Saturday, September 26, 2009

Make It: The Perfect Planner

I've learned the hard way, that if I don't have a daily planner - filled with lines and lists and reminders and pep talks - I don't get anything done. Seriously, nothing. It's pathetic.

My major problem was this: I couldn't find a planner, no matter how expensive, or how many sections it had, that had exactly what I needed And believe me, I need a lot.

I run my own business, and need to find time daily to create new products, promote my business, and package orders. Also, I want to be a writer and am working with a beta-reader on getting my book finished - that means I need to plant my bum in a chair for at least 2 hours a day to get my chapters done if I want to finish in the next year. Then, add in the fact that I'm Mommy to two little girls, in charge of the household cleaning (except emptying the dishwasher - that one is strictly my husband), making sure 4 year old Gracie has learning activities every day (she is already learning to read - so smart!), making sure my kids have time to play outside every day, story time at the library, get my bills paid on time... so much to do, in so little time!

When I don't write it all down in my planner, seriously, nothing gets done. My life just feels too overwhelming.

So how did I find the perfect planner? Well, easy... I made one. Don't be alarmed. Its a lot easier than it seems. I just made a list of what I wanted my planner to have - like this:

  1. Space for daily focus - what is absolutely the most important thing I need to get done?
  2. Reminder to go outside and play
  3. Bill pay, phone and email reminder
  4. Space to take time and do what I want - like blog reading, novel reading, chatting on Facebook, and online window shopping
  5. Place to put which chores I need to get done (I pick 3 a day... I hate cleaning)
  6. Place to mark my daily writing time
  7. Pep talks! - kind of silly, but they really keep me motivated. If you are religious, you might want to add your favorite religious passages here.
I've been making this planner for almost a year now, and I've tweaked my pages a lot through the months. Last winter, I was on Weight Watchers, so my planner had a food journal section. I also had a section for recording my daily gratitudes. As my needs change, so does my planner.

How to get started:

Open a Word doc, and set it to 2-column. Type in the sections that you want like so, fitting it on one page: (Remember to date it... kind of annoying plugging the date in, but it is worth the time)

Copy and paste the first page 6 times, and change the dates so that you have one week's worth. If you need to change things from day to day, go ahead!

Print the 7 pages and set aside. Then, change the dates for the next week, print, and continue until you have about 3 months worth. Then stop.

Why stop? Why not print up 6 months? Or a full year?

Because your needs will probably change in 3 months. Perhaps you find a food journal section isn't working for you... or perhaps you find that your inspirational quotes need to be replaced with something else... perhaps you want to change the layout of your daily to-do, as this one wasn't quite right... Or maybe you take up yoga and want to have a place to record your favorite poses... In 3 months, you can just open your saved file and make whatever changes you want, then print out 3 months more.

Then - and this is the best part - make yourself a cover page:

(I open my photo editing software - Photoscape, a free download - open to page mode and stick in the pictures I like. Then I copy and paste it into a Word doc, add a title and print)

Use colorful scrapbook paper for the front and back cover, to personalize it exactly to your taste and style.

Last -
go to a print shop (like Office Max, Kinkos, or Office Depot) and have them laminate the front and back covers (roughly $1 each) and spiral bind the entire thing (roughly $3)

And that's it. The PERFECT planner for under $6.

I use the backside of the pages to jot down my blogging ideas, or I hand the planner and a couple of crayons over to my kids when we are at a restaurant and they need paper to draw on.

Need a monthly calendar? Just print one up (you can find templates all over the internet) and stick it in!

Seriously. Easy.



  1. I always think it's very interesting to look at other people's planners. When I was a project manager I used to pay attention to what people's planners were like when I met with them. Here's something I know you'll find funny...even though I'm Miss Complete Order in My Universe, Organization freak...I refuse to do a planner that breaks it down below the "what I need to do this week" level. My planner is a weekly planner. What goes in there? Appointments go on whatever day they belong...I keep a master weekly list of "to dos" that get checked off as they get done...and I have a place on the sides to write out my shopping list as things run out. That's it! I have no idea why, but the daily level of planning is too...controlled..can you believe that? see, that works for me and if I learned anything looking at other people's planners...everyone needs something that works for them!

    After all that blah, blah, blah...I LOVE your planner! I like how your daily sheets are broken down. I love the self made cover and binding...and maybe I'll make my own for next year!!

  2. Alyssa - go ahead and make a weekly planner! The pages can be smaller than 8 1/2 x 11, if that is what works for you. It will still be under $6, and you can personalize your cover exactly as you want it!

  3. Sounds perfect! I need to make me one of these.

  4. I LOVE it! I can not even tell you how much I use my planner. I love the personalize cover! What a nice way to remind myself why I do what I do, my family. Thanks for this blog post! You are so creative, I just love it!

  5. I smell a new project that might involve Photoscape and those new stamps I have coming in the mail....YAY!!!

  6. What a nice idea for making the perfect customized planner! I didn't know the office stores did lamination too- thanks!

  7. I make my own planners too - no one sells on that fits me right. I tweak it every now and again :)

    Something that I have found SO useful is the rollabind stuff, sometimes known as circa. It's a little pricey to set yourself up, but if you get the hand punch and some discs, you will wonder how you ever got by without it. This is the hand punch that I have

    Found you from OnePrettyThing

  8. i love this, i am such a list writer! miss post it note is my name lol
    i'll be making one, and linking straight back to you, fabby blog love it x

  9. What a great idea! I am constantly faced with the planner delema each year. I can never find what I really want and usually result to buying a student planner...Now I can make my own for the new year! Thanks for sharing!

  10. I love peeking into other people's planners for inspiration, thanks! I make my own as well, using excel. If you're interested in seeing it, here's a link:

  11. Yay, I'm so glad you all like it! I'd love to see photos, if you make one of your own! Either link back here, or post on our flickr group:

  12. Thank you so much for this post......I can never find the right planner/datebook for me and I've been trying to figure out how to make one. I came across this link and it's perfect!!!!

    Abby : )


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