'Nother Newbie Here

After all these years, my unorganizedness has finally gotten so bad that I have no choice but to do something about it. A Google search for something along the lines of "tips for getting organized" led me here, and thence to all manner of blogs, commercial sites, and various other pieces of related Web content. GTD kept popping up, so I bought the book, downloaded all the 43 Folders interviews with David Allen (and burned to CDs for listening in the car), and am generally trying to see if this is the plan that'll stick for me.

What brought me to this point is the realization that I was (still am, I guess) losing track of too many things, work-wise. In my previous life as a producer in a TV newsroom, my organization style (or lack thereof) never really caused a problem. Every day brought a fresh start, and I rarely had projects that carried over multiple days.

A little over two years ago, though, my dream job (Director of Communications at my college alma mater) opened up and I was fortunate enough to get the job. I managed to keep my head above water for the first couple of months, but then my lack of skills for handling multiple overlapping-time-frame projects began to catch up with me. I've been feeling like I'm slowly sinking in the resulting morass, and while helping my wife (an office supply and calendar/planner/organizer junkie) search for a new planner system to replace what she'd been using, finally decided to grow up and do something about the organizational problems I've been causing myself.

So here I am, with a "365" (the Target-branded Franklin Covey) "classic" size planner (available to me because the Mrs. wanted one binder but the "innards" of a different one, so we bought them both and she cobbled together her ideal setup), a hodgepodge of forms from said planner purchases and D*I*Y Planner, a bunch of new file folders and a brand spankin' new Brother labeler to GTD-ize them, and already a frustration at trying to figure out an easy way to 7-hole punch paper without spending another $18 to buy the special hole puncher.

Wish me luck.

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I hate to say this...

I hate to say this, but if you're going to be going with the Classic size Franklin planners, you're either going to be buying their forms or buying their hole punch. Seeing as you've found this site, I'd really recommend going for the hole punch. And don't skimp and buy their cheapy plastic one. It can barely do one page at a time!

The good news: you've got the binder, you've got a computer (or access to one). Except for the hole punch you've already got the most expensive bits of the system. Once you get a hole punch, the only things you'll have to spend money on are paper and ink. There is such a large number of forms on this site for all kinds of things, nearly all of them available in Classic size.


Something else....

Something else you may or may not know is that when you are copying on the copier, if you set the size for 64% that will give you the perfect Classic Planner size sheet. Hope that helps.

another way to get Classic size...

If your printer supports "N-up" printing, set your printer to do letter-size pages 2 per sheet, and voila! Classic-size pages. That's what I do to print out my calendar and contacts from Outlook. If your printer will do duplex printing (print both sides of the paper), even better. Otherwise, you can take your just-printed pages and flip the stack to print the other side.

If you have a paper cutter (look in the scrapbooking section), you can cut nice neat classic pages. In fact, you can cut your letter-sized sheets in half first, and then tell your printer that's what size you're using. Outlook calls this size "statement".

Question for Kenny

Hi Kenny: Where can I go to get those Classic sized forms you talked about? That sounds fantastic !

classic forms

Just about everything you'd need to build a planner can be found at the Official DIYPlanner page. It includes calendars, todo list forms, project planning templates, and some forms inspired by the book "Getting Things Done" by David Allen.

On the off chance that there is something you want that isn't included in one of those, try clicking on the "Templates" section of this site and dig in. If you *still* can't find a particular form you are looking for, try posting to the forums and ask. Maybe someone knows where to find one.

The good news is the "Classic" size seems to be one of the most popular sizes, so you're most likely to find what you want in that size.



Hi Kenny: A big thank you for the information you gave. I am going there now to check it out. Should keep me busy a while.

is this what you have?

Is this what you have? Here's a picture of my 365 Classic size planner from Target: http://www.flickr.com/photos/supenguin/415265610/in/set-7215...

and here is a link to the hole punch you'll probably want to get, side by side with the one that can barely punch a page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/supenguin/415265603/in/set-7215...


