I'm of two minds about how I should construct my planner. Actually, maybe even more minds than that. I have several rival designs in mind, each conflicting, and I'm having a little trouble deciding between them.

I had a less-than-hip hipster for a while. That is to say, I kept everything on 3x5 cards in a card box made of wood. Not portable, but I liked it, mostly.

In the box, I had 1-31 and month tabs, as well as A-Z (for contacts) and some custom tabs I made myself for various projects, goals, etc. In the lid of the box I had a full year calendar (cut from a checkbook register) and my color coding system (9 colors each with a meaning).

The 1-31 tabs were the days of the current month (duh) and the monthly tabs stored anything that should happen beyond that (duh again). I had one card for each basic task. If the task was recurring, then the time info would be listed at the top and the task itself would be listed in the middle. There was no "schedule" card per se, but I would make one each morning during my daily review and plan it all out on a separate card, that would stay displayed on my desk at all times. I built a custom card-display thingy from the back of a photo frame (you know, the cardboard bit with a stand) and some satin ribbon. So I could arrange that day's cards on the stand in the order of priority or occurrence or whatever with the schedule card.

At the end of the day, the recurring stuff would get refiled to the next date needed, and the stuff that was done would get filed in a separate box containing extra blanks and another set of month tabs.

What I liked about this system was the ability to easily reschedule something without rewriting it. If it turns out the task just couldn't get done today, the card would get dropped into the next day slot. Easy, quick. I also like the color coding, just for the bright and happy colors and the ease of spotting meetings (when they're written on day-glo cards you can't miss 'em).

What I don't like about this system is the lack of portability. The wood box is 6x6x4, roughly, and the 'spares and done' box is even bigger (though it's not wood). There's also no 10K foot view of the schedule or to-do list really, it's all daily. Likewise when you're looking at the day, you really have no idea what day of the week it is, you have to look elsewhere for that. And then again, when I want to re-file a task that is a month away, I sometimes have trouble if I actually want to file it more than 30 days out near the end of the month. Hard to describe, but annoying with items that repeat that way.

So I want to do something portable. I have a couple of projects I want to incorporate into the system--Holiday planning (i.e. Christmas gifts etc.) and a Price Book (for comparing the cost of groceries at different stores).

OK, so the project part of the equation using a ring binder is easy, that's taken care of. Contacts, likewise done. It's the daily schedule and recurring stuff that's making me waffle.

I could go Covey-style, 2 pages per day, to give myself the schedule, to-do list, notes, and spot for a couple of other things I want to track.

I could go straight-up 43 folders, with tabs from 1-31 and months just like I had in my index card box, then fill the day tabs with whatever else is needed.

I was also considering a modified 43 folders, actually 74--using two sets of 1-31 tabs (this month and next month) and the monthly tabs.

Required items:
* A daily schedule, 7a-10p. It would be nice to have a 'plan' and an 'actual'..
* A spot for voicemails received/answered that day.
* Scratch notes for whatever..

I could take my leftover 3x5 cards and hole-punch them to make those into my 'recurring' items. This would work with any of the potential ring binder arrangements.

I could try to modify my habits by making a 'recurring' section in the binder that I need to check each day..but this kinda bugs me because it would be too easy to overlook/skip/etc.

I really liked the 43-folders arrangement, and I can make something that will let me move tasks around, but will I end up with too much stuff in the binder, too?

I suppose I could use page-protectors for the 1-31 and monthly tabs and just stuff the cards in there--not really have any printed pages at all..

I'm not really sure what I'm looking for with this post. I might just be trying to get it all out so I can look at it as a whole. If you have comments, suggestions, experiences along the same lines, I'd be grateful.


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Shris' Quandry

I think you had one heck of a system going and yes, the only problem would be the portability. So, now, the next step is to just make it all portable. Here is how I would begin - what size of binder or hipster do you want to carry?

If you are going will 8 1/2 X 11 size, then I would recommend using your 1-31 tabs and maybe one tab for any upcoming months (instead of each following month - you will end up with too many tabs). Behind today's tab (#31 for today) you could have a recipe card holder (looks like a sheet protector, but has pockets that are 3X5 size)which will hold today's list of stuff, your repeat to do items, etc. Then you could move those items that are not done to the next day's sheet protector, just like you were doing before.

There is one idea, but that is for a larger binder. If you go smaller, you may get bulkier.

What size do you think will work best for you and then maybe we can all pitch in some ideas for you!.

Thanks for listing your current plan as it helped me add a few things to my plan.

nay nay

Thanks, nay nay..

Hi nay nay.

I am rather fond of the Classic size, 8.5x5.5. I have at the moment two binders--one with a one-inch ring, and one with a two-inch ring, both with zippers. I would rather go with the one-inch if I can squeeze it all in.

After I typed out that huge post, I got an idea that I'm currently prototyping. Actually I had two or three ideas, but some of the prototypes didn't prove practical.

