My 3-Tier Planning System for Getting Stuff Done – College Info Geek
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My 3-Tier Planning System for Getting Stuff Done – College Info Geek


Hey, what’s up, guys? In today’s video, I’m
going to go over my entire planning system that I use to get things done. If there’s
one thing I’ve learned over the past six to seven years of experimenting with tons of
different apps and productivity systems and reading the daily habits of famous people,
it’s that productivity is a very individual thing.
We all have our own little idiosyncrasies and weird quirks and ways that we like to
work, so different systems are going to fit different people, and your system might be
a weird Frankenstein amalgamation of different systems that you’ve seen from other people,
which my mine is. All this goes to say that you don’t need to look at my system and think
that it needs to be your system, but you might find specific components that work well within
things you’re already doing. With that caveat out of the way, I will start
this off by showing that you my system has three specific tiers. Tier one, which is for
idea capture and organization; tier two for weekly planning; and tier three for daily
planning, where all the actual action happens. Tier one I call idea capture because I don’t
think calling it task capture does it justice. In a task management sense, at least to me,
an idea is any piece of information that you want to process and take action on later,
and that could include a specific task, but it could also include an event or a free-form
idea that doesn’t exactly have concrete action items attached to it yet but that you still
want to save. Since ideas can take a number of different
forms, I use several different apps to capture them based on their category or action type,
and then process them as efficiently as I can. Specific tasks or action items go into
Todoist, and I’ve used a number of different to-do managers over the years, like Wunderlist
and Producteev and all sorts of other kinds of apps, and I’ve kind of settled on Todoist
now because it’s very minimalist. It has a clean design. I can use labels to assign contexts,
energy levels, or locations to my tasks, and it also syncs between all my different devices.
Events will go into Google Calendar, which I’ve probably been using for six or seven
years at this point, and if I’m out and about away from computer and just have my iPhone,
then I use an app called Sunrise Calendar, which syncs nicely to it. Anything that’s
not a task or an event will go into Evernote, where I have lots of different notebooks,
and I kind of consider Evernote my second brain. It’s where all of my ideas get stored,
so I don’t have to keep them jumbled up in my head, and then I can process them later.
Tier one is all about idea capture, so I’m using these apps on a daily basis whenever
things come up to capture things quickly, but then I don’t really have to mess with
them later. On Sundays, I have my planning sessions, where I actually take these ideas
from all these different tier one systems, and figure out what I’m going to do with them
in any given week, and I do all of that in my handy Environotes sustainable, cardboard,
not very attractive-looking notebook. On the current week’s page, I put the week’s
date at the top, and then I make three different sections: events, tasks, and maybe. Events
are things that I have scheduled on the calendar, maybe meetings with people or events I want
to go to, conferences, things like that, and I’ll write them down there to keep them separate
from the actual tasks. That tasks section makes up the bulk of the
weekly plan, and it basically holds all the different tasks I want to get done in a given
week. At the top, I always have the video and the podcast because I’m a content creator,
but I’ll also have lots of little things that just need to get done. Finally, the maybe
section holds some tasks that I’m not exactly sure I’ll have time to do, but I’d like to
get done if everything goes well. That brings us to tier three, which is my
daily plan. When I wake up at 6:00 a.m. every morning and come into my office, and I look
at both the notebook and my calendar, and from that I create a daily plan on my whiteboard.
The daily plan is all about action. I want it to drive me through the day and take away
all ambiguity over what I should be doing at any given time.
To help with that, I try as hard as I possibly can to write the daily plan in the exact order
that I want to do the tasks, and I also estimate at what time I should get each one done using
a fudge ratio to account for the planning fallacy, and this helps me, with lots of practice,
mind you, be able to basically predict how many tasks I’ll be able to get done in a given
day. Using the time estimates also puts a bit of time pressure on me, which makes me
work a bit more efficiently, and that’s always helpful.
As I go through my day and complete tasks, I’ll check them off on the whiteboard, and
then once I’m finished with my work for the day, I’ll also check off everything I got
done in the weekly plan. Hopefully, you enjoyed this video and got something out of it. If
you’ve got other planning tips I didn’t mention here or want to talk about your own system,
then let me know about it down in the comments. Otherwise, I will see you next week.
Hey there. Thanks for watching this video about my planning process. I’d just like to
let you know that I also wrote a hundred-plus-page book on getting better grades, and chapter
four of that book is all about planning. If you want some additional tips, then click
the picture of the book, and I will send you a free copy.
If you want to get more videos every single week on being an awesome college student,
then hit that big red “Subscribe” button right there, and you can also find any of the resources
I talked about in this video at the companion blog post, which you can find by clicking
right there. If you missed last week’s video, there’s a clip of it playing, so definitely
check it out. If you want to connect with me, I’m @TomFrankly on Twitter, or you can
leave a comment on this video, and let me know if you have other ideas for new videos.
Thanks for watching.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “My 3-Tier Planning System for Getting Stuff Done – College Info Geek

  1. @ThomasFrank do you have Gilbert's Syndrome? Your eyes look a bit yellowish… (If so, did you gain any insights?)