Pretty darned close

That's the general concept. Mine has a magnetic close rather than a zipper. It's probably just a "hold me over" binder until I find one I like better. My wife wanted the version that zipped closed and had retractable handles, but it had plain FC insert pages. The pages she wanted, which have a floral motif, were only available in the other binder style. So, for now, I've taken the magnetic close and some of the "plain" pages, and am exploring the options here to supplement. But I don't have a lot of confidence in the magnet holding very well, once I really start using it, and I'll probably end up buying a zippered "classic" size binder of some brand at some point down the line.

As for the hole punch, that's just an example of my odd frugality streak. I have no problem buying two $20-ish planners so my wife can get what she wants; I have no big problem spending $30-ish to get an electric label maker; but now I suddenly don't want to spend $18-$20 to get a piece of equipment that'll make it easier for both of us to use our new planners???

planner junkie?

Your wife is an office supply/planner junkie and she doesn't already have a hole punch? That's weird. Since you're both using the same size planner (I think?) maybe you should buy the hole punch for both of you?

A couple years back, my wife wanted to get more organized and I took her to the Franklin Covey retail store near here so she could pick out what she wanted. She ended up picking out compact size, a starter kit, and calendar pages. The only things she uses are the calendar and address book.

I happen to have done something similar in the past as far as frugalness... Went out and spent $100 on some computer thing and then when there was some $10 thing we needed I'd say "We can't afford it."


I think that's the way to go

Yeah, I think it will be worth it, since we're both currently using the same style planner. (She's never needed the specialty punch before because she's always used three-hole versions before.)

now if I can get my wife convinced to switch to Circa

All my Franklin Covey stuff is Monarch or Classic, my wife's stuff is all Compact. We either will need to keep buying her the FC refill pages every year or buy the hole punch for Compact size. I wonder if I can convince her to switch to Compact size Circa? :-)


Monarch or Classic? I have

Monarch or Classic? I have such a hard time deciding which one to use. I am in sales and spend alot of time out of the office. I like the portability of the classic size, but the reality of 8 1/2 x 11 paper forces me to use the Monarch. Question...if one uses the Classic size, what do you do with all the 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper such as; emails, contacts, notes about prospects, etc??

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Buy the punch

If you go with the Classic, I would advise buying the punch. That way you can turn 8.5 x 11" paper landscape, punch the holes and fold the paper in half to store them in the Classic.



My first planner was a Monarch. Speaking from experience: if you're out of the office frequently - such as if you're a traveling salesman, you will probably not want Monarch planner. It doesn't take much paper in a Monarch for it to get too big to comfortable carry around.

The wonderful thing about Classic: it is just Monarch size split down the middle, so a normal size piece of paper folded in half fits just fine. Have something in letter size that can't be folded? Put it in a nice page presentation folder to carry with you. Anything really important that you'll need with you you can shrink down, hole punch, and toss in your planner.


Classic or Monarch

Kenny - thanks for the advice. Will give it a try!

My Classic w/ letter-sized paper

What I do with my classic-sized planner and standard paper depends on the source of the paper.
1. If it's something I need to keep intact, I tend to fold it, and use either slash pockets (never knew that was their name until I started hanging around you guys!) or the pockets in my planner--or simply fold them in half, and tuck them between the pages they go with.
2. If it's something I get in letter-size, and I can, I punch holes (usually in the bottom) and fold it so that the second side doesn't overlap with the hole-punched side, and insert those into my binder. Yes they stick out a bit, but I've never minded, however, sometimes, I've folded them completely in half, and chopped the top margin down. On rare occasions, I've folded in half, and punched holes through top and bottom, but usually with my third option...
3. If it's coming from my computer, I like to use my Mac's printing features to print 2-up pages. On the Mac, and I presume also on Windows, you can add margins to leave space for the hole puncher. This is what I frequently do with directions I print from MapQuest, and if the directions take more than two pages, I print both sides (gotta love the Pixma ip3000 printer!) and fold off-center so I can simply fold out the page for the second side. But I print other things two-up, as well, folding so that the content is on the outside, hole-punch, and into the binder it goes! HTH

printing 2-ups on the Mac?

You can print 2-ups on the Mac? Is this specific to your printer or built in to MacOS/X? I have an HP printer and when I want to put something in my planner, I am doing the following: print, set it to scale to 64%, print the odd numbered pages, flip the paper over, do the even numbered pages. Doing it this way always printed out in the middle of the page and I would always have to cut the paper on all 4 sides and hope that none of the content was where the hole punch was going to be. I knew there is a better way, I just didn't know how.