Idea 1: A page protector for each of the days 1-31, sealed and sliced into 'pockets' that are big enough to hold a few index cards (3x5). I have a sealer and messed with that. It would work, but the sealer is tough to get consistent results with because it's hard to line up where the seal needs to be with the wire heater in the sealer. And to do it 31 times with any consistency would be tough.

Idea 2: A piece of cardstock for each of the days 1-31, with slits cut on the diagonal in several spots, to tuck the corners of the cards into. This would also work, and it would be easier to get consistency with the slices, but the spacing is so tight I'm not sure the pages would last. Then again, you can only use one side of the page that way.

Idea 3: Just use a page protector and skip the fancy stuff. This would definitely work, but it has no style. :) It could also be an accident waiting to happen if the planner gets dropped while unzipped. Zip pouches instead of page protectors would work, but would be rather spendy. I'm sure there could be other solutions to the 'open' problem, but the 'no style' part is really where the flaw is with this one. :)

Idea 4: A piece of cardstock for the days 1-31 and modified 'photo corners' to use to hold the cards themselves. I tried regular photo corners and those worked fine, but I'm not sure I want to spend the money to buy a bunch of teeny corners and then find out later they won't hold up. So now I'm making my own out of 1x2 rectangles of paper, glued to the cardstock. I'm in the middle of folding the pockets for the demo page now. I have decided that it would be spiffy to have four 'layers' of cards on each side of the day page--fronts for work, backs for home or overflow, basically. Landscape orientation shows the most card 'real estate', but Portrait would work too.

This kind of arrangement would allow me to continue using my cards, which were actually quite good for a lot of things. I could use modified hipster forms to pre-print a schedule card for each day, and just generally get slicker with my execution. And I have about 600 spare cards right now in different colors, so it suits my thrifty frame of mind. (Ha!) And if I want to branch out into paper for special purposes, I can.

It remains to be seen if I'll be able to fit all this stuff into my one-inch rings when everything is filled in. Heh.

One idea I had for things where I need advance notice is to make an 'envelope' with a tab that sticks down below the bottom of the pages. The envelope holds various tab labels (Hair, Doctor, Dentist, Visitor, Trip, etc.). When I've got something scheduled, I pull out the appropriate label, stick it in the tab, then put the envelope into the rings on the day of the event. Thus it 'marches' toward me as the day draws closer. I thought of eight or ten things where this would be useful, but the idea of having eight or ten tabs waiting in the wings was wasteful of weight. I'm sure it's not unique to have tabbed pages for this purpose, but I thought maybe the idea of a pocket with a tab and spare labels might be helpful for someone else out there too.

I have a million ideas, now I just have to find something that works. :)


Minor update


I tried a bunch of different prototypes of the 'pocket' idea for holding cards in a ring binder. They were all too fussy, even though they'd be a one-time setup. Every one of them would work, though, so if anyone wants to try it for just a page or two, I have built a number of openoffice templates for pockety things.

So, I'm back to the page protector idea--no special sealing or anything, just a plain page protector. Stuff the cards in there until the day comes, and then pull them out and stick them in your card bleachers or whatever for the current day's plan/work. I'll just have to let the cards themselves be stylish. :)

I did find a few vendors who will send a box of 50 page protectors in Classic size for between $9 and $15 plus shipping. So I've got a box on the way. Much better price than you can get from Covey or Day-whatever. I might have to punch them with seven holes when they get here, but that's not a real hardship.

I made up a few hipster templates for myself--a schedule (7a-11p), a "Task Planning Worksheet" for deciding on the priorities of the day, and a Meeting card for jotting down date/time, location, and taking notes. I'm not a micro-writer and I like the landscape orientation, so the lines are all .2 inches apart. They're pretty, anyway. :)


Slotted pages to hold 3x5 cards

Years ago I bought a couple of day-planner sized card holders that stagger 3x5 cards horizontally. Each one holds eight cards on each side (both front and back have slots) for a total of 16 cards. They are punched for a three-ringed binder (8.5 x 5.5 size).

They are copyrighted Small World Greetings, but I doubt if they are still made. If anyone is interested, I can post a couple of pics so you can see how they are designed.

Would love to see..

Hi Studio..

I would love to see what this thing looks like. It's a little hard to visualize in my current state of sleep deprivation. :)


3x5 staggered card holder


I posted a couple of pics in the Kit gallery section here on this board. As mentioned in the caption of the first one, these are sized for half-letter-sized binders. Feel free to ask questions about them, but they are pretty self-explanatory once you see them.

Alternative binders

Idea 4: A piece of cardstock for the days 1-31 and modified 'photo corners' to use to hold the cards themselves.

Would your system work if you just had your most essential information in your binder and your future days in an inexpensive photo album?