  2. @Thomas Frank, Thanks for sharing your planning system. Since Sunrise is deprecated, what calendar application do you use now? 🙂

  3. …It seems that more time and energy is spent on downloading and learning how to use these planning apps than…"actually doing what has to get done."!

  4. Thank you Thomas so much for doing such videos! They helped me alot in my studies and in getting things done. Thank you for being such an inspiration!

  5. Hey, uhh… can you share with us your (impersonal, of course) Evernote notes (such as the one on Power of Habits)? Provided that's even possible, of course. It'd be super useful.

  6. Hi Thomas.. I came back to watch this video for reference. My doubt!!! How about using Things 3 app.. what’s your opinion about it?

  7. Your Sunday routine sounds just like my Monday morning routine – mine just needs more coffee to get through! Nothing like a good weekly review! Great video!

  8. I am huge fan of your videos, and this one in particular. I have a video idea for you if you're interested. I started a new business, which requires that I work from home. I also have a lot of other random responsibilities, such as being a parent…(well, I guess that's really the only other one, but it seems huge…anyway…). I am wondering if you would ever consider doing a video on how you, as a content producer, and a person who works from home, separate your work-life from home-life- especially with regards to task management. For example, my daily things-to-do lists are mixed. I have to print binders for a client meeting, work on my website, schedule doctors appointments for the children, remember to thaw the chicken for dinner, finish a board report for a board meeting, etc. I find that my days get super swayed one way or another. Either I kill it at work and my family doesn't get fed, or my whole family is happy but work has been basically non-existent. Do you have any suggestions for this? Your consideration is much appreciated!

  9. Hi, when you write your daily tasks and events in a whiteboard how you can follow your daily plan when you are outside of your room?

  10. Hi Thomas. Really enjoy your material (when I get the chance to watch it!). You mention Todoist – I know this is an older episode and am wondering if you still use it, or whether you might have switched to Asana or other similar app? I seem to recall a mention of Asana in another recording, although I may be thinking of another channel. Also, even though this is your CollegeInfoGeek work – do you still maintain a combination of Todoist, GCalendar and Evernote as your main productivity/management applications? Apologies if you have already done reviews on these that I've missed or haven't found. Really appreciate your work. Thanks again.

  11. Very simple and logical use of your time. But this works for you as you made it work to your life style and circumstances. Good job I learnt something new too.

  12. Why wouldn't you just assign times to your tasks in Todoist? Just seems counterproductive to split up your tasks between Todoist, a notebook, and a whiteboard, especially if you're probably on your computer the most

  13. Hey Thomas thank you for the information! i am curious if you have adjusted this method in the years since posting? how have you refined if at all your method?

  14. Thomas, love your videos! As an Academic Strategist for High School and Post-Secondary students, I love topping up my own programs and strategies for my students with your ideas. My planning system is almost exactly what you have here and I teach this to my students. What I have added for the days or weeks that you are too overwhelmed is the Top 3. When you can't manage to look at the "To-Do List" because it shuts you down, I have my students grab their whiteboard and list their top 3 priorities from their heads. They pick the one they want to start with, either because it has the highest urgency or because it is the easiest to accomplish, and they just go for it and get it done. Then they move to the next one. When 2-3 of the top priorities are finished, they have momentum, a burden off their plates and often the ability to go back to the list and start planning again.

  15. for many people (including me) it is wise to consider some entertainment as a task to be done.
    so that the system does not become a black hole of frustration and stress, that way your unconscious mind will admire it.

  16. Hey man, you should really target young people. Not sure exactly what age group. 3rd or 4th graders sound like a good target audience. Best of luck benefitting sentient beings.

  17. Help me plssssss. I'm trying to plan for my college routine, essentials, what should I use (planner or digital planner), calendar (paper or digital), where should I write my to-do list (paper or digital), should I buy to-do list paper or should I print it or make one, of it, what should I do with my whiteboard and bulletin board. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa I'm freaking out! I don't know what to do 🙁 I'm not an organize person but I want to become organized like the others but my mind has many suggestions and I don;t know what to dooooooooooo. Please people help me what should I do. Give me some tips and help me clear my mind.

    Salamat po.

  18. Bro, thank you very much for sharing this method. I have read quite a lot of personal task management readings (including GTD and alike), I think your system have simplified them quiet a bit.

  19. The most important task should be the first thing you do when you wake up so you get a high sense of accomplishment and then the rest of the day after that should be a breeze. Also if you don’t finish something on your daily task move it to the first thing you would do for your next days daily tasks

  20. One of the reason i liked your video is your speed in talking – it personally annoys me to wait for people to say a single word…. your was adrenaline rush but time efficient. and i liked your other ideas too so THANKS FOR POSTING

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