Analog / Digital

Essential Links [Depreciate Febuary 11th 2006]

Essential Links

Shameless plug: buy from any of the Amazon links below, and you can help me afford ink and paper to test new templates. ;-)

Planner Tips [Depreciate Febuary 11th 2006]

Tips

  • Carry your planner everywhere. This is your outboard brain. You wouldn't want to leave home without your brain, would you?
  • Make sure you fill out the Profile form at the beginning of the planner. If you lost your mind, wouldn't you like somebody to return it?
  • There are so many possibilities for using the templates in this package that the sheer number of options can be intimidating, even paralysing. My best advice: start small, and build up your planner as needed.
  • Put aside a few hours of dedicated time to "move in" before you start to seriously use your planner. Enter birthdays, main contacts, the next month of appointments. Fill your zip pouch with stamps, paper clips, blank tab labels and quarters. Create a few personal lists, like "To Buy" or "Old friends to locate". Refresh yourself on each project by filling out the pertinent project, goals or objectives forms. Make a Checklist of "Things to put in my planner" and keep it in the Misc Lists tab; as you come up with each new thing you want, jot it down. Whenever you have spare time, move more contacts, appointments and reference lists into the planner until you have everything you need on a daily basis.
  • Planners, especially paper-based ones, aren't just for planning. They're also for dreaming. Sketch ideas, keep a journal, make doodles of people, brainstorm your perfect life. Who knows where your next project will come from? Keep a yellow-dot tab called Ideas if you need to.
  • Stick to your reviews religiously. Check your red-dot tabs (Actions, etc.) at least once every single day, preferably first thing in the morning; refresh at the end of day. Ensure that projects won't stall: always write down the next action or two and keep the momentum going. Green-dot tabs should be reviewed weekly, and your Next Actions sheets should be populated appropriately. Yellow-dot tabs should be reviewed at least once per month, or whenever you have some spare time and are feeling creative. Blue-dot tabs are for reference, and should be reviewed when you need to find filed-away information.
  • Keep Next Actions small, doable, and short-term. Putting anything too big or too vague (like "Plan for wedding," "Paint a masterpiece," or "Do website") will stick on your list forever and only inspire fear and procrastination. What is the first small step I need to do to keep this project moving forward? Got it? Good! Write it down.
  • Avoid bulk at all costs. Each extra ounce is another reason not to carry your planner. Resist the urge to fill it with all kinds of templates that you won't use. This may be your biggest challenge if you're just getting started with this system.
  • Write down everything of note into the pages of your Inbox if you're not sure where else to put it. Move it into the correct section as soon as possible, rewriting or summarising as necessary
  • Keep your Inbox empty. This is one of the hardest, but most productive, disciplines to master.
  • The first of every month, clear out all the information and projects you no longer need. File them away for safe-keeping and later reference.
  • Everybody is different: this system is only a recommendation, not set in stone. You shouldn't feel afraid to customise your planner when the need arises. After all, if it doesn't serve your purposes, you won't use it. It should be in a continual state of evolution, adapting to your environment and shedding unused features. Think thoroughly about any modifications, though, just in case there's a risk of lessening your productivity.
  • If you're a disciple of David Allen, read a section of the bible (i.e., Getting Things Done) every week. Not only will this provide you with more organisational tips and inspiration, it'll help keep GTD methods in the front of your mind.

Setting Up Your Planner [Depreciate Febuary 11th 2006]

Setting Up Your Organiser

This system was created to be highly tweakable and organisationally agnostic, so feel free to build and fill your planner however you want. However, to get you started with a very basic GTD implementation, I'd suggest the following as a base:

  1. Front of planner:
    • A cover, preferably of high-quality card stock (slick, if you have it), with a Profile form on the opposite side -- don't forget to fill it out;
    • A dual-sided sheet of the GTD basic and advanced diagrams, printed on card stock for durability; and
    • The dual-sided Important Numbers form.
  2. Contacts: use your purchased forms and tabs. "Move in" by writing down the most important personal and business contacts. Use pencil, if possible: contact information changes a lot. (Note: the previous version of the DIY Planner made mention of keeping contacts later. However, I've found that since I change the contacts far less often than the actions and projects, it's better to keep the latter two nearer the centre of the planner -- it's easier to add and remove pages when they are closer to where the  rings open.)
  3. Calendar tab: your calendar (a.k.a. your "hard landscape"). Mark your current date with the "Today" clip-in. Transfer all birthdays, anniversaries and personal dates into the calendar. (You should keep a separate list of these, so you can populate each new year's calendar with it.)

