I am stuggling with my planner set up, I keep going in between a standard junior planner (8 1/2 x 5/1/2)ring binder and a custom circa the same size (I have spent a but load of money on both), I can't decide the set up the tabs the order of things anything and a process, can someone give me some with their set ups or direct me where I can get some ideas, I am a complete unorganized person that needs to get some control.


Syndicate content

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


I'm having trouble understanding where your problem is from your post... :)

Are you having troubel setting up the order of your planner? Or just the tabbing system? or ?

Many people on this site have used "Getting Things Done" as a guide. Have you read that book by chance?

my artwork | my blog

Check this out

This post describes an industrial-strength set-up in a clear and detailed fashion. It may be more than you need, but it should give you some direction.

And, yes, get a copy of David Allen's "Getting Things Done" ASAP.

Notes on the system here and here and here.

Did you mean...

This post describes an industrial-strength set-up in a clear and detailed fashion.

... to point at the original post in that thread or to the strange reply from Arizona ? The top of the thread makes more sense to me in the context of THIS thread.

"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

The original post

Sorry about the sloppy link.

GTD for me

I went with David Allen's Get Things Done approach, though I'm still tuning and fiddling with it a bit. The biggest hurdle for me was to set up enough "buckets" to empty my head into, so when an idle thought pops by, I have a place I can jot it down and not have to remember it again. My brain is a notoriously untrustworthy organ, and I do not think it is up to the task of remembering everything I want it to remember.

GTD works for me because it gives you to-do lists for your various "where you are" contexts -- at work, at home, at the store -- and dumps everything else into Projects. If I remember something I need to talk to my spouse about, I know where to put it. If I have a random thought about a birthday gift for one of my kids, I have a place to put that, too.

Beyond that, I just have a monthly calendar to keep me aware of all the critical stuff, and a place for random scribbles that I haven't dealt with yet.

Most of us here are beyond help...

but if you calm down a bit and take things one at a time, we will do all we can to help.

The GTD book is a must.

A good sense of humor don't hurt neither :)
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

These might help

Like Sara I don't quite understand what your specific problem is. However, I think that these two posts might help you get started with the arrangement of your planner. The first is Setting Up Your Planner. The second A New Job, A New System. Both by dougj. I'm sure there are others but I can't find them immediately. Would be worth reading the follow-up comments that others here have added. I notice that in the time I've been drafting this reply others have also pointed you to these

Personally I haven't obsessed about which section comes before which in my planner. My planner exists to help me with what I need to do. I don't exist to make sure the planner is perfect. Mine is part diary, part notebook, part sketchbook, part follow-up action tracker, part incomplete novel, part software design notes for that killer app everyone else really needs, part shopping list, part reminder, past birthday lists, etc etc. So even after years of using a filoFAX binder with their Time Management annual updates I am still "tweaking" my planner. Especially the information section; you know that bit where un-dated material gets written down. For me that section is continually developing. Some things get moved around, some added in, some taken out never to be re-inserted.

At the moment anything that isn't timed (i.e. amenable to being noted on a diary page) gets written on blank sheets. Everntually those blank sheets might be incorporated into another section. Some of the information is meta-planning stuff --- ideas for new planner forms that after years I realise I need. Some of the meta-plans are thoughts on how I'd like to change other people's forms to support what I do and how I do it.

The beauty of planners whether ring-bound or Circa/Rollabind bound is that you can re-organise them as you wish to suit you. This means that should the two of us use identical forms and record identical information our planners will look entirely different.

The one thing I do understand from your original post is being unorganised. That's me too. And again I don't obssess about trying to become organised. That isn't me. With a little bit of structure gained from using daily diary pages, some monthly plans, and a year overview I pretty much ignore the prescriptive ideas of Covey, Allen, et al.

I first read Covey on a trans-Atlantic flight as the first Gulf War started. Since then I've re-read his stuff and consider whether there is anything to be "stolen" from him. (I first wrote more in that sentence until I realised that I'd taken nothing from him at all.) I haven't yet wanted to buy GTD but have looked at it several times in my local bookstores. At the present time it too doesn't offer me anything I want. It is possible that Allen has more to offer me but as I looked at it in the bookstores I felt it more pseudo-scienceful than I'm willing to take on board. Whereas others here used Covey or Allen or both and benefited greatly. Some brave soul has even tried to combine both methodologies into a unified system. Again works for them; not for me.

There is probably much more to be said and hopefully others posting here will help you realise that there is only one right way to use a planner --- your way. So have fun with it. MOve things about until you find a sequence that feels right for you.

