Setting Up Your Planner

The D*I*Y Planner system was created to be highly tweakable and organisationally agnostic, so feel free to build and fill your planner however you want. That being said, it can be rather difficult to jump in and come up with a productivity system from scratch, so to get you started with a very basic GTD implementation, we'd suggest the following as a base for your planner. (If index cards are more your thing, then pop on over to Setting Up a GTD-Based Hipster PDA.)

  • A cover: preferably of high-quality card stock (varnished, if you have it), with a Profile form on the opposite side. Don't forget to fill it out! Laminate this to make it last longer. This could be followed by a GTD reference chart or two, printed on card stock. The dual-sided Important Numbers form should be the last part of the first section of your planner.

  • Contacts tab: use your purchased forms and tabs for this section. 'Move in' to your planner by writing down the most important personal and business contacts. Use pencil, if possible, as contact information changes a lot. (Note: since the contacts pages change far less often than the actions and projects, it's better to keep the latter two nearer the centre of the planner as it is easier to add and remove pages when they are closer to where the rings open.) Use adhesive tabs to divide the contacts alphabetically for fast referencing.

  • A Calendar tab: Mark your current date with a'Today' clip-in or a Satellite Action Card. Transfer all birthdays, anniversaries and personal dates into your calendar. Create a list using a Notes sheet with all the important dates so you can populate each new set of calendars with it. The Internet can provide a list of all the holidays according to your country’s calendar.

    You have a lot of choices within this kit when choosing which type of calendar to use. To start, think about how much you need to accomplish, how many appointments you will have, and where you would like to store your actions.
    For example, you can keep a monthly calendar in your Calendar tab, and Actions/etc. in your Actions tab. Some possibilities:

    • Day Keeper on each page
    • Day Keeper (Extended Day) opposite Combined Actions
    • A two-page Weekly Planning as a page spread
    • A one-page Weekly Planning opposite Combined Actions
    • A Monthly Planning spread
  • Actions tab: populate this section with:

    • Actions for each context(Office, Home, Errands, On-line, etc.)
    • Waiting For for each context
    • Agendas
  • Note: If you have a lot of Waiting For and Agendas
    forms, you may wish to create other tabs for them. Mark all these tabs with red dots, which signify immediate review (think red = hot).

  • Project tabs: create tabs for each major project or project category. Populate with:

    • Project Details
    • Project Outline
    • Project Notes
    • To Do List (future Next Items, etc.).
    • Optional: Objectives, Contact Log, Grid, Checklist, Goal Planning, To Buy, Notes

    Mark these tabs with green dots, signifying weekly review.


  • Potentials tab: fill with a handful of Potentials Quicklist and Potential Projects sheets. Mark with yellow dot (occasional review).


  • Read/Review tab: a few Checklist forms with appropriate headers ('Websites to Review', 'Articles to Read', 'Reports/Proposals', etc.). Mark with yellow dot (occasional review.).


  • Reference tab: for now, put a few Notes sheets in here. Mark tab with blue dot (for reference materials). Any major reference categories should
    probably get their own tabs. For example, I have a Ref:Tech
    tab that contains things like Emacs cheat-sheets, software registration serials, Internet account info (sans passwords), Python notes, etc.


  • Misc Lists tab: off-the-cuff lists that you wouldn't consider serious enough to call 'reference'. Use the
    Notes, To Buy,
    Checklist or other generic forms. A few selections from mine:

    • Shopping: Groceries
    • Shopping: Dollar Store/Pound Shop: I'm notorious for going to dollar stores, picking up a hundred things I don't need, and leaving without the items I actually went in for
    • To Buy:Books : ones I'd like to purchase, but which I can't remember when I'm actually in a bookstore
    • To Buy: Music : albums I'm trying to hunt down
    • Checklist: Software to Try
    • Notes: Books/Articles to Read
    • Checklist: Gifts : list of potential Christmas and birthday gifts for people

  • Templates tab: Keep a few spares of each form here that you're likely to need. Replenish each week, or whenever you're using a lot of sheets.


  • Any other tabs you'd use frequently, such as Timesheets,
    Finances, etc.


  • Inbox tab: keep regular cheap note paper here. This is your scratch pad. Move finished thoughts and materials out of here as soon as possible to the correct section of your planner. If the phone rings or someone wants to talk with you about something, open this section up immediately. (For more about this, see Using a Paper Planner Inbox.)


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