It's the same story every year.
I know I need a paper planner. I know how I want to use the planner and how it has to be organized. I know what size is most convenient and how much I want to spend (very little.)
And every year around the end of October, the hunt commences for the perfect planner.
I made my own planner a few years ago, and while the organization was what I wanted, it ultimately was a little unwieldy and, admittedly, time-consuming to make. But after once again failing to find a pre-made planner that had everything I wanted, I resolved to make my own again, but with a twist.
You see, for the last year or so, articles and photographs of creative planners have been popping up in my Pinterest and Instagram feeds. Some of the planners out there are just gorgeous - each page like a small piece of mixed-media art, with stickers and journaling cards and lots of color and tags and pockets and all kinds of tchotchkes sticking out of or dangling from beautiful leather-bound binders.
They're all so pretty. And I wanted a little bit of pretty too.
But then I started calculating what the leather planner and the custom inserts and all the embellishments were going to cost me, and...
...I decided to walk toward the light.
Because, while those planners are really beautiful, they aren't really what I need. I need something I can write in and cross out and draw arrows and circle things and generally, MESS UP. And the prettier the planner was, the less room I had to do that, and the more constricting it began to feel. So this is what I did instead.
I kept the idea of a leather-bound book, as it could be the size I needed and would be plenty durable. After looking online for day planners (wow, some of those can be expensive!) I decided to see if I could find one at the thrift store instead. As people have converted to digital calendars, things like old Day Timers and Filofax planners often end up getting donated. After a quick trip to my local thrift store, I had what I needed: a burgundy Day Runner, and two black Franklin Covey planners. All three are leather with zip closures, and take A5-size inserts (roughly 5.5"x8.5"), with the Franklin Coveys having 7 rings and the Day Runner, 3 rings.
While I could always punch holes in my inserts using a single hole-punch, I knew it would be faster and easier to find hole punches that were either designed for those styles of planners, or that could be adjusted. Sure enough, a trip to a new-to-me thrift store yielded just what I needed.
Total cost for 3 planners, a 7-hole punch, and an adjustable 3-hole punch: less than $10.
I decided to use the larger of the two Franklin Covey planners for my daily planner (brain). This is where I plan my week and block out my daily calendar. I also use it to keep track of general housekeeping tasks and to capture important paperwork. The other two planners will be used for blog planning and tracking home and garden projects. But "the brain" needed to be functional for the first of the year when my old planner was finished, so I worked on that one first.
In November, I drafted inserts that would be used for weekly planning and daily DIY lists, and tested them out for a few weeks. I found that while I wanted to be able to see my week's appointments or most-important-things on one page, I also needed space to capture a weekly to-do list for chores or other activities, and additional room for meal planning. So the weekly planning page was refined accordingly. The daily pages were designed to capture both lists and time blocking for appointments and to help with planning my day (I prefer to organize tasks into "chunks" of time as I get more done that way.) All of the inserts are word processing documents, printed two per letter-size sheet, and cut down to A5.
For the monthly calendar, I downloaded a free, blank calendar page from here, and accordion-folded it to A5 size. This is where I record things like birthdays, holidays and vacations. I also included a "Goals and Notes" sheet after each monthly sheet for long-term planning and memory-keeping.
Without a doubt, the best part of designing and printing my own inserts is that I could design the planner for writing on the right-hand side only. No more banging into the binder rings when I'm writing in my planner (lifelong pet peeve.) It seems like such a small thing, but I like it sooooo much better. Also, while I'm still experimenting with the style and weight of paper that I prefer for this planner, I do find that a 24lb paper designed for high-color printing is preferable to regular copy paper to prevent bleed-through from my favorite pens.
Many of the planners I liked on Instagram and Pinterest make heavy use of the pockets on the inside of the leather covers to store planning supplies and other accessories. I've tucked some washi tape and stickers in the pockets, as well as some page flags and mini-binder clips, but I find that I don't use a lot of embellishments in this planner. Since it's mostly to help keep me focused and productive, I find it preferable to keep the pages relatively bare, and only occasionally add some inspiring quotes or color.
Where I have embraced color is in designing the dividers. I used some of my favorite scrapbook papers to add a touch of "pretty" and laminated them for durability. I used my labelmaker to label the 4 sections in the planner, and applied the labels after laminating so that they can be removed and re-labeled if I find I want to reorganize the planner at a later date.
I spend about an hour each Sunday planning my week. At the beginning of the month, I print the daily planning sheets for that month and fill them out along with the 4 weekly planning pages. Having a planner designed with just what I need - no more, no less - feels like such a luxury. And knowing that I was able to do it at a fraction of the cost for a new, not-perfect-for-me planner, is even better.
If you're looking for planner resources, I have quite a few on my "Organization and Helpful" Pinterest board. Feel free to pin anything here that you find helpful, and as always, "sharing is caring!"