Basic Supplies [Depreciate Febuary 11th 2006]

You should be able to go out to your favourite office supply store or department store and pick up a lot of the basics at a very low cost. Although your needs will most likely be different from mine, here is a little list to get you started.

  1. Purchase a planner that takes 5.5"x8.5" pages. There are plenty of generic planners available at department stores for about $10-20: usually the price is an indication of quality in both cover and pages. The planner you choose should take into consideration your personal style, the intended use, availability and cost. Some recommendations:
    • Day Runner "Classic": The Day Runner company makes excellent (and sometimes pricey) planners that are often a great fit for professionals because of a wide range of cover options and a large selection of templates with an emphasis on project management, finances and other big business needs. Often the first choice among organisational geeks, especially those with corporate aspirations. Unfortunately, their website is currently buggy, unfriendly, and you have to live in the U.S. to order a catalogue (booo!). Day Runner also has an upscale "Pro" series (but be careful of the number of rings -- see below).
    • Day-Timer "Desk": Planners meant for everybody else, including students, coaches, on-the-go moms, fitness buffs, etc.. Available in a wide range of covers and with quite a variety of "look and feels" (e.g., beach, sunset, mountains, sports). While they don't manufacture as many "professional" templates, they do have quite the range of planner styles, shapes, sizes and levels of quality, as well as a number of "non-professional" templates like ones for journalling, counting calories, handling diabetes, American Heart Association activity logs, etc.. Free catalogue at the DayTimer.com website (mine arrived, U.S. to Eastern Canada, in less than two weeks). Note: the Day-Timer Desk size has --if I remember correctly-- seven rings for its pages. The only hole punch I've seen for this has been a Day-Timer one selling for $35 USD, found in their catalogue.
    • Franklin-Covey: I would be remiss not to mention Franklin-Covey and their website, since Covey's methodologies and ideas are prevalent enough to find a place within this package. That being said, their planners are pretty scarce in this neck of the woods, and so I've never even seen one up close. I do believe that the "Classic" size is actually 5.5"x8.5", but please verify this before you purchase. They do have quite a number of interesting planners and refills on their website, though, so go check them out.
    • Mead (which is also the owner of the Day Runner line) makes some decent-quality planners for about $10-15 USD. They also produce the At-A-Glance templates, which are cheaper than the Day Runner ones, but still of good quality. (These are the ones you're likely to find in your local department store stationery aisle.)
    • Beware of super-cheap department store models: the vinyl often breaks apart easily at the corners and seams, creating an edge that can rip your fingers to shreds. That being said, get the best quality you can rightly afford: you can always "upgrade" later, should your usage warrant it. (Many of the forms found inside those planners can be tossed out: they have the consistency of toilet paper, the smell of formaldehyde, and the English of a low-budget Hong Kong martial arts film.)
    • Get a type that suits your environment -- not just for working, but for carrying. For example, I often have to tote mine through inclement weather and rough conditions, so I opted for a full zippered enclosure that would keep the insides dry and well-contained.
    • If you are using a planner along with a PDA, you can actually buy planners with sleeves or velcro attachments for it. Bring your Palm (or PocketPC or Zaurus, or whatever) along with you while you're shopping so you see how it fits. Pay careful attention that the PDA can't be crushed, or its screen scratched. You can also get a "PDA holder" that snaps into your rings. In my experience, these are awkward at best.
    • Make sure it's roomy enough for your papers without being too bulky. Too slim, and it'll be bursting at the seams; too big, and its bulk will discourage you from carrying it. Get whatever feels "portable" to you. Account for your PDA, if necessary: it'll probably add at least a half-inch to the thickness. I find that a 1.5 inch ring is perfect for my needs.
    • If possible, get a planner with three rings, not six or seven (e.g., Day-Timer "Desk" size). More than three may help a little in keeping things in place, but it'll make forms more difficult to find and/or make. If you do prefer a planner with this configuration (the Day Runner "Pro" series also has more than three rings, I believe), make sure you track down a hole punch with the right placement and number of holes.
    • If you have the money to spare, there are a wide range of "fashionable" planners out there. From weathered and rugged calf-skin to embossed daisies to super-expensive hot pink Italian leather, you can probably find something that suits your personal style. (Perhaps this would be greater incentive to carry it with you everywhere?) Order a few catalogues and scour the Day-Timer, Day Runner and Franklin-Covey websites mentioned above if you're interested.