It's amazing how many file cards an soft covered, cheap photo album can hold

Separate binder for extras


I was thinking along those lines, actually. I did pull out some less essential stuff and stick it in a 3-ring reference binder (also Classic size). I also have a 'storage' binder from Covey that has extra page forms and some other goodies.

The situation I'm going to be in more and more is one of changing my workplace. I've been working from home for most of three years now, basically full time with an occasional day at the plant for specific meetings. For those individual days, carrying in my wood box wasn't too big a deal. Well, now those meetings are more and more often, and hoofing the box around is less and less practical.

The other thing that contributes to schlepping a lot of stuff around is that almost 2 years ago I had twins. That in itself only added a few extra to-dos to write down (doc visits, daycare checks to write), but it did result in a total loss of brain function on my part. I can think, but I can't remember. You know the joke, where there's a circuit in your butt that gets disconnected when you stand up and start to walk to whatever it was you wanted to do, and when you get there you can't remember what you wanted? Well, most everyone has that occasionally, but I have it all day, all the time, every day, no exceptions. I think it's actually sleep deprivation, but it might be the fact that knowing the location of every one of my son's six pacifiers is crowding out six other bits of essential information from my memory.

Anyway, I had a point when I started that..oh yeah. I have to write everything down, and I mean *everything* because I can't remember *anything* from one minute to the next. It's probably the next best thing to Memento.

Getting back to the core of your question, the most essential information for me is this:
* Daily schedule, out for a month or maybe a couple days beyond. That would be meetings and deadlines. I usually only modify this about two weeks out, but having all the days allows easy refiling of recurring events.
* Month calendars and major events out for the rest of the year.
* Chore schedule, all the recurring stuff I have to do to keep the house in the state of disarray it's in.
* Contacts
* Holiday Gift Plan (this time of year, anyway)
* Price Book (that new project I mentioned)
* Snippets about a few other projects for work.
* A few spare cards for taking notes and to-dos while in meetings or on the phone or reading emails.

The rest, spare forms, spare cards, additional info about a couple of larger projects--all that goes into the storage binder or electronic files on my laptop.

For kicks today I put together a stack of cards representing daily schedule, chore lists, forms for this and that, etc. The total size of the cards is not that big. I did consolidate a bunch of the chore stuff into fewer cards in total, which saves a lot of bulk. Then I took a look at how big a stack of 50 sheet protectors is. That's where the bulk will lie. I will stick tabs directly to the sheet protectors, so there's no extra paper separating days. The various cards will go inside the protector, presumably in a messy but thin layer over the whole page length and width. So the bulk will be mostly away from the rings.

Once I run out of index cards, I may start printing all my regular stuff on paper instead of card stock. That will save a little weight and bulk. Sturdiness isn't needed if the item on the page isn't a repeating event.

I told my husband last night while prototyping some of these ideas that I had come to realize that I might be a bit of a perfectionist. :)

To me, this sort of fiddly exploration is entertainment. Sad, eh?


Page Protectors as 43 folders


I got my Avery 75201 page protectors today--fifty in a box for roughly $15 including the shipping. I have tabbed them and inserted them into my binder. They came pre-punched with seven holes. These are my impressions..

The page protectors are intended for 5.5x8.5 unpunched pages, so they're quite a bit bigger than a normal planner page. The binder still zips, but I haven't tried using the pen loops with all of the tabs yet. Frankly, I like the size. I have a couple of 'notes to self' that were originally on letter paper, and these slip neatly into the protectors when folded in half. Spiffy. Who needs a portable punch? Not me!

When compressed, the stack of page protectors is about a half inch deep all by itself. They're very slippery, so I've shuffled my other sections around so opening/closing the rings won't be such a juggling act.

The protectors are, of course, clear. Well, not completely clear, but close. I can get an impression of future events just from the colors peeking through the deeper layers..

I am considering making my "projects" section into a pocketed one too, but I haven't really decided yet.

Anyway, I stuffed a schedule card into every page of the month along with cards for my recurring events, the meetings that are already on my plate, and a few to-dos and I can still close the binder. I will be adding more stuff as I think of it, so I may end up with a juggling act.

For each month of the year, I've got a one-page calendar printed. I might stuff them into the month pockets, but right now they're separate, behind each month pocket.

In essence, I have reproduced my wood box as a portable binder. It's very full, but it is still portable. The page protectors are very fluffy.

I'm so excited! On Monday I have to go into the plant for three straight days. I have to print out some form cards before I go, but I'm all prepared to be away from my box. :) I even found some fat binder clips that will allow my cards to stand up on their own during the day.

Now I have to do my brain dump and populate it again.


Congratulations on your "find"

It's great to find something that might work. Hope you find the protectors worthwhile and useful. My husband is going to make me a "bleacher" tonight so I can see if I like it. If so, he will make one for my desk at work. A small bulletin board is good for project visualization also (tacking cards on board)