Analog / Digital

Value of Tagging Things (part 1)

Every day our minds make constant associations between tasks and items and how we personally relate and shuffle them off into the large organizational box that is our brain. There can sometimes be no rhyme or reason to the connections, just a split second after thought about how we relate to the content being presented. Things that my friends say, get filed under friendship. Good books or music get filed into favorites. Even my daily work tasks get broken down into various short term associations called "priority list". Whereas many productivity books and college classes have us structure reports and research into hierarchical formats, our minds would rather make our own self identifiable connections based on the levels of what it deems valuable or important at each given moment. Our minds work like aggregators of content. And this concept of contextual sorting has gotten very popular online. It's called tagging and its the closest thing to representing how our brains create the bonded neural pathways on a computer and online.

This concept hit home for me the other day, while I was visiting and updating my 43Things list . I noticed that the site started allowing tags for each goal I listed on the page and thought that I should take advantage of the new feature. As I started marking each item, deciphering the context of how my brain wanted to relate to the information, the light-bulb turned on in my head. I wasn't just labeling and categorizing each goal, I was also defining what set of values were most important to me at that moment. For example, I have a goal on my list called, "Learn Japanese." Therefore I make a note in a field that this relates to languagestudies. Later on, down the list, I have another item called "Learn Latin." Seeing that this has similar features to my "learn Japanese" item, i reuse languagestudies and now have 2 items with this tag, instead of one. Making this field seem more important than the last. After associating everything on that list with some word(s) that my brain deemed worthy, I realized that tagging was much more than a system of categorization. Tagging things also helped me get a clearer picture of what interests I currently had and how important to my mind and my well being was. Of course, I also thought, what great material for an article, so here I am, talking about how tagging can be an important part of your productivity toolbox.

The PagePacker

PagePackerThanks to all the folks who emailed me about today's big D*I*Y Planner spotting: the uber-cool PocketMod-style Mac application called PagePacker, programmed by one of my personal OS X programming heroes, Aaron Hillegass. In case you haven't noticed the buzz on or, this is a sweet little layout program that allows you to drag and drop any of the Hipster PDA Edition (index card) templates into an eight-section grid, then print it out onto any letter-size sheet of paper to create a little folding book. It essentially creates a little portable, disposable planner. Bonus points are awarded for allowing other graphics to be dropped in as well.

A hearty welcome is extended to all the folks coming over from Big Nerd Ranch, LifeHacker, and all the other sites mentioning today. While you're here, please take a moment to look at our other free offerings, including the full Hipster PDA Edition (for printing onto index cards), the Classic/A5 Edition (for 5.5x8.5 or A5 sheets), and the many other templates created by our community, found in the Templates Directory.

By the way, don't forget that all our official templates (and many of the unofficial ones) will always be free for downloading and printing, as long as it's not mass-produced for commercial use. (See the licenses on the pages for more information.)

hPDA Expanding File

Make your own expanding file (like the popular Moleskine version) with as many pockets as you want.

Usage advice: 

This template is for a single expanding pocket. It's a little wider (0.5" wider, actually) than a standard 3x5 index card, and 2.75" high so the cards can be visible over the top edge. The pockets can be glued together to make a multi-pocket expanding file, similar to the Moleskine version. The only reason I made this is because I was too lazy to drive to the store and buy a Moleskine.

Another great modification/addition to this template would be gluing a flap-style cover over the top, so the cards aren't falling all over the place.

A few notes:

  • I used permanent double-sided tape to attach the tabs AND to attach the pockets together, and it works very well. It holds better than glue does right away, so I recommend it.
  • The corner fold (the only angled lines in the template) are a real pain in the neck, but don't lose hope, because it CAN be done. If Smead can do it, so can you. I find that it helps to fold the wide sides of the pocket up, and then mash the corner fold in there BEFORE cutting any tabs out.
  • I used cover-weight (65-lb.) cardstock for this, and since I was gluing more than one pocket together, it provided the right flexibility but was still sturdy enough when done. Anything thicker might be too hard to fold properly.
  • Last tip: scoring the creases (with the dull side of a butterknife, or a letter opener) helps the paper crease neatly. Use a ruler to guide the butterknife along the straight lines.

Also, there are two templates: one requires a printer capable of borderless letter-size printing, and has 2.75"-high sides all the way around. The other template can print on any printer that can handle half-inch margins, but the "expanding" sides of the pocket are only 2.25" high.

Paper size: 
Index Card (3 x 5)
Creative Commons
Applications required: 
PDF Reader (Adobe Reader, Mac OS X Preview)

Resolutions: The DIY Planner Way

New year spawns new resolutions. Thanks to Steve, we're seeing a lot of ideas on who's planning on tackling what in 2007. What better way to start out the new year right by coming up with a new list of thoughts and ideas for you to accomplish throughout the new year. And of course, your planner makes it easy to let you dream big and accomplish your resolutions. How? Well, listen on.

Color Coded Organization

Before I kick off today's article I wanted to wish you all a very Happy Christmas, Festivus, or Winter Solstice. May you have a wonderful holiday filled with lots of paper and productivity toys. Here's looking forward to another great year of forms, articles and hacks in 2007!