  2. If your planner doesn't come with good calendar pages or contact/address forms (although it probably does), you may wish to purchase these as well. Get "modern" address forms: look for the email boxes. The calendar should suit your appointment schedule: unless you're a very busy individual with lots of meetings, those calendars with months in two-page spreads should be sufficient. Otherwise, the two-page weekly spreads are probably enough. Resist the temptation to buy one-page-per-day calendars unless you need it: it's a lot of extra bulk. I recommend tabs for months and A-Z address sections to facilitate quick look-ups. (In D*I*Y Planner 2.0, there are now various types of undated calendars, but you may prefer to buy a dated set to make your life easier.)
  3. If your planner doesn't come with a "Today" plastic clip-in ruler insert, I recommend getting one so that you can find today's month (or week, or day) at a moment's notice. If you can't find one, look for a flexible plastic ruler (the type that doesn't snap if you bend it): line it up against one of your punched sheets, and punch holes to match. Cut a slit from each hole to the edge so you can insert it into your binder, and then round the edges of the slit slightly to make it easier to snap on the rings. Make sure that the top extends above the page by a tab's length, and then round the corners slightly so it won't cut you. Voila! Barring that, you can always use a coloured sticky, but that's not as convenient nor glamorous.
  4. Get a good pen that writes smoothly and fits well in your hand. People often like expensive fountain pens for this, but I like the Pilot G-2, which is nice to grip, writes fluidly, and is pretty cheap. The 0.5mm one is just the right balance of smoothness and line thickness for me. You might also want to pick up a decent mechanical pencil for writing things likely to change, such as addresses or brainstorm diagrams. If not, your planner will get messy fast.
  5. Optional: a clip-in calculator. I have an older Day Runner 043-111 solar calculator/ruler that's both thin and functional, but there are probably far better and slimmer ones out nowadays (mine is ten years old). You can also get a cheap credit-card sized one to adhere to the inside cover or slip into a business card slot.
  6. Other organiser forms: although I provide a number of templates, you may wish to purchase other (professional) ones to fill any gaps in your needs or workflow. Be careful: these can be expensive, and will suck your bank account dry if you buy everything you see "just in case." A potential source of addiction for organisational geeks.
  7. A "zipper" pouch insert (like a heavy zip-lock baggie) and some business card pages don't go astray; fill the former with stamps, paper clips, quarters, extra labels, etc., for convenience and emergencies.
  8. Most of the provided templates print onto 5.5"x8.5" paper. If you can't find this size, you can cut letter-sized paper in half. You can buy a decent guillotine from department stores for about $20-30 USD, and you'll no doubt find it handy for a million other things over the years.
  9. As for the hole-punch, be sure to find one that can punch the right holes: not as easy as you might think -- get a specialised three-hole punch from an office supply store, or one that can be adjusted to conform to different sizes/spacings. Many of the cheap ones do have sliding punches, but you might have to examine them carefully before you buy, as sometimes the boxes aren't very informative. (At a local office supply store, I found an Acco #50505-74003 with adjustable punches for less than $7 CDN, or about $5 US.) Some of the inexpensive ones don't have adjustable paper guides, but you can always mark the top and bottom with liquid paper or a white china marker. If you are so inclined, Day Runner has a clip-in hole punch (041-112), but it only punches a page or two at a time, and not that well. If you have a seven ring planner like the Day-Timer "Desk" size, it gets more complicated: you can purchase clip-in punches (about $10 US) and full-size ones (about $35 USD) from DayTimer.com or their catalogue.
  10. You can purchase a couple of sets of tabbed dividers, or you can make your own. If you choose the latter, I recommend 100-120 lb card stock and Avery self-adhesive "Shield Tabs" -- I found the clear ones (37107) at the local Wal-Mart for about $1.50 USD.
  11. If you like colour-coding (I recommend it for this planner), grab some Avery "Colour-Coding Labels" (44021), which are actually just red, blue, green and yellow dots ($1.50 USD).
  12. Get a few cheap pads of lined and blank note paper pre-punched for your planner. Some graph paper may come in handy, too. Make sure the pads are really 5.5"x8.5" or you're wasting your money -- there are slightly smaller and larger pads which you might pick up by mistake!
  13. Just because you'll always need them, no matter how organised you are, you might want to pick up some sticky notes. I keep two pads, one small and one medium-sized, on the inside front of my planner.
  14. Optional goodies: cheque book holder, floppy holder, CD-ROM holder, photograph holder, file pockets, clip-in wallet, page magnifier, and more. Remember, though: carry only what you need, or you won't be carrying your bulky planner anywhere.
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