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

    • Day Keeper on each page
    • Day Keeper opposite GTD All-In-One
    • Weekly Planning on each page
    • Weekly Planning opposite GTD All-In-One
    • Weekly Planning opposite Covey Weekly
    • Monthly Planning spread
  4. Actions tab: populate with:
    • Next Actions for each context (Office, Home, Errands, Online, etc.)
    • Waiting For for each context
    • Agendas
    • Optional: A Covey Quadrant or two, if you're so inclined

    If you have a lot of Waiting For and Agendas forms, you can create other tabs for them. Mark all these tabs with red dots, which signify immediate review (think red = hot).

  5. 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, Brainstorm, Checklist, Goal Planning, To Buy, Notes

    Mark these tabs with green dots, signifying weekly review.

  6. Someday/Maybe (or Incubate) tab: fill with a handful of Someday/Maybe Quicklist and Someday/Maybe Projects sheets. Mark with yellow dot (occasional review).
  7. Read/Review tab: a few Checklist forms with appropriate headers ("Websites to Review", "Articles to Read", "Reports/Proposals", etc.). Yellow dot: review when you have time to spare.
  8. 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.
  9. Misc Lists:
    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 : 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
  10. 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.
  11. Any other tabs you'd use frequently, such as Timesheets, Finances, etc.
  12. 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.

Printing How-To [Depreciate Febuary 11th 2006]

Here are some basic guidelines for printing and preparing the templates. Be sure to read all of these, and understand them, before you begin printing.

  1. There are three different PDF files included within this package. The master file diyp2.pdf and the GTD diagrams file diyp2_gtd.pdf should both be printed on 5.5"x8.5" paper (half letter size), while the receipts design diyp_receipts.pdf should be printed on regular letter size (8.5"x11") paper. If you don't have 5.5"x8.5" paper, you can always use a guillotine to cut regular letter size paper in half.
  2. These templates are designed for Adobe Acrobat 6.0 and up. There is no guarantee that they will work in anything older, nor other PDF applications.
  3. In Acrobat, do not tell its printing dialog to rotate, center or resize. If you do, the templates probably won't print right. Also, don't worry about the margins: an effort was made to ensure that there is enough "safety space" around the templates so that nothing important is lost. (Most printers made in the past few years can easily print to within 1/4" of the edge.)
  4. For the receipts envelope file, follow the instructions printed on the side of the page. Again, don't resize, rotate or worry about the margins -- enough of the straight lines should remain that you can figure out where to cut. I'd advise using a slightly stiffer paper for the envelope, as well as a dry glue stick: anything else, and you will probably find it warping.
  5. All odd pages in the master file are for the right side of the planner rings (the "fronts"), while even pages are the left side (the "backs"). Consequently, page 1 is backed by page 2, page 3 is backed by page 4, and so forth. If you have a fancy duplex printer and print the entire booklet, everything will work out perfectly.
  6. Experiment with your printer to verify orientation and print faces before printing any great number of them. For example, I print the odd side (front) of a form, flip the paper horizontally, insert it again, and print the even side (back). Some printers will require flipping or rotating pages in a different direction to print on the back.
  7. To get started, I'd advise printing one form at a time --front, then back-- until you get the knack. Double-check to make sure things line up, and that holes can be punched right. Once you have that down, I advise only printing a batch of the same templates at one go; for example, print off a batch of Next Actions odd, backed by Next Actions even, before you select another template.
  8. If you look at the margins, it should be obvious where you should use your hole punch (that is, the widest margin). Double-check the flip side of your page: if it looks as though the hole will be punched in a space that isn't white, you've made a mistake in printing.
  9. Feel free to mix and match templates fronts and backs. For example, you may find that you prefer a two-week spread (Weekly Planning on both sides), rather than facing each week with a GTD All-In-One or a Covey Weekly. Many templates are offered in this package as both odd and even pages, so go ahead and experiment -- see what works for you.
  10. Many inkjets use colour ink to mix greyscale pages (including my Canon i350), but you may not be aware of this until you notice your colour ink cartridges getting uncomfortably low. Unless you want to go through a lot of expensive ink, make sure to tell your print dialog to only print greyscale. I created a medium-DPI black-ink-only profile under OS X called "DIY Planner" and select this whenever I print a template; this saves a lot of pointing and clicking, and prevents me from using up all the colour inadvertently. (Presently, there are only two templates that are in colour: the cover and the second GTD diagram.)

Template Descriptions [Depreciate Febuary 11th 2006]

Template Descriptions

The accompanying PDF files contain a number of templates, most of which are in the main file diyplanner2.pdf.  If you print the entire file as a booklet on a duplex printer, everything should work well -- however, I certainly recommend printing only one template at a time in the desired numbers to minimise wastage. See the Printing How-To later on for more information.

