The productivity it has given me is worth FAR more than the price of the book. But on the most basic level, it is a wonderfully designed and great quality product.

I also am very happy to support Elise. I have gotten so much from her wonderful podcast Elise Gets Crafty. It’s all about blogging and creative small business but with a down to earth emphasis that fits well with what I am trying to do (some blogging/online business podcast are much too hard hitting). I love listening to the way people in different industries do things and I love supporting people who are so generous in sharing quality free content. Thanks Elise!

I enjoy seeing how other people use it too!

And just for the record, this is not a sponsored post. It is simply a personal acknowledgment of how much this book has done for me. The big break-through for me was using a column/list layout as a diary – that just sorts me out. But its also super important for me to have a book that I just love! If I love it, I use it all the time, meaning that I can fully trust that it contains all the important stuff I need on a day to day basis for scheduling my work – this is a massive part of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It’s really great when you find a product and a system that really works for you, isn’t it?

Update: Just wanted to add a few additional points that have been raised in the comments. The above paragraph is only half of the story. I use my GTWB for scheduling my work on a daily basis. I still primarily rely on my digital app (Omnifocus) to record all the details of appointments, time sensitive actions and items that I don’t need to deal with straight away. There is some overlap but I rely most on my app as I carry it around with me. As most of my important work is working on big projects I need a lot of thinking time to work out think through ideas and the best way to break that down to actionable items. Then I have to work out how to fit that into the time I have. This thinking and scheduling of my project work is what I use the paper system for as I find that I think much better with a pen in the hand. If you have lots of appointments and lots of small deadline driven tasks than a digital app is possibly more useful.

Over the last 6 months I have spend more time than ever before planning and thinking through my projects. Sometimes I think this time could be better spent just doing the work, but as I have being achieving a lot lately with a lot less pressure than previous years, I think this time is actually making it easier.

"Big things happen one day at a time."

Get To Work Book

As always, I would love to hear from you:
Do you have a great planner/app – and what is the feature that works for you the most?
How many people bullet journal?

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  • Mel Scott says:

    I’ve been using a bullet journal for a few years now and love it for the same reasons, helps me plan and get organised and feel more under control. I’m a fan of Elise’s podcast too and am very tempted by the Get To Work book but I know historically that I don’t get along with dated planners. Bullet journals work for me because I can have my to do lists, brain dumps, writing notes, doodles, other random lists and things all in one place, there’s always enough room and I don’t feel guilty about wasted space if I miss a day or two like I do with dated planners. I have bought one of Elise’s project pads though and am figuring out how to incorporate those pages into my BuJo.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Mel…hope you are going well. Great to hear about the bullet journal working for you. Oops I forgot to mention that I bought one of Elise’s project pads (in the cover image) I also have a KikkiK folder with A5 loose leaf pages for all my project ideas and notes. That is working well for me also as a non time specific brain dumps.

    • Debi Kistler says:

      I had never heard of the bullet journal, but after reading your comment, I was intrigued and have watched the video and even begun to set one up. Years ago i used the Franklin planner successfully for probably 8 years and when my life changed from work to home I couldn’t find a planner that seemed to work. I’m excited to try bullet journaling. if you have any other tips or websites to pass along I would love it! Thank you for sharing.

  • Cathy Dwyer says:

    Hi Liz. I have a January 2016-December 2016 Get-To-Work book which I love. I use mine to not only plan the big and little things in my life but also as a diary/journal to record feelings, hopes and dreams. I heard about this book from you so THANKS!

  • Karla Salyer says:

    Hi Liz, I want to say I follow you on facebook and have taken both of your online classes. You are a great inspiration. I wanted to ask you about using a fountain pen on the paper in this planner, no bleed through? Thanks again, for all you share. Karla

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks Karla- yes the paper is perfect for fountain pen ink. Even is ‘ok’ for fine sharpie – Elise shows this on her video on the GTWB site

  • Tonya says:

    As a big-time user of the OS and iOS app, Things (and now transitioning to OmniFocus), I wonder how using the “paper” version of GTW syncs in with the electronic stuff. Frankly, while I love the idea and “feel” of touching and interacting physically with my daily “stuff,” I think I’d be lost much of the time because I wouldn’t be able to carry it with me always as I have my iOS device(s). E.g. while I’m out getting a haircut, my phone warns me I have a client appointment back at the office so I know not to dally with Corinne, the hairdresser. If I only had the GTW, I’d have to haul that with me and consult it to “remember” the existing appointment.

    In short, how do you mesh everything together? I see appointments in your GTW daily pages–do you double those up also in an electronic format (say, “Calendar” on an iOS device) or do you just use one or the other? Or maybe something else? I really want to use the paper-based diary/calendaring/tasks, but I can’t afford to lose the ease of having all the stuff in OmniFocus or Things. Or is there a “best of both worlds” option here that I’m missing?

