A Cornucopia of Planner Tips #1

CornucopiaI have a section of my planner devoted to D*I*Y Planner -related tips, ideas, and vague notions for posts. Many of these little scraps wouldn't serve as a basis for a full article, so I've decided to occasionally gather a whole bunch of them together and toss them into the wind. Some of these tips are actually practical, some are cosmetic, some deal with reference materials. And some are strange or even a little crazy, but might provide something to show your employer by way of demonstrating that the company really is working you too hard.

Practical Tips

  • Satellite Action Cards : Probably my biggest boost to my productivity in the past few months has come from integrating Satellite Action Cards (SACs) into my weekly spread. This planner spread is now open all day long, my Next Action card is ready to roll, and a Waiting For card is placed behind it for occasional review. When I do need to close the planner, I can easily find "today" again by looking for the tab atop. I can't overstate what a difference this has made for me, having everything open in the one layout. It blows though a lot of those little mental blocks that make you sometimes "forget" to flip to your NA lists.

  • List-Making Marks : If there's an action to be deleted, I either put an line through it (in the SACs), or put an "X" in the checkbox. Similarly, a check mark is "done", a dot is "in process" (used mainly for longer project tasks), and a person's initials next to the box means it's been delegated (and I'll check it off once it's been done). These marks work well in the larger Classic/A5 forms and up, but not so good in the hPDA or SAC lists because of their small sizes.

  • Calculator : Day-Timer Solar CalculatorYou can probably purchase a specialised calculator/ruler for your planner (I personally have a solar Day Runner one that clips into the rings), but why bother? A slim "credit card" calculator will slip right into your inside card slots. My next little project: digging up a thin calculator watch still residing somewhere deep down in one of my techie junk boxes. It has an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a couple of games, a place for phone numbers, and more. I'm going to remove the band and affix it to the inside cover of the planner with a little velcro.

  • Monthly Index : If you use a daily planner page like the Day Keeper, you probably build up a lot of pages, and no doubt find it difficult to locate particular events like deadlines, important appointments, and so on. Make it easy on yourself by creating an "index" of those significant events. Use either a regular monthly spread (which can also be used to give month-at-a-glance functionality), or use a lined Notes page. For the latter, write the month name atop, use the margin area for the date, and the line space for the significant events.

  • Segmented Inbox : Some people prefer to have multiple inbox sections, so they can divide work from personal, projects from calls, and so on. Near the centre of your planner, create your Inbox section, and put in dividers for each type of inbox. Find them quickly by putting the tabs atop the pages to differentiate them from all the rest of the side tabs.

  • Covey Forms Wizard : In the Franklin-Covey Downloads District, you can download a Windows-only product with a 30-day free usage period called the Forms Wizard. The package is actually pretty interesting: there are quite a number of forms available that you can create, and then --using its simplistic text editor-- fill out the desired information. Or you can simply print them blank. The range of templates isn't bad at all, and although the designs leave much to be desired esthetically, you may find that you can print off a lot of useful forms in those 30 days.

  • Slash Pockets : Day-Timer Slash PocketsI carry two of these extremely useful thin cardboard open pockets: one is for spare forms that I recharge occasionally, and one is for storing folded sheets and memos that people give me. I used to keep a separate section of the planner for just-in-case refills, but a slash pocket is far more convenient than all that "ring-work."

  • eBay : In the past three months, I've set a few watches on eBay planner items like nice Franklin-Covey planners, empty Day Runner binders, Day-Timer refills, and the like. Many people are still ditching barely-used planners to adopt digital time management, so grab 'em while you can. Not every one has been a good deal --do your research-- but a few ended prices I have seen ($USD, rounded):

    • Franklin-Covey leather binder, barely used - $9
    • FC leather classic planner, unused, with starter kit (about $90 value) - $35
    • Day Runner plus large refills set (my estimate, about $120) - $39
    • FC planner set, four different sizes, unused (my estimate, about $300) - $72

Cosmetic Tips

  • Zipper Pulls : Perhaps I'm a little strange, but one of the most attractive things about an expensive planner (well, besides the outer material) is what hangs off the zipper. A cheap Mead binder? A cheap steel zipper. My nice semi-expensive Day Runner? A nice leather pull with the Day Runner logo embossed upon it. Pulling that little leather thing just oozes quality, whereas the Mead one sticks into your fingers and gives barely enough room to grab it. A nice piece of soft leather (or leatherette) or suede or other semi-stiff and sensuous material really allows you to unzip with satisfaction.