It's been around for ages--maybe since near the beginning. I can't remember not seeing it in the Print dialog box--and I go back to System 6. The thing is, it's kind of unknown for all that. Also, it's never been very obvious. :-)

In the Print window, you should see a popup menu in X, called "Copies & Pages." Clicking and holding on that will give you a list of options. The one you want is the second one, "Layout." Choose that, and you can tell it how many pages per sheet to print--1,2,4,6,9 or 16. (Why not 8, I do not know!)

Have fun! :-)



How does you wife like the compact? I tried it but almost got claustrophobic due to it's small size? I wanted it to fit into my handbag but couldn't get used to how cramped it seemed.


My wife loves her compact planner. It's little and cute. She doesn't really have much she needs to keep track of in her planner. Most of it is on the computer. All she uses it for is the calendar for things like doctors' appointments and then the address book for important numbers.

I think she'd be just as happy with a pocket weekly Moleskine calendar and addressbook. Sounds like you'd be better off with something Classic size and keep some kind of satellite in your handbag.


It's a hobby

Hi from another newbie!

I find it helps in the financial thinking to consider this stuff not as mere office supplies, but as our hobby. As hobbies go, this one is not too expensive -- even adding in an occasional Levenger purchase. My other main hobby is jewelry making and I don't want to talk about the expense of those supplies.

Oh..Yes !

Hi Lisa I agree wholeheartedly. This is indeed a hobby and an innocent one at that. I can't think of anything hobbywise that I'd rather do than play with my 3x5s, planner, and system in general. I think you are absolutely right!

I understand !

It's kind of like eating brownies. The first one tastes great and the second pretty good but you have to think before you eat that third one? Maybe not the perfect analogy I was hoping for.....

Planning Software

Not to throw a monkey wrench into your planning, but have you tried using any planning software? The "reminder" function is helpful for people that have trouble with missing deadlines.

Just a thought.


Yes and no

It's not really planning software, but I have tried using Outlook's features to help in this regard. Trouble is, my email inbox is currently as out-of-control as everything else. Between Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero suggestions and Bill Kratz's Setting Up Outlook for GTD, I think I have some paths to follow to turn Outlook into the tool it can be, rather than the "stuff" repository that I've turned it into.

The real issue, of course, is that I have just never gotten serious about it. It's all really pretty basic, common sense stuff. I've been reading business and organization books for 20 years, I've been married to a top notch calendar/planner person for nearly 18 years, I've bought the organizers, downloaded software trial versions, etc. I've just never taken stock of how badly my current way of doing things has sabotaged me and then decided to do something about it. Until now.

Of course, I'm somewhat falling into the trap of falling in love with the idea of the system, rather than just implementing it, as evidenced by the fact that I'm browsing this site in the middle of my work day rather than putting into action all the things I've been learning ;-)


Sounds like you're starting to get the email monster under control... That just leaves the question of what to do with all your other project "stuff" on your computer. I really haven't had much luck with using Outlook as an organizational tool beyond email/calendar/addressbook. I've been very happy with the free version of EverNote at work. I'd prefer to use Journler but sadly it is Mac only and I am stuck on Windows at work.


he said...

"Of course, I'm somewhat falling into the trap of falling in love with the idea of the system, rather than just implementing it, as evidenced by the fact that I'm browsing this site in the middle of my work day rather than putting into action all the things I've been learning ;-)"

he said, as we all sit here reading this, when we should be working...



My Email Inbox

I have felt your pain. The place I started was organizing my email. To keep my inbox empty I set up the following sub folders (plus a few specific to my current job):

> Archive - emails that are linked to various projects get filed here.

> Follow-up - emails that I've sent out that will need some additional followup go here.

> Personal - oops, do I really work on personal items at the office? hehe

> Someday/Maybe - this is my incubator.

> To Be Printed - emails that should be printed at some point. I started this folder when my ink cartridge went dry and I had no replacement.

> To Be Read - I get a lot of E-newsletters sent to me. I store them here.

> Waiting For - emails that I am waiting for a reply on.

I set up my Outlook to save all of the emails I send out. Once or twice a week I then file them in the appropriate folders.

