Today I’ll be sharing how and why I made my own DIY planner and I will show you step by step how to make your own.
Why Did I Make One?
Although I’ve always been a decently organized person without having to do much about it, I more and more realize that now that I’m working full-time and have my own household, several hobbies and a blog, a little more planning is expedient. And unavoidable, really, to get more of the things on my mental to do list done and at the same time reduce stress.
I’ve never really been a planner person. Or so I thought. I never had much use for those store-bought planners, that’s for sure. I’ve tried it a couple of times but ended up never writing much in them.
So far, important dates went into a tiny pocket calendar with two weeks on a double page, short notes and to do lists lived on little pieces of paper or sticky notes that were flying around everywhere within the calendar. The calendar worked well for me so far, the cluttering notes do not.
But while notebooks are good to jot down ideas and elaborately plan projects, they are not so ideal for mundane day-to-day planning such as grocery shopping, errands, … neither for keeping a larger overview over my numerous projects.
I’m hoping the planner will fill this void.
Maybe I, too, was unimpressed with planners so far because they didn’t fulfill my individual requirements. There probably isn’t one system that works well for everybody. There never is for anything.
Planning The Planner
These were my requirements:
- I’d like to have something A5 sized because that is my favorite.
- It needs to be flexible, i.e. have individual pages, so I can rearrange as much as I like.
- I won’t use any printables and instead make everything myself. I want this completely customized/customizable and not another half-baked compromise. There are many awesome templates out there, but if I’m going to use this, it has to meet my requirements 100%.
- I already have a notebook system that works for me, so this does not need to have anything for note taking in it. However, I’d like to use it for a broader overview over my plans and ideas, to schedule posts, projects, etc.
- I’d like this to be fun to use so it should be very colorful and nice.
- I want tabs for different sections to find things quickly.
- This is not something I’ll be carrying around with me so I need to think about what I need at home and what I need when I’m out and about. So this is not going to be a replacement for my pocket calendar.
- I need to go through my notes flying around and group them to see what sheets/categories I need. I want to get rid of them all.
You should know before you start: Making a planner is a time-consuming project and a whole lot of work. It can take up to several days. After a while you might ask yourself why you are spending time planning when you should actually be doing stuff…
Well, because hopefully once the bulk of work is done and your system is working, planning will be so much quicker and easier that it will have been worth the trouble.
And, of course, because making a colorful, fun planner can be a nice project too. 😉
Now let’s get started …
Step #1: The Hard(covered) Facts
Before doing anything else, your first step is to decide what you would like the planner to be like:
- Bound like a book or single pages in a binder?
- What format?
These two factors determine your page layout.
The format is basically a decision on how much space you will need and whether or not you’ll be carrying the notebook around with you. Pocket notebooks usually have some variation of the A6 format. A5 might be just small enough to take along or already too big, depending on the size of your handbag. A4 is only for notebooks that will be staying home.
I knew from the beginning that I was going to use A5 format. I like the format because it is small enough to just grab and sit down with somewhere nice but still leaves you enough space to write in.
However, going for A5 was also a decision for me not to take this with me because that is already too big to fit my small handbag. And there was going to be a lot of stuff in there that I don’t need while I’m out of the house.
Regarding the “binding,” I highly recommend to go for single pages in a binder; even if, like me, you prefer bound books.
No matter how thoroughly you plan your planner, there will always be things missing or things that don’t work the way you thought they would. Give yourself the flexibility to rearrange, replace, and add pages at all times.
Step #2: Make a List
Really sit down and take your time to plan your planner. What sections do you need? What pages within the sections?
This will depend on what you would like to be using the planner for and how you intend to use it. Do you want it for your job, freelance work, personal life, projects, your housework, your diet, etc.
Brainstorm what you think you need and write everything down. Browse planners on the web and see what they have. Is there anything that sounds like you might need it?
You don’t have to think of everything at the beginning if you have kept your “binding” flexible, but you do want to take into account as much as possible from the start to avoid massive rearranging.
Step #3: Create Your Page Templates
While in the previous step you have decided what pages you will need, in this stage you will have to nail down exactly how these pages will have to look like.
This can be quite hard at times, so try out a few things and move stuff around on the page to see what looks and works best. Some things are obvious, others require a little more time, some might have to be changed later after you started using it. But don’t worry about that now.
Switch on your PC and create some templates.
I used Word for all of this—in want of a more suitable program. It is perhaps not ideal, but works for most things, unless you have too many tables within tables which then tend to be all over the place except where you want them. If you have InDesign or something similar, this is, of course, easier.
