“The Planners” series is a portrait gallery of people using various planning systems to manage work, family life, personal projects and much more. The goal of this new series is to give you more inspiration and to introduce you to new planning methods and tools beyond the bullet journal system.
For this fifth post of the series, I’m happy to have Julien from the French organization blog Organisologie here on Minimal.Plan! I’m regularly reading his posts and he was kind enough to answer all the questions I had about his planning system. In this interview, I’m asking Julien, among other things, what his planning system looks like, what tools he uses to manage everything and how his organization system helps him achieve his goals.
Full Disclosure: All the pictures featured have been provided by Julien. Translation from French is mine.
Let’s start with introductions: can you tell us a few words about you?
I like to introduce myself as a bearded man who hasn’t have used a clock alarm in a very long time, but still have a busy life.
Now if I have to say a few words about what I do: I help ambitious people to get free of stress and boost their performances thanks to the “the Organisology” (Organisologie in French).
How did I became an “Organisologue”?
Well, I’ve never really liked school. I worked a few years in construction, moving heavy stuff from one point to another. And I felt like I needed to make changes. I launched a blog, and then another one, and finally a third. I changed jobs more than once, but never stopped writing since 2013.
At some point, a publisher gave me the opportunity to write a book (2 hours to get organised – available in French as “2h chrono pour mieux m’organiser). I then created my blog “L’Organisologie” that aims to help people get free of stress and boost their performances. As I’m writing this, I’m travelling through Europe (I’m in Lyon, and will settle down in Berlin for 6 months), and I’m working on the business behind my blog.
Oh, and I drink a bit too much coffee!
When did you buy your first planner and what was it? How did your planning system evolved since then?
I started to seriously get into organization when I decided to attend evening classes to prepare a leadership & management degree in 2012. The classes cost me 18’000 CHF (most of my savings at that time) and I was managing a team on construction sites… So I was pretty tired when I would go home at the end of the day.
And aside work and studies, I had my friends, girlfriend, sports and the blog. Having an organization system helped me to keep everything under control.
I like to see my organization system as the compass and map of a sailor. It keeps me from getting lost. And it’s SO easy to get lost these days with all the opportunities we have to get distracted.
My organization system upgraded when I started to design my own training and coaching programs. It’s silly, but as a business owner, and as I wanted to make a living out of my blog, I couldn’t afford to be too lazy.
So I’m still relaxed as you can see, but I put all my energy and expertise in the programs I design. And it asks for a good organization!
Usually, people fell in love or totally hate the trainings I give. It’s always a big yes or not at all!
Can you describe your planning system in a few words?
My organization system looks like a pyramid.
I don’t really talk about tools on my blog, and I only use a few. I find them overrated. Some people are spending their lives trying to find the perfect organization tool, but fail to make progress towards their goals.
First level of the pyramid: the philosophy
The first level is to think of what I want to achieve in my life. Which is essential. It’s all about my values. This is what I call “philosophy”. I write a lot about it on my blog.
I’m convinced that you have bigger chances to make something meaningful if you spend more time on your own trying to figure out what you want to do with your life than if you would look at other people’s lives with envy.
Some books I recommend reading:
Man’s searching for meaning by Viktor Frankl
So good they can’t ignore you by Cal Newport
Second level of the pyramid: the strategy
Once I know what I want (it can take a little while, and I usually try various activities during this time), I try to identify my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks to end up with an action plan (a strategy with a SMART goal).
Third level of the pyramid: the systems
By “system”, I mean everything that helps you implement your strategy and that should take you as less time as possible. Automation systems, automatic savings system, information management… But also all the routines that can take your game to the next level without being overwhelmed.
Last level: the tools
The tools can be such things as PROJO – the project journal if you’re a paper, analog lover.
I personally use 3 main tools to get organized since I started to work and travel at the same time: Gmail, Workflowy, Google Drive
What do you like best? Analog or digital?
I’m more into digital at this moment.
But paper can be useful to start a fire for instance.
Just joking of course!
I actually used to have a journal in a notebook, but I change the tools I use recently to adapt my system to my nomad lifestyle.
What tools do you use for planning and what functions do these tools serve?
It’s the tool that allow me to get organized and communicate with others. When you have a well managed inbox, you can really save time. And improve or maintain your reputation as a professional (and that’s underrated).