Every Friday I do a weekly review of all folders to keep them current.

My inbox is squeaky clean, and I intend to keep it that way.



I found this and posted LINK.

It does multiple page sizes and hole configurations. It is a Swingline which is a reputable name and can utilized in case you decide Classic isn't right for you down the road :)

my artwork

Looks nice

Thanks for the suggestion, Sara. Have you gotten one yet?

sadly not yet

Not yet .. BUT... my birthday is in July and what is better than birthday cake and a multi-punch?!? (oh and of course this is if I already have my Rollabind/Circa... cause that is the super bestest evah!)

my artwork

Is it...

Do you think anyone is nearly totally organized and is now doing only minor tweaking and that only for the sake of variety? I wonder if the Japanese gentleman is maybe one who is close. Anyone else? I would love to hear your story if you are.

Not me

I am sure people exist who are totally organized. I am not one of them. And I decided years ago that the journey is more fun then the destination. So I never will be.

This Is My Hobby

I come to DIY not to become more organized, but because I enjoy reading about all of the different life hacks. I was satisfactorily organized before coming here. The study of personal productivity is my hobby. "Organization" is simply figuring out your calendar and lists. It's not rocket science. I find my entertainment in diddling with the plethora of tools. I'm not trying to become more organized. I just want to have fun while doing it.


It is about the tools/toys


I think you are right. It is all about the toys… er, tools. I have had some kind of planner ever since I can remember (like early grade school). I have one of those brains which remembers nothing unless I write stuff down. People think I’m good for being organized, but really, if I didn’t have some kind of calendar/task list/phone number keeper, I wouldn’t be functioning. But I do like tweaking the system.


I've always liked...

I've always liked having new stuff to try out. Luckily planners and paper are cheaper than computer parts, most of the time :-)

I've found plenty of stuff to mess with in the open source software world, and it is always changing. I just need to buy some new stuff once in a while.


besides David Allen, Merlinn Mann, and Stephen Covey?

circac: which Japanese gentleman are you talking about? The "pile of index cards" guy?

I think David Allen, Merlinn Man, and Stephen Covey are remarkable organized. As far as anyone on this site - not sure. Some may be close. I'd think anyone who does actually get completely organized (or even nearly so) would share their systems, answer some questions, and then go have a great life.


I dunno about that!

From comments I've read from Dave Allen (I think in those free pdfs on his site) and seen of Merlin Mann, I doubt these two are completely organized. I think they struggle too.... Now, Covey, on the other hand.... Is he human? ;-)

However, this all does kind of cause some mental ruminations. What does it mean to be "completely organized"? Is it the result of a "system"? Is there some "system" that just works for a particular person? I suspect that organization is not so much the result of a "system" but simple, old-fashioned discipline--or grit, if you will. A system helps us focus, and some work better than others for each of us--with each of us being different in what system helps, but the real strength of any system is that it causes us to focus and discipline ourselves. Also, I suspect that, like shampoo, maybe systems out to be changed out on occasion, as the freshness alone helps restore that discipline we so dearly need. :-)

I'm not sure how clear the above was, but maybe it will help us in our search for the magic potion "system." I have thought a lot about Doug's illustration about the old man with the "system" that had survived since WWII. For this guy, his system was just part of his life--he didn't change it, and I bet he wasn't 100% organized either--but his focus was on getting things done (not necessarily the Dave Allen kind). He knew what he wanted, and did it, and was successful at it. I think his is an ideal to shoot for. ;-) I don't think he had any "secrets" or fancy, special pages. I wonder, in fact, if he had any special pages.

I know a man who has accomplished great things in his life, and is not only "wealthy" materially (thought you would never know it, seeing how he lives), but is responsible for millions and millions of dollars monthly, having the weight of multiple and disparate businesses on his shoulders. He's done this for decades, and his planning tool? A letter-sized sheet of paper folded into fourths. He rights on one side until it's full, then then next, and so on, until all 8 "pages" are full. Yes, he has a secretary to go over this stuff, and multiple exectutive assistants, and he also uses a dictaphone and has a pool of transcriptionists, but his primary "planner," and inbox is that piece of paper. He doesn't use any planner or calendar, nor software--granted, he does have an entourage for those "big" items, but that piece of paper is absolutely central to his success. I've seen it time and time again. It's amazing... I'm not like that. ;-)


interesting points

You bring up some very good points. I think everyone needs to beware of the goal of being "Completely Organized". You could drive yourself made trying to get there!