  • Binder Charms : On a similar note, I noticed this page at the Franklin-Covey site: Binder Charms. It strikes me as a possibility for further customising your planner beyond a simple leather pull. A small watch (like one of those tiny but rugged nurse's ones), a sturdy but semi-smooth charm, or even something small that once dangled from your keychain --like a miniature compass-- are all fair game. They can express your personality and sometimes even be practical. Stay away from those tribble-like fuzzy things, unless you want cats leaping for it as you pass by.

  • Monograms : Nothing says "classy" like some beautiful bronze, silver or gold initials in the bottom right corner of your planner cover. These can generally be found for just a few dollars at those overpriced shops selling wedding presents and specialised engraving. The little metallic plates often have a very powerful adhesive backing, so pay attention when you're sticking them on. Choose fairly flat ones, lest they hook into your clothes.

Reference Tips

  • Receipt Envelopes : Now, the D*I*Y Planner Classic/A5 kits have a fancy receipt envelope that you can print up, cut out, and glue-stick together. (Actually, I'm particularly proud of this, for some reason I can't fathom.) However, sometimes you just need a quick-and-dirty one that you can shove into your planner, and mid-size white or manila (4"x6" or 5"x7") envelopes do the trick nicely. If you don't have a slot or pocket inside your cover to hold it, simply punch a few holes in it and clip it in.

  • Shrinking Project/Reference Materials : I'm going through a rather arduous job search right now, and I find it necessary --especially when constantly filling out online resume forms-- to have all my resume details close at hand. My resume is in standard PDF format (as output from InDesign), so I decided to print it off to insert into my planner. Acrobat Reader has the ability, via the standard OS X dialog (under Layout), to print out 1, 2, 4 (etc) pages on one sheet, and also to vary the print order. Since the resume is four pages long, I told Acrobat to print 2 pages per letter-sized sheet, and only odd numbers. Then, once that was done, I flipped around the page, inserted it into the printer again, and told Acrobat to print 2 pages per sheet, only even numbers, and make the order "2-1" (as opposed to "1-2"). One slice of the guillotine, and voila! ready to punch and insert into the planner. I don't have a Windows box handy at the moment, but I suspect there's something similar in the standard Windows dialogs.

  • Reference Maps : If you're on the move very much, you realise the importance of a good handy map. While I give an overview of how to create slick maps in Template Design 101: Making Map Templates, there usually isn't a need to take it that far (but hey, it does look cool). Grab your map image online (or scan it in) and tell your printer to scale it down to the size of your planner. Or if it's a big map, print it on a large piece of paper, punch one edge, and fold it into your planner.

  • Word Processor "Templates" : This is often such a simple tip that people overlook it. Got some documents to print off for your planner? In your word processor's page setup, tell it to use 5.5"x8.5" paper (or A5, or whatever size you use), and set 0.5" margins to allow for any rings. Paste in all the stuff you want. Set your font to a suitable type (such as Verdana) and small size (I like 9pt), and print. Bonus points for double-sided pages by printing odd pages first, then printing the even pages on the backs.

Vaguely Insane Tips

  • Bookmarks : If you're like me, and cut your Hipster cards from regular size card stock, you've probably got a recycle bin brimming with the tall and thin guillotined discards. I've taken to cutting them at around 6 inches long, and using them as bookmarks. I've got a few thousand books, so I have plenty of trimmings I can put to practical use yet.

