Use Symbols to Help You Scan Your Paper Task List: the Dash Plus System

For a few years I used Ryder Carroll’s bullet journal system, and the bullets — the symbols — were especially helpful.

Since then, however, I switched to a set of symbols that works better for me.

Here’s my adaptation of Patrick Rhone’s elegant Dash Plus system:

handwritten sheet of paper with symbols for tasks that are done or undone, deadlines met and unmet, and status categories like waiting for, or delegated to

I sacrificed some of Patrick’s elegance in using dashes as the baseline for everything.

I wanted to keep using my old symbol for meetings, which looks like a caret ^ when I haven’t yet attended them, and looks like a triangle when I have.

These symbols make it easy for me to see at a glance what’s going on.

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Wondering how to manage your paper-based or hybrid paper-digital systems? Ask me a question.


This post was adapted and updated from a longer post, “To Do Lists for Visual Thinkers,” on

…and seeing as I keep using and writing about Patrick’s system, I bought him a coffee. Thanks, Patrick! Your system is awesome. I can even see it without my glasses.


‘The Dash/Plus System’ (2014) Patrick Rhone, 13 September. Available at: (Accessed: 7 June 2023).

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