Meant to add

A few months ago the best thing happened to me and my planner. ... FX: drum roll ... I dropped it. All the contents spilled out onto the car park where I was standing. It meant I had to re-consider where and how it all went back together again. Dated forms were easy --- though as a result of the drop I decided not to carry so much around with me; the bulk of three months worth of day-to-a-view frms was the reason that the strap popped open. Looking at the remaining pile of random papers was great. Each one had to be re-examined. A lot didn't make it back in. A lot were reposition somewhere more useful. It really was the best thing that happened. Not in Covey or Allen or indeed any of the methods but it gave me a needed opportunity to re-assess what I needed in my planner.


I'm still trying to get things so I feel I'm prepared but not burdened.

I have a plan to incorporate a sketchbook with rings on the top if the planner is bound with rings on the side... wish me luck :D

my artwork | my blog

We should all be so "lucky"

How interesting that this was a deemed a "good thing" (and I can see why, too!) I just had the dubious pleasure of redoing the home filing system over the weekend, mainly by emptying out the drawers on my table so I was forced to go through everything if I wanted to have a place to eat. It's amazing how much "essential" paperwork got shredded/junked as a result.

I'm going to leave myself a tickler note to drop my planner next year. :-D

Ah but ...

I love the oxymoronic in

I'm going to leave myself a tickler note to drop my planner next year.


Me, I go with the serenditious nature of randomly dropping my planner. That's a feature that seems to be missing from all the formal schemes whether Covey, Allen, FlyLady, or whomever. Pretty much all my advances in work or personal life has been because of serendipity. No amount of formal planning, of setting life goals, etc could make up for losing serendipity. Now if only I could plan for that well I'd be a ...


Ah, bu as E says in The Incredibles, "luck favors the prepared." ;-)

Hey! I'm going to go add that to the now infamous quotes thread! ;-)


My setup


Here's a practical example, it's what I'm working with at the moment (if you're really bored or in need of inspiration, you can read about my other six previous setups elsewhere on this site too).

Footprint: Circa notebook. Was quarter-letter size, now moving to Classic because I've got a project heating up and I need to track more stuff with immediacy.

In that book there are three basic sections.
Section 1: contains dated daily pages for the current month AND my 'to-do' list (GTD calls it a 'next actions' list). If there are less than 15 days remaining in the current month, next month might also be here.
Section 2: future months--each month is a 'foldout' page with the calendar view on the part of the page that 'sticks out' and a to do list on the part that stays connected. I pre-print the recurring events using a mail merge (search on that phrase and you'll find the template I posted with directions on how to use).
Section 3: Contacts. I have these broken up into groups--Medical in front, then Household, then Work, then Family.

That's it for the main book.

I have a smaller Rolla book for password hints, just hints, not the actual passwords. Again, broken up by groups similar to the contacts.

I have another one for the days of the current month as they are completed. I pull them out of the main book and stick them onto this archive book for reference later. After about two months I pull the rings off and rubberband the bundle and file it.

I have a scratch pad bound with Rolla discs, made from misprints.

I have a couple of file folders for specific projects, hacked with Rolla discs, to store meeting notes and other handwritten items.

I have a few other rolla disc books with spare forms and misc ideas that did or did not pan out. I also use rolla discs for other purposes entirely, like my kids' artwork and keepsake papers.


Circa Set up

I use a classic size Circa notebook within the overall structure of GTD.

Other than the Circa rings, covers, punch & and a zip pouch, I use my own stuff (excel templates that I created.)

First up is a print out of my Outlook calendar for the next couple of months. (Goto print options and select 2 to a page).
1. Daily - I throw in a little of the FlyLady approach. So, I have a page to track my morning, afternoon and evening routines and any other notes for a particular day.
2. Next Actions - This is where I keep all of my next action lists (see GTD)
3. Weekly - This includes menu planning for the next week, a weekly cleaning list to check-off and a detailed cleaning list where I note the date a task is done.
4. Health - I like to track my workouts.
5. Projects - (GTD) I have a list of my active projects followed by a page for each project.
6. Someday/Maybe - (GTD) same as above, just a longer timeline.
7. Business - Here I keep some work specific notes, conversation records. Currently, I file all of my work projects with all other projects in #5. But this is something I keep changing.
8. Contacts/Reference - This is not my complete address book. I use Outlook & Palm for that. This is just some excel spreadsheets that I created for family members, my kid's classmates, frequent work contacts, etc.

I just use cardstock and attach my own Index Tabs. Use the 1" tabs and all 8 will fit in the classic size.

I get it

I think I envy those who had a hard time understanding kkandy's original problem/question. Being another organizationally impaired soul, I know how confusing and frustrating it can be trying to put together a system to help overcome my challenges. First of all, I'm never sure where to begin; then, when I do jump in, I'm not sure how I should organize things. There are so many (too many?) choices in sizes, layouts, etc.
I really appreciate all of the concrete, detailed suggestions, and continue to try to make sense of it all and piece together my own system that works for me...and my ADD.


i definitely think that i have ADD (have never gone to be diagnosed) and that it's one of the main contributors to my lack of organization. Anyone know of any books out there to help cope with this?