  • Password Hints : I have about two dozen passwords I use for various websites and applications. Now, I generally wouldn't want to store these in anything I might possibly lose. If you don't have an electronic means of encrypting these passwords (such as CryptoPad on the Palm), consider using a password hints system where you list the website, the login, and the password hint. For example (and I can publicly share this, since it isn't a real password of mine), let me consider a new password to use based upon something in my past. A former Yellow Labrador dog of ours had a purebred name of Kreolander's Red Mist, and we nicknamed him Kreo (because yelling, "Here, Kreolander's Red Mist! Come on, Kreolander's Red Mist!" wouldn't seem right, somehow). The first adventure game I ever wrote was on an Atari 600XL with only 16K memory, and I distinctly remember having only 168 bytes free once it was finished. So "KreoRM^168" becomes a password, and my planner entry would read only "dog adventure". Or maybe I'm just being silly....

  • Pass Key : If that doesn't turn your crank, consider using a "key" to decode passwords you forget. On the top edge of a 6-8" strip of paper (or, ahem, a bookmark from above), write down the alphabet (upper- and lowercase), numbers, punctuation, and whatever else you use in a password. Below this, under each character, write a different letter, number or punctuation mark. Keep it random, and only use each character once. This is your key, and can be slipped into your wallet, separate from your planner. Write down an encoded password for each site and login by looking up the bottom character and writing down what appears on top. If you forget the password later, simply haul out the key and use the top characters as the guide. (Yes, this is analogous to the "secret decoder ring" of bygone radio times.)

Do you have ideas for variations on the above, or have new tips to share? Leave 'em below.

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Calculator

WARNING: This comment may offend some Palm users...

In my briefcase is a little slot that my ailing palm sits in.

It makes a great little calculator now that I've moved back into my Filofax.

Wow- Binder Charms!

I like the little flashlights, compasses, thermometers...etc

Sun Company offers a nice assortment of functional pulls (and other stuff.)

(Great post, dougj)

Calendar Tips

Here's two other tricks that I've found to make my life easier.

Check Marks the Spot: I use a monthly view calendar in my organizer, and I found that it took a while to find the current date. To speed things up, I now check off the day after it is over, which lets me immediately find the current day. Same thing would work for weekly view.

Current Day Marker: For those who haven't implemented the satellite cards yet (and who still use the current day marker), I've found an easy way to take advantage of it without obstructing your view. Cut the marker right below the third hole from the top.

Thanks Doug! These are great, so keep em coming.

Password Problem

Remembering thousands of passwords is a hassle indeed. But check out passwordmaker.org's (standalone / firefox plugin) awesome concept.

print tiny with Clickbook

Clickbook by BlueSquirrel is a lovely little utility that will shrink your pages automatically, and form them into little booklets if you desire. One of their examples is a "doll book" which shrinks full size pages down to about an inch—it squeezes 160 pp (or so) on to a single sheet! That's overkill, obviously, but the other templates are useful and the program has worked beautifully for me (though a tad expensive).

How do you...

--Monthly Index : If you use a daily planner page like the Day Keeper, you probably build up a lot of pages, and no doubt find it difficult to locate particular events like deadlines, important appointments, and so on. Make it easy on yourself by creating an "index" of those significant events. Use either a regular monthly spread...--

Exactly how do you do this? I have seen the same recommendation elsewhere (Franklin-Covey?), but can't seem to sort out HOW. I guess I must just be dense! lol If anyone has specifics, pictures, etc., they could really be helpful for me. Thanks!

Be blessed!
~Rachel <><

Blank page at the start of the month

In the Franklin system, they give you a blank page right before the start of the daily pages of the month. When you note something "important" on a given day, you're supposed to go back to the monthly index page and jot a note about it, like:

"23 - Budget numbers from Tim"

meaning "I wrote down those budget numbers on the 23rd" (of whatever month you're indexing)

I was terrible about doing this regularly, and wound up saving the index step for when I pulled the old month out of the planner -- just flip through the pages and note the important things. Now I just make the note on the "Project" page in my planner, since my notes tend not to be date-specific (and those that are get a date next to them.)

