Pen, Paper & Planner: A Methodology for the Capture of Human Interaction both Planned and Present and Its Suitability For Use By Adults Who Have the Fictitious Disease Known as A.D.D.

T he first planner that I used was Lotus Organizer® for Windows 3.1. It used an intuitive “tabbed” metaphor (pretty innovative for its time) and could produce wonderful paper calendars and phone directories and contact histories and more. In fact, I spent so much time putting in data and then printing it out that, well, I never actually got anything done other than using the Organizer. So, despite it’s name I never became organized.

Lotus Organizer

Image Source:

In graduate school I went on to use a Dayrunner®. I spent a lot of time arranging the contents and filling out the different sections. And I had all of the Dayrunner “accessories”: fancy pads, rulers, special note paper, etc. I used it for about three months.


Image Source:

Next came the Palm Pilot®. It was a pretty expensive toy at the time (about $500). It had a cradle for synchronizing the contents with its companion desktop software and you could purchase useful utilities, like Quicken for Palm, for keeping track of expenses. I loved it! And I still have it! It sits in a place of honor. It’s in a drawer where I dump old power transformers, a.k.a., wall warts.

Palm Pilot

Image Source:

Well, after the Palm Pilot there had to be at least several dozen types of planners from electronic hand held to desktop software to paper based. And then one day she walked into my life: the Moleskine® Large Weekly Planner, a.k.a., “[T]he Legendary Notebook of Hemingway, Picasso, and Chatwin.” When we first met I softly touched her dark cover. Then I slowly removed the elastic band that held her shut, revealing the planner of my dreams: the week on the left side and a blank ruled page on the right.

Moleskine Planner

Image Source:

I’ve been using this planner pretty consistently for over one year. [note 1] Since I must write everything down, it forces me to slow down and think things through. I can see what’s coming up in the next couple of days and can record random notes – to-do items, etc. – on the opposite page.

I have recently enhanced the usefulness of the planner by using the following notation for each entry. As the author notes, this notation – he calls it “metadata” – is based on the “dash.” The dash represents something that needs to be done. Each variation of the dash denotes what exactly has been done, or rescheduled or delegated. (See below.)

Note Metadata

Metadata for your Notes (Original image & description of concept can be found here)

Below is a snippet of my planner with the notation. As an [note 2] I find the visual indicators to be quite helpful. I do not have to write down whether something has been rescheduled because a dash with a circle around it tells me that in a split second. The dash notation says succinctly what would take a sentence or two to record.

Page from my daily planner

If you would like to incorporate the “dash” notation in your daily planner, use this link – Metadata Word Doc – to download a printable MS Word version of the dash notation.

  1. That’s an A.D.D. milestone!! Though I must admit, thanks to Dr. Baughman, I know that A.D.D. does not exist.
  2. There I go again…thinking that this is a real disease.
Print Friendly


  • mark

    wow man i i need one of those…. sold out everywhere ugh lol

  • mark

    by the way whats the data point for?

  • Jeff

    I interpreted the data point as being just that, a point, or perhaps better phrased, a “piece” of data. I have to admit this is one of the symbols that I’ve never really used.

  • mark

    lol i adapted the others to my notebook :) thanks

  • Judy

    Love this one! I feel validated in never attempting to learn the fancy electronic things. Although now my pen- and-paper address book fell apart, so I don’t really have that either, and THAT sucks.

    • Jeff

      For about one and half-years, I’ve been using the Delta Planner – a paper-based planner – with a daily to-do list, a set of file folders and, still, an electronic reminder system. But I can’t go without the paper…it gives me a way to really see everything and adds an essential tactile dimension that is missing in electronic calendars.

      • Judy

        I agree. If I haven’t written it down, the odds are much less of it entering the brain. This is why I take notes and they help even if I immediately lose — um, misfile — them.

  • Pingback: Paper-Based Planning for the ADHDer | Jeff's A.D.D. Mind

ADHD: Awesome and Deadly

An email from an ADHDer. Subject: Open this email I have ADD and I want to share! Message: Hi Jeff, [...]

What It Feels Like To Have ADHD

ADHD – A Love Story (Part 6)

The Trap is Set

The Wanderer

The Child Within The Man

ADHD – A Love Story (Part 5)

The System Is Blinking Red

ADHD – A Love Story (Part 4)

A Quick Bite

ADHD – A Love Story (Part 3)

Thick As A Brick

How Do You Know If You Have ADHD?

The Warning Signs of ADHD

ADHD – A Love Story (Part 2)

Warning Signs

ADHD – A Love Story (Part 1)

The Ground Shakes

A Cure for ADHD

Satisfaction Guaranteed Or Your Money Back!

The Perfect Month

What A Great Time Of Year

That’s What I Call ADHD-Friendly Software

A recent ADHD newsletter noted that The Brain — a mind mapping software — might be a useful tool for [...]

Life in the Modern Age

Sixteen months ago I moved from the world of entrepreneurship — a portmanteau comprised of the French word entrepreneur, which [...]

E-Card Fun

Some more e-card humor: Expressing Your ADHD Self…Digitally A Few Laughs, Giggles & Groans

While Rome Burns

I’ve started collecting screenshots of online advertising. I’m trying to understand the message. The ad below says that if I’m [...]

Kiss Your Distractions Goodbye

Do one thing at a time

ADHD Does Not Exist

I can’t tell what is more disturbing. A book titled “ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and [...]