By Jiji Lee

How to Tackle a Big Goal With a Project Planner Notebook


Smart ways to streamline and focus your efforts.

You don’t need “project manager” in your title in order to be someone managing a lot of projects. 

Everything from accomplishing your fitness goals to executing a major task at work can be viewed as a project requiring effective planning and execution in order to succeed. 

When tackling a big project, whether professional or personal, it’s helpful to have a separate notebook or planner to manage that specific target. A project planner notebook is beneficial in that it helps you capture the big picture as well as the nitty gritty details, all in one place. It gives you ample space to track deadlines and moving parts, and provides you with the flexibility to customize the planner pages as you see fit. 

Plus, you can just bring your one notebook to project meetings and you won’t have to flip through a bunch of other information from other projects to find what you need.

You could always use software or apps to manage your big project, but there is tremendous power in writing things down. Not only does putting pen to paper help encode it in your memory, but this simple but powerful act makes you more committed to finishing your tasks.

Aside from improving your productivity and focus, a project planner notebook can help you feel more positive about your work. As someone who gets a mental boost anytime I cross something off a to-do list or see a bright array of color-coded tasks, I feel a sense of pride and excitement whenever I use my planner. 

Below are some tips on how to use a project planner notebook to identify your priorities, manage your workload, and customize the planner pages to monitor the progress of your project.

What’s a big project? 

Whether you work in a corporate environment or do freelance for a living, you have lots of big projects to juggle. Here are all the different kinds of projects you can manage with a project planner or notebook:

  • Starting a small business or side hustle
  • Releasing a new product 
  • Applying to college or graduate school
  • Studying for an entrance exam or a professional license
  • Changing your career
  • Producing a big event
  • Marketing a new product or service
  • Accomplishing fitness goals
  • Buying or decorating a house
  • Developing a new skill
  • Learning a new language

Project planning tools 

Here are some tools that can help you stay on top of your big project:

How a project planner notebook helps you focus

A separate paper planner or notebook is perfect for capturing all the things you have to do on a specific project. This way, you’re not overwhelming your current planner and you can stay focused on your project in its own dedicated space. 

If you use a goal-setting planner for project planning, you have the added benefit of having built-in productivity tools in place. Here are some of the ways that you can customize a project planner notebook to help you focus:

  • The SMART Method. When you see a big project deadline looming ahead, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and lost. That’s why it’s so important to break down your big project into small, actionable steps. You can apply the SMART goal setting method to break down your project into small chunks that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound.
  • Work Breakdown Structure. Somewhat similar to the SMART Method, the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a project management method of identifying every single step and task that needs to get done.

These methods help you figure out the scope of your project and give you a more realistic idea of how long these tasks will take. You can also hold yourself more accountable by identifying project goals or milestones and making sure you’re meeting them yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily. 

By identifying all the things you have to do, you can concentrate on the relevant tasks and plot out a realistic timeline that will allow you to achieve your goal fully and on time.

Customize your project planner notebook

A project planner notebook offers tons of space and flexibility so you can follow multiple mini-projects that have lots of moving parts and deadlines. Whether you want to monitor the progress of a big project or capture your workload for the coming weeks, below are some of the ways you can customize your project planner. 

At-a-glance dashboard. Sometimes you need to see the most important information right away. At-a-glance dashboards can help you quickly see the most pressing items, such as:

  • Tasks
  • Project changes
  • Meetings
  • Upcoming deadlines
  • Important data/topics to research 

You can use washi tape to cordon off a section of your planner page for your at-a-glance overview. You can also use a sheet of paper (I like to use a sheet from my Ink+Volt Daily Taskpad) and paperclip it to a planner page. 

Kanban board. Another fun and colorful way to track the status of your projects is to create a Kanban board. (Kanban refers to the methodology that started at Toyota as a way to improve workflow). You can incorporate post-flags or washi tape to show when a project is in progress, done, past due, or not initiated. This is particularly helpful if you’re tracking lots of moving parts under the same project. 

Color-code tasks. Use color-coding and assign specific colors to their corresponding categories. For example: green can correspond with finance tasks or pink can correspond with writing deadlines.

So if you see a swath of pink color in your planner page, that signals to you that you have lots of writing deadlines ahead and that you need to finish your work by the approaching date.

If you see multiple colors all gathered on a specific day or a stretch of a week, you will know that you have a big workload ahead. This advanced knowledge can help you from overcommitting to additional projects during that time, and make sure you are rested and prepared for busy days.

These are just some of the ways that a project planner notebook can help you tackle your big project. You can try a bunch of these tips at once and see what method works best for you to perfect your project planning strategy.