I would say the goal (at least for me) is to end up with some kind of system that I can be confident that I've captured all the information I need to capture and can find it again fairly quickly if I need to.

It does take discipline to stick with any system. The system should be fairly simple but also fun to use - if it isn't both of those things, you are far less likely to use it.

I'll disagree with you on one point: the idea that you should change your system every so often just to keep it "fresh". Once you have something that works for you, I think you should only switch to something completely new if a situation arises that requires it.

On the other hand, I'd imagine that as life happens and things change, you will be doing little tweaks to your system.

That's the case I'd imagine with the guy with the 50 year old planner... I doubt he is using the planner in the same way he did when he bought it. I would be surprised if the company he bought the original planner from is still in business. I hope he has a hole punch. Maybe he needs to visit this site ;-)


I disagree with myself on this point!

I'll disagree with you on one point: the idea that you should change your system every so often just to keep it "fresh". Once you have something that works for you, I think you should only switch to something completely new if a situation arises that requires it.

I think I may disagree with myself on this point. I threw it out more as a point to ponder than as an absolute truth. I've just noticed that some people on this list notice a burst of productivity after making changes to their system... I have experienced it in a small way--but then again, like you mentioned, my needs have changed through the years as well. Right now, what I was able to get by with is no longer sufficient, and I need an added boost, as well, so I've been "meddling" with what I've had, which is what brought me back to this site. It was just an impression I had, keeping in mind the very caveats you mentioned. But maybe we are just a couple "sticks in the mud". ;-)

I disagree with my disagreement!

The funny thing about this whole conversation - I think I mostly disagreed with my disagreement of your original point. I've been in the process of switching from a Classic Franklin planner to Circa notebooks. But this is one of those "I switched because it made sense" kind of situations.

In the last few months, the amount of stuff I have to juggle more or less doubled. The ability to use multiple sizes of paper - including index card and business card sized pieces - has proved to be such a huge benefit.

I just have to be sure I don't spend *all* my time tweaking my system and reading GTD-related blogs. I will post more about this later.


Its OK...

....to argue with yourself, as long as you don't interrupt.


what if I lose?

What if I lose? Or win? Or get mad and want to just walk away?


"Make Up" Purchase

If you get mad at yourself and want to walk away, you can always buy something from Levenger as a peace offering. THAT's the beauty of arguing with yourself. You can't lose!


good timing

I just ordered from Levenger. :-) I should have enough for 2 complete notebooks. I have a Junior size planner I use at home. It is pretty much a calendar, address book, and place to scribble down important info I need for the week and ideas I might want to do something with.

Then I've started using a letter size notebook for work that I'm turning into my GTD system. We'll see how this works out...


"Make Up" Purchase Caveat

Good idea,
But after buying a few Levenger products, I have come to believe they are as addictive as crack.

I just got a shipment and I am already jonesing for more.


I know what you mean!

This is too true. I recently placed my second order with Levenger. I was going to print out my own calendar pages from now on, and even bought a hole punch to make this happen. When I ordered a couple other things, I decided to go ahead and order the Junior size Agenda. They just look so much nicer than anything I could print out on my little inkjet.


As is often said around here

As is often said when someone becomes a Levenger convert: "Welcome to the darkside."


Nicely written

I like your comments Jon and Kenny. You have expressed yourselves well and I am now pondering your comments. Have you read anything about Ben Franklin and his quest to keep his "little book" in order to bring order to his life? It's fascinating to read about this area of his life and I am sure you would enjoy it also. I have quite a collection of organization; goal type books in my possession. I love reading them. I know this is a hobby for me too.

which book?

Which book of Ben Franklin's talks about his little book? I've run into quite a few quotes of Franklin's reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and similar books. I think they even put a quote from him on the front of a lot of their calendar refills and planner packs "Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of."

I've never actually read any of Ben Franklin's works, although I am tempted to pick up a copy of "Fart Proudly" just for the title.