Step #4: From Digital to Hard Copy
Once the templates are all done and you are satisfied with them, print all your pages and integrate them into your planner.
All you need is a decent printer. Just make sure the pages are in the right order if you are printing front and back.
Then, if necessary, cut the pages to size and group them into sections. Think about the order and rearrange a couple of times if necessary until you have found an order you can work with.
Step #5: Punch Your Holes
If you use a standard binder that you have a hole puncher for this is easy.
But if—like me—you went for an unusual binder (mine requires four holes rather than the usual two that we have in Germany), you might either want to invest in a special hole punch or you use a screw punch, if you have one.
Use a spare sheet of paper and create a template. This might take some trial and error, but once you have that it is easy and works pretty well.
Step #6: Sections and Tabs
There are many ways to make your own customized tabs.
I went for these cool self-adhesive ones. They are just brilliant!
They are easy to use and you can use as separator sheets whatever you like. I’m planning to get some nice scrapbooking paper for that.
You can reuse them, easily replace them and move them around so they always are where you want them to be.
They are durable and hold very well, too.
Now let’s have a look at the sections in my planner:
The first section of my planner are calendar pages for a monthly and weekly planning.
I included double pages with squares for every day of the month, followed by weekly overviews on one double pages per week.
This was one part where I could definitely not have used printables for the following reasons:
- Most templates that looked good started the week with a Sunday. I’d like to start my week with a Monday, though. It both feels like the beginning of the week for me and I sometimes have events that stretch over the entire weekend, which makes it more handy to have Saturday and Sunday next to each other.
- Other templates were made for the workplace rather than for personal planning, i.e. they focused on the workdays and often squeezed Saturday and Sunday in one corner. Since most of my projects will be happening on the weekend, this is not ideal.
- I wanted to include my own categories for notes.
I decided against inserting the dates on the computer and then printing everything. Instead, I made a template with empty spaces for months and days and filled them in by hand. That makes it easier to print and takes only about 10 minutes to fill out.
Weekdays are separated into Morning, Midday, and Afternoon and have a checklist at the bottom with things I’d like to do every day. This is followed by a box for a daily meal plan.
On the right, there is a section for notes for the week with ToDos, Shopping list, and week goals.
After having used the planner for about a month now, I can say:
I still like design and structure, but I find that I’m not really using this calendar section much. I was doubtful from the beginning whether this was really the best place for this, but it was worth a shot.
When I made this, I assumed that I could just regularly “sync” my pocket calendar and this notebook and look into the plan for the next day every evening. This is just not the case. It is tedious and most of the planning is no use for me if I don’t have it with me all the time.
It was never supposed to be a replacement for my pocket calendar. But now I find that I should sensibly get rid of this section in favor of a better solution.
I did some planning in the week sections for a while and liked them, though. If this had been something I could carry around it would have been a good thing.
I can already say that I’m now trying out a different solution for my day-to-day planning: a) I got a to do list app for all kinds of notes; I find it especially suitable for errands and shopping lists and things I don’t want to forget. And b) I just finished making my own little A6 pocket calendar with a weekly planning section.
The second part is an event/party planner. This will have room for planning special dates and events such as the Christmas Season, Halloween, etc.
Detailed planning works best in my notebooks, but to keep a larger overview I’m sure the planner will be helpful.
I’d thus, e.g., make a short note in my planner that as a snack for Halloween I’ll be making cake pop mummies whereas the recipe and elaborate notes will be in the notebook.
In general, I’d like to use the planner for getting a better overview over all my projects. In the notebook this is so easily lost between more notes.
The Halloween pages, for example, have room for the entire menu, a shopping list of what I need to buy, and a decoration plan.
Recurring Dates and Tasks
The next section contains recurring dates and tasks that I have to take into account in my planning: birthdays, public holidays, recurring events that we always try to go to if possible, etc.
This part is very important for me because if I have so much on my mind, I tend to forget stuff.
The next part is simply termed “Lists.” Here, I’ve collected everything that has the form of a list:
- To Dos
- Blog Post Ideas
- Recipes to Try
- Recipes to Google
- Things to Make
- Books to Read
- Photo Books To Make
- Places to Go
- Websites to check out
- Music Wish Lists
- Recommended Products
- Misc Notes
- Gift Ideas/Wish lists for all family members
This section is the fullest and the one I’m using the most at the moment, so maybe the day might come when I’ll have to separate it further.
As the name implies, the budget section is to monitor my budget. I’d like to check for a while what I spend my money on and how much I spend each month to see if there is some room for optimization.
Of course this is just a small selection of what you can do. The good thing about a planner you made yourself is that it can be everything you want it to be.
Happy planning! 😉