Forum Topic: Ideas on how to organize my planner please.

I am a 30 year old, mother, wife and fulltime student again. I like most here have been obsessed with planners and other office supplies for as long as I can remember. I found my perfect system, circa, although I am unsure how to set up my planner topics. Right now I have my calendar part, a to do now list and a school list. I just feel like it is not working and all I am doing is wasting my time and paper. So how do I get it organized in such a way that it is productive. I am interested in the way others set it up and organize theirs by topic and what topics are used. I have tried to read books on organization and procrastination although it seems to go right through me and not get fully processed in my head. So basically I have this great planner and no good way to use it. Ideas would be wonderful!

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What do you have to remember?


What works for me is focusing on what I have to remember. So, for me, I need my collection of website passwords (well, hints). I need my family and other contacts. And because I'm working on a giant project at work that consists of about 99% of my time, I have a little box with different things I have to remember about that. I also have a scratch paper book that I use throughout the day for scribbles and short-term notes.

For my big project, I have these topics:
Functional Questions
Policy Questions
Screen Mods

It's a software deployment project--we bought a big piece of software that has to have a lot of configuration done (the to-dos) and a few tweaks (customizations, screen mods, and enhancements). The questions categories are things I have to ask other people or find out answers and provide those answers to other people.

I have separated all these things out because there's a certain efficiency in grouping these particular tasks together. I'm 'saving up' some of them to do in a batch later. Some of them I just write down to make sure I'm not going to forget them when I happen to have an expert on the phone.

Anyway, my point to you is that you need to come up with the types of things you have to keep track of. Let's say you need to keep track of 'big projects/papers' and 'daily/weekly assignments' and then you need to keep track of your class time periods, your non-school commitments and appointments, the library books you've borrowed, and your kids' schedules.

Well, if you can come up with a list like that of the 'big rocks' you need to fit into your life, then that's your start for what tabs for your planner. As to what kind of materials you stuff in the sections, well, that's up to you.


Once you get something set up...

Don't try to modify the way you do things to fit your planner setup, let the planner evolve to fit your way.

Make it simple to start

Wonderful comments from Shris and Rocket. I will add that making it simple is important. At least at the beginning, if it's too complicated, it becomes way too hard to use. Start small with the big chunks as stated above and work from there. Your planner will evolve as your life changes.

Simplicity that's relevant to you

I agree with everyone else about keeping it simple.

However, sometimes it's hard to know what is simple and Relevant to your life.

That can often be the problem with many organisation books, they often don't help you identify the best way for you to collect your thoughts and actions.

So here are a few questions for you to think about -

- When was the one time you felt more organised and enjoyed the organisation process?
(For example, was it at school or organising your wedding or doing a favourite hobby or playing a sport? etc)

- What was it about the process you used then that worked well for you?
(For example, a high school timetable, a wedding planner's 'to do' checklist, a pattern book, sporting rules and competitiveness, etc)

- What about that process that you really liked can you use in your organising your life?
For example -
timetabling your day as though each hour is a school class including 'class times' for errands and playing with the children, studying, specific 'projects', etc,
creating one gigantic task list with dates and a big reward at the end
outlining what you have to do by when and being creative within the outline
listing lots of quick to do items with firm rules and goals around them
something else

Finding that thing that worked for you may (and can) make it a lot easier for you to find a simple effective system that suits you and you'll be able to keep following easily.

I like that idea too

The idea of a big reward in the end is a good one. I am glad I asked because you all have given me so many things to think about. I am going to start working on it today. I want to make it simple and relevant what I have now just isnt workng as far as the topics go.

Keep the suggestions coming it is really helping me to find out how to tweak it to my life. Thankfully with circa I can rearrange it as many times as I want to!

Big Rocks, Little Rocks

Hi I don't normally post but your situation is very similar to mine (30, new baby, returning to work and study).

I can't remember who's system it is but it's based on the old rocks in a jar story - basically what are the big rocks in your life?

Mine are: Family, Home, Work, Open University, Weightwatchers, GirlGuiding

So, other than diary and contacts I have a section in my planner for each of those - family and home are seperate as I follow Flylady for home; OU and Guiding sections have my study schedule and committees and Brownie planning in respectively; WW section has my menus and trackers

It works because they are the only things I WANT to think about, anything else is not a big enough part of my life be worth recording and needing to be accessed.

Hope this makes sense and helps you out, even a little bit


All great comments, nothing

All great comments, nothing really new to add in that respect. Be sure to check out the Forum Topic "On Top Of Your Game" for ideas. Several of us posted about our current set up in that thread. Maybe some of the things other people are doing will strike a chord with your own situation and inspire a solution tailored to you. Good luck!

Since you asked for

Since you asked for specifics, I will say that once upon a time, I had a really beautifully simple system. Blank pages for idea capture, a flag or paper clip marking the next blank page, and just a VERY few topics: To Do, Waiting For, Someday/Maybe, and "Stuff I Need to Return/Stuff I Lent Out."

Going to echo the feedback you've already gotten to not stress, and let things evolve over time. IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. Most of the planner/system angst I experience springs from my nasty perfectionist streak.

If it marginally works, keep working from those margins outward. Incremental change seriously does get you where you need to be.

