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organised madness

Someone asked me to share how I use my Hobonichi as a planner, because you tend to see it used as a doodle journal or a diary so I thought, why not? But first, you need to understand where I’m coming from;

  • I refuse to maintain multiple planners to record the same thing
  • I would love to decorate but honestly, I need the space 
  • I adore multi-ink pens 
  • My inbox is a monster that regularly needs to be slayed 

Before I fully embraced the Hobonichi as a planner, I had to come to terms with a few things that took quite a few bucks and multiple failed planners (yes including the Hobonichi Cousin at one point) for me to realise:

  • Without discipline, the best system in the world will fail me (or rather, I fail it)
  • Updating my planner needs to be a regular, active item in my day rather than something I get around to when I’m free
  • The planner needs to be mobile because my work can suddenly bite me in the behind without warning

Considering all that (and instigated by the fact that the love of my life gave me the 2016 Hobonichi English planner as a gift), here’s the system that I’ve come up with that, colour me happy and excited, is actually working.

Determine how your work comes in and how you’ll capture it

I use an amalgamation of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) and the Bullet Journal system. Here, I follow the GTD principle in that;

  • You don’t keep anything in your head (besides your brain)
  • Do only emails/work that takes less than 2 minutes to settle. Leave the longer ones for later 
  • Log everything in a rough sheet first

So I blaze through my emails, doing only the <2 min emails and logging the tasks on a cheap notepad. Then I do the longer stuff and also log it on the cheap notepad.

Keep one thing in mind; I follow the GTD definition of a project as well; a project is  anything that needs a few days/weeks/months and a few steps to complete. This is important in a short while.

Then record your work in the right places

Referring to my cheap notepad, I do the following:

  • Events are logged in the yearly view of the techo
  • Project deadlines are logged in the monthly view using colourful post-its that are colour-coded
  • The daily pages are updated with the tasks that need to be done that day, either a standalone task or part of a project

Use it to log events


Use it to log project deadlines


Use it for your daily schedule & tasks

Here’s where the Bullet Journal system kicks in; 

  • Tasks are written down using checkboxes
  • If the task is being done, it’s filled partway
  • Done, I shade it fully
  • If it’s a bigger task/project that has several things I need to do on that day itself, the main task is recorded using a circle, the smaller tasks with a checkbox
  • I add signifiers to the tasks for example, an exclamation point to show it needs my attention that day; an arrow going in a circle to show that even though the task is done, I’ll need to do more e.g. follow up with someone; an arrow to the right means I need to push the task to the next day
  • And here’s another important key for me; if I have to move the task again, I’ll add the number ‘2’ to the right arrow to show this is the second time I’ve moved the task and so on. This is super helpful because it forces me to see why am I avoiding this task


How the signifiers work

The Master List

One thing you need to remember though is that you need a master tracker of your tasks/projects. Here is where I usually fail in the past because I keep it somewhere I always lose it or forget it, or I just plain ignore it because it’s not synonymous with my planner.

To avoid that, I got the Hobonichi A6 memo book (set of 3) and I tab a few pages for one section. This is also another key item–

Understand the grouping of your work

Generally your work will come in themes. As I’m in HR, my work comes in these buckets;

  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Employment
  • Others/Projects
  • Exit

So everything, everything that comes in to me is classified under either one of these themes and if they’re a task, they get a smaller post-it and if they’re a project, they get a bigger post-it and then they’re placed in the appropriate tab in the memo book. See below;


Used to track tasks & projects

Why post-its? Because I’ve realised that I want to transfer completed tasks/projects into some place else as a record of what I’ve done so that I can totally wave it in my bosses’ faces during performance review haha!

And most importantly, I need to remember that I’ve done good work 🙂

Remember to review review review

And here’s the crucial part of my system which I haven’t fully implemented because I’m still in the process of cleaning up but I think it’ll work as I’ve experimented with it;

Pick a day in the week (I would recommend Friday) where you dedicate a block of time to review your Master Tracker and update your Year/Month/Daily view accordingly. 

Do this religiously and you won’t even need to use Sunday evening to plan your coming week because you got it done on Friday. You rock!

Anything else?

  • Do I need the Weekly book to do this? What if I forget what’s coming in the next few days? It doesn’t matter if you use the Weekly book or just the daily pages, if you don’t discipline yourself to review it, it’ll fail you.
  • How do I track my daily schedule? I like things aligned so my schedule is laid out in a grid because you need a visual reminder of how much of your day is taken up already. We have a tendency to overestimate our time; a visual clock helps you remember you don’t have that much so make the best of it

Anyway, that’s it! I hope that was helpful and if you have any questions, just ask~



Filed under: The Before

About the Author

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This is a journey and I'm dragging you along for the ride. There might be combinis involved. Definitely a lot of writing. And martial arts.


  1. Kas

    Your system sounds brilliant! And most of all–it works for you. 🙂 I’m not a doodler, either, so it’s refreshing seeing how someone uses their Hobonichi in a more down-to-earth way that isn’t an art journal. Thanks for sharing!

    • Cheers. Got frustrated myself with how little planner-related material there was using the Hobonichi so might as well do it myself eh?

      • Kas

        Definitely! I’ve been on the hunt for Hobonichi ideas that aren’t art journals and came up with pretty much nothing. So glad to see someone has picked up the task! 🙂

  2. Farhana fauzi

    I love this entry!do give me some enlightment how to track my work..i still have issue on tracking my pending work and how much time i consume to complete 1 project..

  3. Pat

    Thank you for this! I had been super frustrated trying to look for planner-related inspiration for the Hobonichi, as I’m planning to use the A6 for 2016. I’m a little intimidated as well looking at that glorious blank space, but thanks to your post I think I have an idea where to start!

    • Hi Pat, I’m so happy it was helpful! I had the same frustrations myself and it was a bit scary for me, tackling it because ‘what if I’m wrong?’, but we’ll never know until we try yeah? Ah happy to say so far it’s working out. if you need someone to brainstorm your layout/use etc, happy to help!

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  5. Angelica

    Love your system. But the stickers caught my attention. Are those sumikko gurashi ones? May I know where you got them? Those look so adorable inside the monthly boxes!!!

    • Haha yes they are! I got them from Stickerrific. You can find them on Facebook and they have a webshop!

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