Thanks. :)

Ahhh...gotcha! I think that doing it at the end of the month would probably work more consistently for me, too. Thanks!

Be blessed!
~Rachel <><

filoFAX monthly plan

I (currently) use filoFAX's Time Management planner pages.

One of them is a monthly plan. Each month is printed on a landscape trimmed-A4 page. One side is a traditional monthly calendar with each day divided up into hours (8AM-8PM). There is an untimed column at the start of each day. I use that for deadlines. The reverse side of the page is for "Performance Objectives"; I also use this for deadlines --- this part of the page is upper most when opening the planner.

The deadline gets written at the top of the day page as well. Up under the date. So I triplicate the information and that way I don't miss anything for no matter what part of my planner I'm looking at there is always a reminder of the deadline. For really important deadlines I'll put those on my year planner too. It goes against all my computing science training of no duplication of data but over the years I've discovered that I need all these reminders otherwise I forget things.

what i do is...

I like the Day Keeper for my daily planning, but for future dates, I prefer to see them in a nutshell. So my calendar section has the following:

1) Day Keeper for the current week
2) Weekly Planning pages (sometimes I print them on yellow or pink paper) for the next 3-4 weeks
3) Monthly Planning pages (sometimes I print them on green or blue paper) for the following 2-3 months.

This way I have a slim version of the next 3 months at any given time. I don't really care about the minute details until the current day, which is why I only need the Day Keeper for the current week.

Every weekend, when I do my Weekly Review, I copy info from the Weekly Planning section to Day Keepers for this week, print another page of Weekly Planning and forward the next week of info from the monthly planner to that week. I also keep a page or two of notes at the back for noting dates and date related info that goes beyond my calendar.

All that said, I also have a large wall calendar on my kitchen wall for the family to refer to, and this is where I record birthdays and such. I do have to write things down in two places, but I usually sync this up with my hubby on the weekends - things don't typically change for the current week while it's happening, so this hasn't been an issue. Hope that helps!

Re: what I do is...

That is exactly how I was taught to use my planner back in the old days by the people from TimeManager. No need to carry all details when you don't need them. The TimeManager system is based on the year (a bundle of months), week and day planners. One day per page with calls, notes and task fields next to a vertical timescale for appointments on a page, 7 of those next to several week plans with 7 days to a page (actually a double page in which you can fold the spent day pages, and a detachable yearplanner that neatly slideas in the pockets of a business suit. No need to carry the big book everywhere.

I used the TimeManager for many years and then switched to Palm's and its decendants in coöperation with Outlook. After all I am a tech-guy that loves gadgets and toys. After three years of suffering, crashes and synchronisation problems I came crawling back, this time to a Filofax system, and stuck with it ever after. I replicated the three planner system as Mandy showed as well with 2 weeks of dayplanners with a day per page with the mentioned fields and timescale (works best for me), 6 weeks of weekplanners, and a full year of monthplanners ahead for apppointments without details. No need to carry a long history that you never look into. They are in a box in my cupboard if I need them.

I have three tips I find rather useful in the daily use of my planner:
1. Never ever write with a non-erasable pen in agenda's and planners! Always use a good quality 0.5 mm automatic pencil so that you can change things without making too much of a mess. This has saved me many times over, especially with appointments.
2. I found a small USB stick with a small chain and clip that I attach to the lower ring of the upper ring set. It fits neatly inside the rings (25 mm) and is always there when I need it without being in the way of the pages or thicken my system.
3. I attached a silk ribbon to the binder as a classical bookmark. It looks very classy and emphasises that I indeed still read real books! I use it to bookmark pages when I have to quickly flip to something else. Many collegues copied it over here just for the looks. And to show off our love for the traditional skills.