The Daily Plan Bar

This past year I’ve started using a modified form of the Bullet Journal approach, using a dot grid notebook, thanks to a gift of an official Bullet Journal Notebook from creator, Ryder Carroll.

Mike Rohde - The Daily Time Bar

As many do, I’ve made a few modifications to the standard approach—one was switching to square checkboxes, and the other: The Daily Plan Bar. After using and tweaking The Daily Plan Bar idea for almost a year, It seemed time to document it and share the idea in more detail.

What is the Daily Plan Bar?

The idea is simple—and credit where credit is due—it was inspired by my friend, Bill Westerman way back in 2006.

Building the Daily Plan Bar

First of all, I like keeping things simple.

I prefer dot grid notebooks, like a Leuchtturm1917 A5, or a Baron Fig Confidant, because the lighter grid offers a structure, yet doesn’t overpower the page like a squared page can. Still, squared pages work well too.

My pens of choice lately are good old Papermate Flair felt-tipped pens in black and colors, though I use all sorts of other gel pens too.

Step 1: Begin by writing the day’s the date at the top of the page.

Mike Rohde - The Daily Time Bar


Step 2: Leave one vertical grid of space from the edge of the page, then draw two vertical parallel lines starting at the top of the grid, right to the bottom of the grid, vertically. Straight edges come in handy for this.
Left page: the bar is on the left (I use a bright orange or other bright color flair marker to contrast to the black used for the details.):

Mike Rohde - Bullet Journal Time Bar. I use a bright orange or other bright color flair marker to contrast to the black used for the details.

Right page: the bar is on the right:

Mike Rohde - The Daily Time Bar

Create the bar on the right side of the page, for right-hand pages.

Step 3: Create hour blocks with the vertical bar by closing off the top of the two vertical lines with a horizontal mark, adding horizontal marks down the vertical bar every 4th grid measure, like this:

Mike Rohde - Daily Time Bar

Count off 4 grid, then create a horizontal line, to represent an hour of time.

Mike Rohde - Daily Time bar


Step 4: Add hours on the left edge of the vertical bars. In addition to identifying one hour increments, the dot grid rows allow you to break each hour chunk into 15 minute increments. The margin to the left (or right) of the Plan Bar provides space for the hour indicators.

Mike Rohde - Daily Time bar


Step 5: Map out your day, using different hatch patterns and/or colors to identify the blocks of time. Here’s a block of time marked with an angled hatch and label.
Mike Rohde - Daily Time bar
Blocking out time for design or other creative work, instead of leaving these as open space, encourages me to protect and fight for my focused work time.
Mike Rohde - Daily Time bar
You can just use the squares needed to represent time. Email is a 30 minute time block.
For meetings I’ll include people’s names, locations, room numbers, phone numbers — whatever helps me define the time block.

Mike Rohde - The Daily Time Bar

As the day unfolds, I’m not afraid to reshuffle — and if that can’t be done within the bar, I add a new section to the right or left of the bar with the updated changes. Doing this helps me see changes more clearly.

Mike Rohde - The Daily Time Bar

Adding a 30 minute impromptu co-piloting design meeting to my plan.
If a meeting gets cancelled, I simply X it out and leave a note.This is how I cancel and annotate a cancelled meeting.

Mike Rohde - Daily Time Bar


Step 6: Below the date on the top left or right, I use traditional task list, placing the most important tasks at the top with stars next to them.
If a more important task is added later on in the day, I’ll use a star to the left of that task for emphasis. Stars help me see the most important tasks for the day.

Mike Rohde - Daily Time Bar


Step 7: The remainder of the page is free for notes, drawings, sketchnotes, or whatever I might need to think through during the day. Often I will log decisions I make as they happen, so I can scan back in my book later on. A completed page, featuring the Daily Plan Bar, tasks, notes and an explanatory sketchnote of a Moka Pot.Mike Rohde - Daily Time Bar
The beauty of the system is that it’s simple, and I like the morning ritual of laying my day out. I appreciate how this analog approach frees me from constantly looking at my calendar on my Mac, or on my phone.
I place my notebook on my desk, so it’s easy to scan. Using an analog tool like the Daily Plan Bar and a simple task list helps me focus on my planned activities and tasks, while my email and calendar apps stay off.

Additionally, I have a daily record I can scan back through to see where tasks were started and completed, where changes were made, or to find ideas or thoughts about a project.
I’ve been using this system since March 2016, and have found it a worthwhile practice. I hope it inspires and helps you too.

About Mike Rohde

I’m the author of two bestselling books: The Sketchnote Handbook and The Sketchnote Workbook, which teach you how to create sketchnotes, especially if you can’t draw. Sign up for my monthly email newsletter of visual thinking, The Rohdesign Dispatch.
  • Ryder, thanks so much for the opportunity to share this practice with fellow Bullet Journalers. I hope it’s as helpful to others as it has been for me.

    • EvilSteveDallas

      I really love this. I’ve been using the Hope Method for Future Logging (Calendex), but I hadn’t seen a great way to map out a daily timeline until this. Maybe I missed it, but it looks like you allocate one page to each day….is that the case? If so, how far in advance to you write in your daily log and do you burn throught many bullet journals?

      • I do allocate one page per day. I should also note I only do the bar at work, but I could see it used for a whole day – though you might need to scale the blocks to fit waking to sleeping hours.

        I do it each morning, one day at a time. But sometimes doing a day or two ahead with either a blank bar, or a bar with scheduled times in place.

        Seems in a standard Leuchtturm notebook I go about 9 months this way, but that’s
        OK for me.