It’s the spine of my all organization system. This digital application has been designed to handle endless lists. But I pushed it even further. I implemented my schedule, my routines, my notes, ideas lists and personal projects… 80% of the information I need is here. I even developed an online course about this app. People usually love the concept that is close to a paper + digital system: no notifications, and a few functions to master.
Here’s my Workflowy dashboard
Combined with a good scanning app (I use ScanBot Pro), you can get rid of all the paper in your life. But once again, there are rules to understand.
I also use very mundane apps such as my bank app or Google maps for my everyday needs. For now, it works perfectly. But ask me again in 6 months from now and maybe it will be totally different.
What does your planning routine look like if you have one?
At the end of my workday, I log 6 tasks I want to achieve the next morning in my digital calendar. When I wake up the next day, I work on these. I usually work until 1PM without reading any email or opening social medias.
After that work session, I spend some time on my non-regular routine: I have a list of 11 behaviours I’d like to develop, and I pick 5 of them. My choice depends on where I am and the environment around me.
In the afternoon, I do sports and evenings are usually for friends, reading or chess playing.
I also have a system that is here to measure the progress I make towards the main goal I have at the moment. As I’m writing this, my goal is to launch 8 online courses by the end of July 2019: I finished 5 of them. I probably won’t make it to my goal this year (I had other opportunities such as speak at at TEDx conference), but I’ll probably manage to launch 6 to 7 online courses.
It’s better than nothing. This system is at the heart of my overall organization.
Can you tell us a bit about your planning system?
I’m going to walk you through the SCOREUR system, the one that I just introduced and that helps me track progress on my goals. I initially developed it to write my first book: the timing was tight and I had very few resources, so I designed this system.
To make it simple, you have 2 tables:
The first table shows 2 curves: the planned curve of your sub-goals (what you want to achieve), and the second curve that shows what you actually achieved. In a glance, you can see if you’re running late or not.
The second table shows the planned / real amount of time spent on your key activity.
For instance, to write 25 chapters for my book, I planned 30 minutes of writing a day. After 1 month of 30 minutes session per day, I realized I wouldn’t meet the deadline if I wouldn’t spend more time working on that book everyday.
With this system, I get a warning way before the deadline.
In this case, I raised the time spend everyday to 60 minutes and managed to finish the book with not too many sleepless nights.
How has your planning system helped you?
I think it deserves a little reminder: my organization system is my map and compass. I see so many ambitious people that get lost in the way! They just stop doing what makes them happy (sports for instance) or want to do everything at the same time and end up doing nothing.
I personally decide on goals at the beginning of the year and stick to them. But I wouldn’t achieve that without the systems I have.
If I’m being very concrete, being organized has allowed me to help ambitious people and to make a living out of the digital products I design (like online courses). It’s probably not for everyone, but I put everything I have in my work and I’m grateful for all the things that my readers are giving it back to me.
Do you have one (or several) planning gurus?
I really like the strategic approach of organization. It helped me to take some distance from day to day business and keep in mind what really matters.
I took inspiration from Cal Newport. But I don’t read a lot about organization, books or blogs. Most say the exact same thing and I try to avoid that.
Did you ever experiment a planning slump? How did you get out of it?
Of course. That’s natural. These “crises” are opportunities to measure the benefits I get from my organization system. Getting organized is like stopping drinking sodas… And one day you drink a cola, aka you fall off the organization wagon. And you realize how hard it feels. But to acknowledge that, you needed to try some old, bad habits once again.
Aside from work, I’m pretty messy. Yep… On my desk at this moment, there’s a hard drive, 2 old cups, credit cards, sunglasses, an Apple pencil, coins, a e-reader, and a bunch of books. And I procrastinate too.
But that’s what I keep telling to my readers: you can be super organized to achieve the other’s priorities and totally miss what matters to you. And if you do that your entire life, you just end up saying “WHAAAAT?! Is that over already?” and you die.
So I encourage my readers to think beyond just the organization system itself.
As Peter Drucker used to say: nothing’s more pointless than perfectly doing things that don’t deserve to be done in the first place.
Do you have a very special planning tip or hack to share?
My highest principle: if you want to make progress towards your goal, start your day by working on it.
How to do that? That’s where the organization starts to get creative.
Thank you for having me!
Thank you so much for your answers Julien!
If you want to read more of Julien’s organization tips, check out his blog (in French).
And if you’d like to share your planning system & special hacks and get featured in The Planners series, just send me an email to claire[at]minimal-plan[dot]com. There’s absolutely no need to run a blog, an Instagram or YouTube channel to contribute!