The Alastair Method Explained (A Quick Guide)

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How productive are you? Some people procrastinate a lot and find it difficult to achieve their goals. If you find it difficult as well, the Alastair method of planning your tasks can help you to boost your productivity.

The Alastair method is a modern way to write your to-do list in a way to remind you of important or repetitive tasks. When you use this method, you are more likely to achieve most of your tasks in a given timeframe.

What is the Alastair method and how do you use it?

How do you use the Alastair method? What are the benefits? We’ll answer these questions and more in the rest of this article.

Dotted bullet journal with calendar on side

What is the Alastair Method?

The Alastair method was created by Alastair Johnston. It is a simple tabular to-do list that spreads your workload across a given timeframe. Most people use the Alastair method for their monthly workload planning, but you can use it for any timeframe such as yearly, weekly, or even daily.

Benefits of the Alastair Method

The Alastair method is becoming more popular for the right reason. Here are some benefits of using this method for planning:

  • Simplicity: The Alastair method is one of the easiest planners for you especially if you are new to planning.
  • See Entire Schedule in One Glance/Page: Some people find it difficult to stick to their plans because the information to see is just too much. The simplicity of this method helps you to see everything in just one glance.
  • Everyone Can Understand It: Whether you are a beginner or have been planning for years, the Alastair method is for you.
  • You Can Start for Free: Unlike some expensive planners, you can create your Alastair to-do list yourself (continue reading to find out how).
  • Flexible According to Your Lifestyle: It does not matter whether you are using a paper or digital planner, you can always use the Alastair method.

The Alastair method has a lot of benefits. Continue reading to learn when you should use this method to plan.

When You Should Use the Alastair Method

Here are some cases when you should use the Alastair method:

daily to do list on a planner and pill bottles with water glass on the table

1. You Have a Lot of Repetitive Tasks

If you are using a paper planner, you may find it boring to always write repetitive tasks. With the Alastair method, you can write down such tasks only once for a specific timeframe (maybe a week). It saves you a lot of time.

2. You Love Writing Your To-Do List on Paper

People have different preferences. While some prefer planning with modern technology (i.e. by using a digital planner), some people still prefer writing on paper. The Alastair planner helps to simplify your paper to-do list, so you can be more productive with ease.

3. You Want to Challenge Yourself to Complete Your Tasks

Something special about the Alastair method is that if you can stick to it and ensure that you plan your schedule weekly (or whatever timeframe you choose), you will have more motivation to complete tasks.

Seeing a successful plan gives you the motivation to do more.

4. If You Love Searching for Patterns in a Dataset

Data tells a story and if you are interested in listening to stories that your life’s data has to tell, you will need to take the Alastair planner seriously. With this planner, you can identify trends and patterns in your life in terms of tasks and success rate.

5. You Want to Be More Productive

In general, the Alastair method suits you if you want to be more productive. It does not matter who you are or your lifestyle, this method can help you to become the best version of yourself.

businesswoman walking in the office writing notes

How to Plan Your Tasks with the Alastair Method

We will be planning a weekly schedule in this article. While reading through the steps, you will also learn how to plan your monthly, daily, or yearly schedule. Follow the steps below to create your Alastair planner:

1. Name the Page (Optional)

For a more organized schedule, you should give the page where you will be making your Alastair planner a name. You can name it by the month and week. For example, February 2 would mean the second week of February. This step is not compulsory, but it is beneficial in case you want to search for something in the future.

2. Create Seven Columns

Now, this step is what makes our planner a weekly planner. The seven mini-columns you are to create will represent the seven days of the week. Each column can be just .5 to 1 inch wide. Their length will be determined by the number of your tasks.

Start drawing the column lines from one edge of the page. Make the seven columns in such a way that they collectively will not cover more than half of the page width. You should name each column with the initial of the day of the week (i.e. M for Monday, F for Friday, etc.).

If you are making a yearly schedule, you will be making 12 columns for each month. A daily schedule can have around 12 columns indicating your active hours of the day.

3. Write Your To-Do List Besides the Columns

homemade wall calendar and hand writing on a paper in columns for plan

After making the columns, it is time to write your to-do list. The list should start in the row just below the names (i.e. M, T, W, etc.). You do not need to write your to-do list in any chronological order. Your main purpose in making this planner is to complete your tasks in a given timeframe and not to arrange your tasks.

To fill your list, you can write down important tasks, places to be, things to buy/pay for, etc. You can also write down habits that you’d like to keep track of.

4. Highlight Tasks and Days with Deadlines

Now, this is where your customization will start. You need to develop a system which works for you.

If you have a task with a deadline, you can indicate it by drawing a star or an asterisk in the cell that intersects the day of the week with the point of that specific task.

For example, let’s say that you have a work deadline to submit on a Friday, all you have to do is to find that task in your written to-do list (besides the columns), take note of the row where that task is located, and draw the star or asterisk in the same row just in Friday’s column.

You can also look for another symbol to indicate a very important task. It is up to you to decide which symbol to go for what type of task.

5. Indicate Completed Tasks

Checklist box with check mark using red marker pen

Remember that the symbols to use are up to you. As a suggestion, you can use a check or cross for completed tasks, a circle outline for started tasks, and a zigzag for repetitive tasks when you do them (i.e. a zigzag line running through the days). For an easier future assessment, you can check the days above when you finish your tasks.

Indicating completed tasks is important because the Alastair planner can motivate you to take your productivity more seriously when you notice your little wins. Make sure to check the finished tasks on their specific days.

6. Transfer Unfinished Tasks to Next Week

If there is a task that you could not complete in this current timeframe (in this case, one week), you should take that task to the next timeframe. In time, you will be more likely to complete the tasks. Also, do not forget to write down your repetitive tasks once again.

One important advantage of the Alastair method is that it can tell you your story. After planning with this method for many weeks, you should review every week that you used this planner. What type of tasks did you have a 100% completion rate (i.e. you did the task every day successfully)? What type of tasks did you take to the next week?

Reviewing your Alastair planner gives you an insight into areas where you are strong and those in which you need to work on yourself.

Congratulations!!! You just created your first Alastair planner.

Woman cross off day with routine

Cool Tips to Complete Your Tasks

  • Discipline Yourself to Dedicate at Least Three Weeks: If you can stick to this planner for at least three weeks, it will be easier to always remember your written tasks. You’ll also be more inclined to complete your tasks.
  • Do Not Forget to Indicate Completed Tasks: This is the best way to stay motivated. Celebrating little wins is important.
  • Keep It Simple: Always keep your Alastair planner simple. Do not use complex symbols and do not make too many columns. It is easier to complete your tasks if they look simple and well-arranged.

Final Thoughts

The Alastair method is a cool to-do planner method that can keep you productive. It does not matter who you are or your lifestyle, this method suits you perfectly. What do you think about the method? Are you willing to try it out?


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