You and me and heavdog makes three!

...this book is the best that I have read. It helped me so much with behaviorial and environmental therapies.

Driven to Distraction and the sequel: Delivered from Distraction, which has a lot of tips and advice for diet and lifestyle changes that help a LOT.

From Delivered:

  • how to determine if you have ADD
  • the latest information on medication and whether or not to medicate
  • how environmental factors, such as air pollution, food additives and excessive use of electronics (TV, the Net, etc.) can contribute to ADD
  • reports on latest brain scan studies
  • brain exercises that improve attention
  • how to master the power and avoid the pitfalls of ADD
  • how to sustain a successful marriage with an ADD spouse

GTD is a big help, as is daily journaling (Especially first thing in the morning). Good luck!!

Ah, my people!

I guess we are everywhere!
One of my favorite books on the topic is Sari Solden's "Women and ADD"; also, anything by Kathleen Nadeau.
Thanks for all of the suggested reading and tips, everybody :-)


ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life. (It's a book, btw.) It's terrific!

I think the problem with understanding the original question is not that everyone here is so organized, but that the question really is a vague one. A simple forum/blog reply can't possibly say all that needs to be said about setting up an entire planner system from scratch - especially not for someone else. (Our needs are all different; thus, our planners will be, too.)

A few basic tips:

*Put your tabs in whatever order you think you're most likely to use them. In other words, whatever you expect to turn to most often should be in the front; that will make it easier to find things. But, as others have said, don't obsess over the order. Ultimately, if you need it, and it's there, that will be sufficient. :)

*Get something big enough to hold the information you need to carry with you, AND NO BIGGER. (As a stay-at-home-mom, I have two separate notebooks. I have a full-size (8.5x11") notebook that stays at home and holds all kinds of information which is pertinent to my household, but which I have no need to carry around. And I have a tiny Day-Timer - not much larger than a checkbook - that I take with me everywhere.)

*Don't try to get it all set up at once. I know, that sounds counter-intuitive. But a planner system is a very personal thing. It does no good to have a whole planner full of forms you don't use. (That's the whole premise behind this site!) And the way our minds work - especially those of us with ADD tendencies - we can't really assimilate a whole full-fledged system at once, anyway. Sooo...I would highly recommend starting with one thing at a time - probably the calendar. :) Get your calendar working and, as you go, you will discover what other bits of information you need to keep track of. You can add pieces one at a time as the need makes itself obvious.

For example, my planner is really still a work in progress, but it has come a long way. I started out with my monthly and daily calendars. That's it, really. (Well, and my address booklet, which doesn't see much use while I'm out and about.) It took me a long time to even get to the point where I remember to actually LOOK at the to-do list on the daily calendar each day. Gradually, I added in other things. I now have an "ongoing" to-do list. (This is separate from the list of things to get done TODAY.) That was added later. Just this month, I added a page of my written goals for this month. But I didn't set this stuff up all in one go; each thing has been added as I recognize what I need and stop to think about how to best meet it.

*As for the format ("binder" rings or Circas), if the size is the same, it may not make much difference. But you might try them both out first. Personally, I don't care much for Circa rings. I don't know why; I just don't like them. I would hate for my whole planner to be set up that way. But I'm sure that some people really appreciate not having to open and close the rings with a loud clack every time they want to add or remove pages. :) You can purchase punches for either type of ring, so you can do your own pages. This is something else I wouldn't stress over too much, though. I can be quite a perfectionist, and I have really had to work at "training" myself to recognize that a less-than-perfect system can still help. :) If I wait until every detail is perfect, I will never be any more organized, because it will NEVER be completely perfect.

Be blessed!
~Rachel <><

something else to add...

You said to put those things you reference the most up front. Good plan, but with a 3-ring binder, point number two should be those pages you need to remove or add the most (notes?) ought to go in the middle of the binder, where it is easiest to open and add and remove pages. This was something that took me a while to understand. I kept putting those pages in the back, and I was constantly struggling with removing pages. Finally, I realized that it would be best to put those in the middle, and my problem was mostly solved. ;-)

However, if you go the Circa/Rollabind route, this problem is non-existent. ;-)



"You said to put those things you reference the most up front. Good plan, but with a 3-ring binder, point number two should be those pages you need to remove or add the most (notes?) ought to go in the middle of the binder, where it is easiest to open and add and remove pages."

Ahhh. Good point. :)

Be blessed!
~Rachel <><