    • Mel Scott says:

      Tonya, don’t know about Liz but I still use an electronic calendar for my detailed appointment stuff and the reminders (which I need). In my bullet journal I keep track of big events for the month/year like birthdays, deadlines, trips, or other stuff that takes a chunk of time out of my day like an appointment I have to travel to or a lunch or dinner and will write stuff like ‘haircut’ on my daily pages but the phone has the detail like time and where. I find this works for helping me plan my month big picture in the planner but I don’t forget the details thanks to the phone/Mac calendar. And day job detail stuff is on the day job computer. That doesn’t sync with my phone so I put day job reminders in phone if I have something unusual like an early meeting or flights. Interested to hear what others do but this works for me.

      • Liz Steel says:

        yes mel – all the details of appts are on my phone. In my GTWB I am just blocking out the slab of time

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks Tonya – I use my GTWB for scheduling my work on a daily basis. I still primarily rely on my digital app (Omnifocus) to record all the details of appointments, time sensitive actions and items that I don’t need to deal with straight away. There is some overlap but I rely most on my app as I carry it around with me. As most of my important work is working on big projects I need a lot of thinking time to work out think through ideas and the best way to break that down to actionable items. Then I have to work out how to fit that into the time I have. This thinking and scheduling of my project work is what I use the paper system for as I find that I think much better with a pen in the hand. If you have lots of appointments and lots of small deadline driven tasks than a digital app is possibly more useful.

  • Roz Stendahl says:

    What a great post Liz. A friend told me about this planner at the end of last year and I’ve been using one of the Kraft-cover ones this year as well. And I love it. Mine is very messy! (I’ll have to scan something and post it.) It was essential in the past few years to have a good planner that allowed me to have all my work stuff but also appointments and stuff for eldercare. (They go through bouts of lots of doctors visits and then nothing, so it’s important to use those breaks.) I feel this planner really fits the bill.

    Once I was able to go outside and ride in the spring weather on March 7 I started using the bottom strip of grid paper on the spread for my exercise log—route and times. It’s been great to have that all in one place when I’m trying to compare that progress to when I go to physical therapy etc. (Previous the exercise log was on a form that I’d made and separate from my calendar.)

    I’m so glad you posted about this and I saw it on Facebook because now I have to go and order a black one for 2017.

    And I’m glad you posted too because I think Elise has made a wonderful planner and I think a lot of people would really enjoy working in it.

    I use Montana Acrylic Markers, and various poster paint pens in mine without any bleed through issues. I’ve even painted in watercolor in mine!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Roz – great to hear how you use it. Love your use of the grid area for an exercise log – brilliant!

  • Linda Welch says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Liz. I have the 2016 GTWB and love it, but don’t feel I’m fully utilizing it to plan and organize myself. It’s good to see how you are using it–gave me some good ideas!

  • Dina Dajani says:

    Hi Liz,
    I use Erin Condren vertical planner. I love the versality and the colours! The month on one page at the beginning of each month is very useful helps me plan all the regular monthly stuff and keep a note of what’s going on. The section of goals at the beginning of every month is helpful and is making me achieve and focuses on specific dreams ! Only thing is that when life kicks in and get busy to jot things down I get frustrated with the empty slots and sometimes pages . Also as a planner junky I do have quite a bit and feel that I am all over the place. Haven’t figured out how to work it best to use all for different aspects and areas of planning.

    • Liz Steel says:

      HI Dina, I was actually looking at Erin Condren’s planners but they weren’t available at the time so I went with the GTWB. Lots of similarities between the two I think!

    • Dina Dajani says:

      Yes Liz! Lots of similarities I would say the only bits that are different is the fact that in EC planners you have:
      Plastic pocket at the back to store your bits
      You get 6 sheets of little rectangle colour coded stickers that are blank and some are with words like appointment schedule or birthdays and so on
      Beginning of every month you get a nice motivational quote and the the whole month view which I love and use
      You can have a 12 month or 18 month version
      But the best part would be for you I guess is that you get to send them in your pictures and they scan them and put them on the cover so you could have your planner with all your lovely teacups or any sketches that you like. I had mine customised with my initials !
      Goals general for the month and then specific for weeks
      Every week you have a little box for a thoughtful thought I think that would be kind of your thumbnail only in writing rather than sketching or both.
      Hope you are enjoying your day away from the computer and have a great Sunday!

  • Dee Quine says:

    Hi Liz! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post! I’ve been using the bullet journal system since August 2013 and it’s worked a treat for me although the future planning side of it is a shortfall so I still use my iPhone calendar to manage this. I’m a fan of the daily pages of the bullet journal system because you have a lot of freedom in how much and what you write – mine ends always ends up being a rapid logging of the day’s events and random notes. I must admit though that the GTWB was on my radar last year and I was in serious contemplation about how I could incorporate the bullet journal into it. I’ve used a simplified version of the GTD with my work bullet journal and that’s worked a treat. There’s a massive bullet journal community out there – just search it on Instagram and there’s just loads on it. Also check out Ryder Carroll’s website for some inspo if you ever wanted to go down the bullet journal rabbit hole haha the Show and Tell series is always a good starting point on that blog 🙂 anyway I’m rambling now but I really enjoyed this post and gave me some wonderful ideas for planning 🙂

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks Dee – ramble anytime! I really need to get up to speed with bullet journalling (have a vague idea but have never put it into practice)

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