Ben Franklin

Hi Kenny: I can't remember the title of the book, but something about his "little book" should be in his autobiography. I remember reading that he had a place in his book to keep track of his "temperance". In general, the book was to keep himself organized and to keep him straight on his desire to maintain a certain character. I really enjoyed reading about it. I wonder if at least part of it was in Covey's 7 habits? Not sure.

What struck me about this experiment of his...

was that he found himself completely incapable of being "good" all the time. Even with the rules (guidelines) he made for himself, he kept "breaking" them (coming short of his ideal). He was able to improve, but he never acheived the degree of "virtue" (was that the word he used? It's been a couple decades since I read it). I believe he did this as an experiment, and he eventually discontinued it.... but again, it's been a long time. I'm sure there are sites with this text up on it.



Yes, the pile of cards guy. He would "appear" to have it completely together from what I see on his site. I am still a bit baffled by the chronological arrangement advantage.

same here

I don't see how chronological arrangement can work unless you have some kind of master index.


Can you explain...

Can you explain the advantage of the chrono lineup from his perspective? I didn't quite get it, but I know he has some kind of good point for it. I think routines are important in organization. I also think one needs a certain amount of flexibility too because without it one becomes a stunted robot.

Chrono vs. Subject

Might depend on what you need to file. I have a colleague that tried to file his emails chronologically and could never find anything. He finally started using the technique I use, which was to set up personal folders by subject names using the groups and topics I interact with most. If it is in my Inbox, it still requires an action, if it is for reference or I have completed the task associated with the email, it then gets filed in a personal file by subject (although some days this is better said than done). Electronic data is saved in folders by topic and then by date since everyone in our group needs to be able to find and have access to the info we create or save for reference.
Since we can deal with several initiatives and topics in one day, with some of them being long-term discussions or projects that can last 6 months or longer, chronological filing would just become a nightmare for me and my group.

Is there anyone that has had success with chronological filing, even when dealing with multiple subjects/projects/initiatives?

Very good....

That's a very good question Star. Maybe someone will have a good answer for us.

I suspect it's a brain thing...

I'm kind of like him. I can place things on a calendar in my mind. I have an idea when I did/wrote/filed something, but not necessarily why and where. I used to try to sort my photos via subject--that lasted a month. I have thousands upon thousands of photos, both in film and on hard drives, and trying to sort them all by subject or whatnot was just too much for me, so I resorted to a chronological system. Everything is filed by date, and even has a file name, based upon date. I'm able to find just about any photo in mere minutes now, and usually seconds. I can relate... Not, mind you, that keywords/indexing doesn't help, but for the act of filing--at least the things he is writing, it makes sense to file chronologically. He does, I believe, have a cross-index, and having the marks on the top of his cards helps with this, so there is more than just the chron. system going on. But as to where to physically _put_ the cards, he does it by date.

I guess you could say that this guy _has_ to have it together. ;-)


Yes, Hawk I think

Hi Yes, I think it's Hawk? I went to his Pile Of Cards site. Very interesting. I wish I could go somewhere for the very basics. Any ideas ?

the site is the basics


I'm afraid that the Pile of Indexcards website IS where you learn for the basics. However, if you want to start implementing the ideas he presents, I recommend you start with the following:

  1. Get some grid ruled index cards.
  2. Divide your thoughts into the four categories he presents.
  3. Grab an index card and whenever you get a thought and need to write it down, in the format he presents.
  4. Date the card.
  5. Archive the card, when you are finished using it, in a box of your choosing. (any sort of box that holds index cards will work.)

And that's the short and condensed version of the core Pile of Indexcards method.



Thanks innowen. The information you gave me helped immensely ! I had looked and looked on Hawk's site but had not seen any of the info you gave. I still need to find a way to get a solid grip on everything which I now lack. I have started incorporating the hipster for capturing ideas. Slowly but surely, this "hobby" will take shape don't you think? thanks again.

Try the wiki

I'd look again Circac. All the "how-to" details are in his wiki. There is a link to "The manual", as well as the flickr photos in the upper right corner of the blog page. It has sections for the PoIC system and methods right there.

Good Luck,

Thanks for the tip

Hi Reese: Thanks for the tip. I am going to go there now.