        • pam

          How do you handle future meetings? Or do you just block out what is scheduled each day?

          • Pam, I mainly use this for just 1 day, though sometimes I might draw out bars for a week at a time. For longer term planning I use the Week and Month views from the standard Bullet Journal approach.

          • Maria Brown

            Can you share a pic of your week view layout?

  • fillionsgal

    I’m about to start my first ever Bullet Journal and have been researching TONS of ideas on daily/monthly setups. This daily plan bar makes total sense to me. Thanks for sharing!

  • Valerie

    This is fantastic, I’m going to need to be able to track project utilization down to 10ths of an hour and the bar creates a really easy way to do that. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hopefully your pages are tall enough to fit 10ths of an hour tracking – I go to quarters of an hour as my minimum!

  • Do you make adjustments to the daily bar to show how the day really played out? Or do you just let it show how you hoped it would turn out?

    • Charles, if something changes I mark it, but I imagine a good follow-up review practice would be to actually correct each item as the day unfolds, so I can reference each day and see an accurate picture of what I actually did.

    • Tyra Evans

      I imagine you could just add a second column on the inside of this one, if your day goes as planned you can transfer each bar across at the end of the day but you could fill in changes as you go? This would also help if you find yourself wasting chunks of time when you should be doing something else!

  • Jackie

    Do you have any advice on where to find a handy straightedge that will fit in my journal with minimal hangover?

  • yousillyllama

    This is great. Nice and clean. I am in engineering consulting and keep track of my time to the 1/4 hour. I’ve tried other time tracking methods before but I think I’ll give this a go. It will be more of a time tracker than time planner. Mostly I’ve been using a geometric hour glass as a marker to write my time and just write the time range (i.e. 11:30-12:15). This method may help fill in the gaps when I forget to write things down. I like the visual nature of it. Thanks for the post.

    • Happy to share. One drawback is that the page is only so tall in an A5 book, so it kind of limits me to an 8-5 workday, though that’s my typical day. You could use only 2 squares per hour for a full day, I think.

      • yousillyllama

        I’m okay with that. I can fit 7:30 through 5:15 in the A5 L1917 which is enough for me. Any night meeting i can just jot down next to 5 and write a range. That’s the beauty of bujo.

        • Najoni

          Why not use left hand page for first 12 hours of day and other page for the remaining 12 hours of the 24 hour day if needed

          • yousillyllama

            Sure you could do that. I don’t have a need to track or schedule 24 or even 12 hours of my day.

  • Tricia Halloran

    Lovely and so helpful, I’m going to try it! I noticed you left out 11a, was that b/c you planned to block the morning anyway and that gave you room for an extra hour at the end?

  • João Carlos M. Jr

    This is really great. I am trying this and for me it is the best layout possible. I am having just two problems: I use a Pocket (A5) moleskine, so it is small to all my active hours, and sometimes I put two days in a single page, using this rule I can’t fit that. I am figuring out how to solve these small issues. If I figure out how to make this work, I am going to post here again.

    And thank you for sharing your layout.

  • Some great ideas here for sure. Nice and clean, with plenty of room for spur of the moment insights. Definitely a compliment to an already minimalistic system.

  • Moira Dunne

    Totally inspired Mike. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas. Like so many others, I have been doing so much of this in a chaotic way on paper scraps for years. Txs to Dylan’s genius and your tips I can now pull it all together into something productive.

  • Nicki Hambleton

    I’m just about to start my first bullet journal and waiting eagerly for it to arrive in the post. I have struggled with digital, phone and paper organisation for years and never found one that works. I have multiple sketchbooks and apps on my phone and I am hoping this will finally be the method to adopt. It sounds ideal and this certainly helps kickstart me, especially from the guy who started me sketchnoting! Thank you so much Mike and Ryder for sharing – any initial advice for me?

  • trulysorry

    I love the vertical time tracker on the edge of the sheet. I am trying this if you don’t mind:)

  • Fantastic concept! definitely going to be trying this out in March.

  • sandark

    Thanks for this, I was looking for something with a semblance of timeline, i felt other timelines had too much line criss-crossing each other indicating tasks and to-dos.

  • Becca Thresher

    I love this! It’s like you’re in my brain ;D

  • Paul Deakins

    Thanks Mike. Just started my first journal today. I was looking for ideas and came across your post. I love the concept and plan to implement it right away!

  • inkmuser

    Hi Mike! Hope you’re doing well…we’ve not chatted in ages! Not a fan of the bullet journal philosophy in general, but I must say your time bar makes me want to try this approach. Seems so inutitive and non-listy that it just might stick!

  • alicake

    This is amazing. I struggled with BuJo and found that despite the logic of the system, it felt chaotic to me because if I can’t visualize my day clearly, I can’t be productive. I spent 6 months struggling with a weekly planner (vertical layout) with very limited space to write anything but appointments. Your vertical plan bar is brilliant because it’s easy to do, allows for 15 min increments, and is super flexible in case some tasks need longish descriptions. I just did my first plan bar and I can tell that this is going to be a game changer for me. THANK YOU!!!

  • NYC-MIA-LA-Dude

    So the time blocks don’t represent hours? It looks like you skipped some. Does that get confusing. Also what do the differences in the dots and hash marks signify

  • This was exactly what I was looking for. I started a separate Bujo for my 9-5 and I really needed a way to block my time through out the day so I am not managing an inbox all day but actually creating focused time to work on my projects and reporting. This is PERFECT!!! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Wedapalooza

    Thank you for this!!! I love it so much.