Hi Stephanie I agree with

Hi Stephanie

I agree with alot of comments above but what I have found really helpful is to recognise what your roles are. I am a working mother of 2 and a student and have found this to work the best for me. No matter how you eventually work your planner, identifying what your roles are really helps you to feel balanced between work and home. Mine are: Work (broken down into 3 sections), Family (appointments, birthdays, to do's for the kids), Study, Home (chores), Personal. Then simply write down what you want or need to achieve in each of these areas during the week and schedule into your planner. Most importantly, don't forget the "personal" section so that you always make time for yourself. I spend a few minutes every Sunday night preparing my next week. As I am a perfectionist I have made a deal with myself that nothing I write in my planner is set in stone. I also use a pencil so that I can change things anytime I need to.

Hope I have helped and good luck on your new planner journey!

I'm a visual person- and I

I'm a visual person- and I like this one priority set up that you can find in the hpda section- it is a printout where you have four boxes: Important/Urgent, Important/Not Urgent, Not Important/ Urgent, Not Important/ Not Urgent. You may want to make one of those a week for the size planner you are using, and just stick it right in the front of your planner. I find them quite useful.

Stephanie, as a LONG-time

as a LONG-time student (finally finishing a PhD), I highly recommend that you have a space in your planner where you can break down assignments/projects into their necessary steps and schedule those in. I've found it really important to schedule my *process*, not just the deadline. For instance, it's easy to get distracted when it looks like you have a week with nothing due, and then be very stressed at the last minute. Instead, listen to the assignment instructions carefully, and consider what steps you'll need to take: going to the library, reading pt 1 of a given book, writing an outline, etc. Scheduling these in helps stay on top of things. The project outline templates on this site have worked for me.

Good luck!

Thanks for all the help!

I wanted to thank the DIY community, I am comforted by the support here I know that may sound strange to some. I have for quite a while been printing the templates and using this site but started posting only a few months ago because I didnt know what anyone was talking about. I did not even know what circa was! Now I am totally addicted, I love it all and have found it works well for me. With the help of all the comments I have decided to switch to a compact circa, from the Junior. This is because I felt that I was wasting paper and space in my bag with it and now find it much easier with my compact. I have tabbed all of my important items, calendar, home, school, projects and important to-do's. Then they are broken down a bit from there but not too much so that it gets confusing. For example my home tab has a notecard that outlines all the main things I need to accomplish at home daily...wash dishes, sweep, vacuum, clean up clutter, put away laundry etc. I know it may sound slightly patronizing but it helps me to see what I need to do and how much I have accomplished. School too is broken down into a to do, assignments, projects and my goals. I will see how this evolves, but it is looking good so far. Thanks everyone!


I struggled a lot during my first year of college to find a planner that worked for me. I tried some pre-made and home-made solutions, but they never worked. This year, I just got a blank notebook, and wrote the date at the top of each page. Then I just scribbled anything I needed to on the day's page. It's sloppy, but it works! And after a while, I started to develop a pattern for how things went in, and now I'm just about ready to crank out some printed sheets with exactly what I need on them. I started with nothing, which forced me develop my own system.

this sounds...

like a really great way to develop a system that works for you! You started with a blank page and will end up with a personalized system made just for you!

Great idea!
nay nay

There's some good ideas

There's some good ideas here!

I am a 37 year old working mum of 2 that is trying to study for a professional qualification. Unfortunately/fortunately it is a correspondence course so I don't have to find time to go to college for a class - which is the unfortunate side of it as things keep getting left till the last minute and suddenly housework is more important!!

I have just started with my new A5 Filofax and I looked at all the templates and immediately wanted one of everything! (just in case I missed a great one!) but then I decided that I wouldn't just jump straight life isn't that complicated or interesting!

So I've just printed off what I KNOW I'll need for now, a calendar, a few sheets of addresses and some notepaper - and that's it! Although I think I'm going to need some sort of study planner but I don't know what/how yet...

I don't really know at this stage what I need to plan about or how to do it so I think I am going to leave it until I find myself thinking 'I could do with something....' - there's some notepaper in there so I can just jot down what I'm thinking of creating then when it seems to be right, I'll create it!

I love the 'netmap' ideas but I can't find a template so I'll have to create my own! A couple of these in the back may well be just what I need to plan my next template...for something that I'll actually USE!


I've tried and I've tried to

I've tried and I've tried to use others' wonderful templates, as I couldn't have developed my own from a blank sheet of paper, but I almost always customize the template from what I use and what makes sense to me.

I keep several sheets of paper in my planner and those are 'entitled'

'Stuff I've Gotta Get Done Before...'



I'll use going to the cabin on Memorial Day as my example, with a blank page, I couldn't make a list if my life depended upon it. but if I put Cabin in the what part, I can think backwards....I imagine myself at the cabin and all of a sudden I can think of what I want with me, and what needs to be done.

this year, we had a puppy new to us, with us, (my husband's ONE mid-life crisis) I immediately remembered before the cabin, I needed to buy a life preserver for her, etc.

what helps with all my planner pages is to also turn the titles from nouns into VERBing so I can sense some time, otherwise there isn't any relevance to me.