Earlier this week I was musing over how to reorganize the types of information that come to me and how to quickly identify and sort each type into their permanent homes. The following is a quick and simple, but powerful way to wrangle your thoughts: according to color. This method works great for people who tend to keep multiple journals or like to separate out information into different "piles." I know some people like to keep their GTD items in one book, thoughts and plots for stories in another and spiritual ramblings in a third. I know I tend to think in categories and prefer my information in neat, organized piles myself. For those of you who carry multiple journals in some huge bag, at all times, this new idea may sound scary at first. But if you like this idea, give it a shot and feel free to make modifications according to what works best for you. You'll also love this tip if you are trying to pare down your lifestyle and make things a bit more simplistic.

Envelope-style Hipster Cases

Two envelope-style cardstock cases for hipster PDAs (index card stacks). One fits about 30 cards, the other about double that. No gluing required.

Usage advice: 

Print out both pages on heavy cardstock (I used 110lb Card Stock, not the lighter-weight Cover Stock). I say print both just because you might decide you want a bigger or smaller box after you see how it folds up, so you might as well do them both. But the template is only one letter-size sheet. I would expect that A4 would work, just don't resize the image before printing. Trimming the image would be fine.

Cut around the edges of the image with a scissors. This will make a plus-shaped piece of cardstock.

Decide how you want your box to be closed. You have several options:
* Tab-and-slot. This is the default. It won't close very tightly, but it won't pop open spontaneously I don't think. If you want this, cut the diagonal lines on the top flap to make the flap come to a broad point. Then slice the slot on the bottom flap with an X-acto knife (or other sharp blade).
* Velcro dot. You can cut along the diagonals or not as you wish, but don't cut the slot. Stick the dot to the top flap first, then use that to place the dot on the bottom flap. The self-adhesive dots are pretty easy to work with.
* Ribbon-tie. You can cut small slots for the ribbon to pass through or not as you please. Cut the point in the top flap or not as you please.
* Rubber band. Don't cut the slot. Cut the point if you want. Just wrap a rubber band around it all to keep it closed.
* Binder clip. The larger box requires a 1.25" clip. The smaller one will take a 3/4" clip. I recommend NOT cutting the top flap to a point, simply because the rectangular flap will give you more places to put the clip.

Finish your cutting based on your decision (above).

Use the blunt rounded side of a butter knife (not the side with the teeth) to score along the remaining lines. Just press down so you can see that the fibers have been squished by the knife. This will help you fold more easily. You can skip this if you want, but your folds will be much cleaner if you score the lines. Use a ruler with a metal edge to guide the knife in a straight line.

Fold all of the horizontal and vertical lines. Fold them all in the same way, so all the flaps stand up when you're finished. I folded mine so the printing would be inside the finished box, but you could do the opposite if you want the lines to show on the outside of the box.

Put your stack of cards inside the box. Fold the short flaps in, then the long flaps. Close the box using your preferred method.

Paper size: 
Public Domain
Applications required: 
PDF Reader (Adobe Reader, Mac OS X Preview) or

For the Love of LaTeX

LaTeX LionBy coming the words love and latex in the same breath, I suspect that many of you will run away in abject horror, lest you hear me reveal some personal (and quite uninvited) revelation about my sex life. Fear not, gentle reader. I'm not discussing intimate matters, nor even the rubbery glove substance beloved by home lobotomists. Moreover, the LaTeX of which I refer is even pronounced differently: lay'-tech. I'm talking about a mark-up language with a long and proud heritage.

Now, I don't generally discuss technical matters very much in this venue. Many visitors come here to get away from such things. But there's something pure, something back-to-basics, about this for which certain among you (who have not already used it) might find an appreciation.

Year a page (A4) 2006/2007

This template provides a year per A4 (landscape) page.

There are two versions:

  • Weekdays as rows (2006)
  • Day of month as rows (2006 & 2007)
Usage advice: 

Use it as holiday planner for yourself and/or your coworkers.

Includes the OpenOffice 2.0 Template.

Paper size: 
Creative Commons
Applications required: 
PDF Reader (Adobe Reader, Mac OS X Preview), OpenOffice 2.0

Managing Information Leaks

Liz Fulghum is a multi-disciplinary creative professional living and working in southern Tennessee. She is currently working as the lead designer at a screen printing company. In her spare time, she often does freelance design/development, illustrates, and writes for various publications. She is also working to finish her time-machine which will give her more time to keep up with her personal projects including

I work at a screen printing company where, like most production businesses, almost all the tasks and information we manage are job-centric. Customer communication, product, artwork proofs, and scheduling revolve around specific jobs. Unlike a lot of other companies in our industry, our company uses a custom-built online workflow tracking system (unfortunately not available to the public yet) that does a fantastic job tracking what’s going on in each department, as well as what’s coming down the pike.

But what happens to the information that is outside the scope of any one job (or applies to a job that hasn’t been confirmed yet) and can’t fit into one of the neat cubbyholes that our workflow system has?