Covers (& Kit)
In this package, you will find a directory called covers/ with the following files:

  • cover_waterlilies.pdf: This is the "default" cover for the D*I*Y Planner, a pond scene with yellow water lilies. There are two versions in this file, one with a large image and one with a small centred image.
  • coverkit_ooo1.sdx: This is an OpenOffice.org 1.x Draw template for creating your own cover. See the Creating a Cover section for a detailed how-to.
Profile
This form is for owner information such as your name, phone numbers and email address, as well as for an emergency contact. You should certainly take the time to fill this out as soon as possible. If your planner were to be lost, these details can help a kindly soul return it to you. Note that this template is generally meant to be put on the flip side of your cover so that it's easy to find.
Important Numbers
These are all the numbers you need in an emergency, in one place, so you don't have to go digging for  information if a crisis occurs. Take a half-hour and find the numbers for your local hospital, fire department, poison control centre, landlord, etc. The flip side of the template is for other numbers such as babysitters, drugstores, copy centres, technical/computer helpdesks, crisis hotlines, support groups and pizza places.
Day Keeper
By popular demand, here is an undated daily planner, complete with hours from 8 am to 6 pm, an actions list, a slot for evening plans, and a general notes section. (As many other daily planning solutions have copyrighted names, I've decided to name this after the ancient Mayan shaman-priest time keepers. Hopefully, there aren't some really old Meso-Americans out there with a lawsuit in mind.)
Weekly Planning
An undated and fairly basic weekly planner. Face it in a spread with another week, a Next Actions page, a GTD All-In-One page, or a Covey Weekly template (according to your organisational religion).
Monthly Planning
An undated and fairly basic monthly planner. The front and back work like a spread. The "Quickscan" has a number of possibilities: a "quick list" of all the days of the month with major events (à la Day Runner Pro); a short list of to-do items; a list of priorities; what bills are to be paid and when; or which day each batch of homebrew is going to be ready. Hey, it's a tweakable system: you decide how to use it.
Covey Weekly
Even if you don't subscribe to Covey's methods, this is still an effective way to manage your various roles, goals and actions, so it can be applied to GTD-style methods as well. If you're interested in this approach, I'd highly recommend you read First Things First (see the Essential Links section), but here's the gist.... The "Sharpen the Saw" box is where you can focus on your long-term goals and expand your current horizons by ensuring that you have stated weekly objectives based upon the following areas: Physical, Social/Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. (Good advice, methinks: I usually forsake one or more to concentrate on the others.) The "roles" are the various roles you play in your life, such as father, husband, business executive, chairperson, volunteer, etc.; balance your life by ensuring goals or actions are present in each. Link these to your actions list(s) or your schedule (your hard landscape, in GTD). Yes, this is a very basic description --and probably not a lot of help to you-- but that's why I advocate reading plenty of books, the tree-killer that I am. (Based upon the writings of Stephen R. Covey.)
GTD All-In-One
This is for those people who would like a handy all-in-one form to use opposite their calendar pages. This contains places for Next Actions and Waiting For items, as well as a place to jot important notes. This is aimed squarely at GTD methodologies (hence the name), but is generic enough to be used by almost anybody. If you maintain a separate tab for Actions --as I do-- you can write the context atop at the right. (Based upon the writings of David Allen.)
Next Actions
The quintessential engine behind the GTD methodology, the Next Actions form is where you actually get things done. You can keep these forms in your Actions tab and set contexts like "Office", "Home", "Errands", "On the Road" and others, depending on how and where you work. When you do your weekly review of projects, write down the next actions (remember: short, doable items) for each one into the appropriate context. Tick off each one as you get it done. Set deadlines as needed. Prioritise too, if you need to. (I'm not getting into the finer points of GTD here. Obviously, you should read the book if you want to make the most of this.)
Waiting For
Use this form to take care of those tasks which you have delegated to others, or are waiting for someone else to complete. Space is included for the task, the due date, the delegate, the delegated date, a note, and a priority. Like Next Actions, keep the Waiting For lists in clear context, and review them frequently. Check each one off when done.
Agendas
Use this form to set up agendas for each person or meeting for which you have to remember things. For example, you may create an agenda for your boss, and as you think of each topic you need to bring up or discuss, write it down. The next time you have to speak with him or her, whip out the list and be sure to impress with your top-notch organisational skills. Or at least not appear like a scatter-brained employee who forgets everything except paydays.
Someday/Maybe Quicklist
Inspired by GTD, this is basically a list for gathering all those fleeting brainstorms, quirky ideas, productivity bits, project seeds and other items that strike you as something you'd like to do someday, maybe. This quicklist is perfect for brief items like "Learn pbpaste", "Check into doing an MBA", "Read Python tutorial", "Send Merlin Mann a love note", "Talk to Phyllis about breeding hamsters", etc.. Don't forget to write down a reason so you can remember why you found the idea interesting, or at least rationalise how silly or inconsistent you might be on a day-to-day basis.
Someday/Maybe Projects
This is for more thought-out someday/maybe items, the sort of things that probably come to you in the middle of the night when you're lying in bed and get really excited by some project idea that either slips away with sleep, or seems like patent lunacy in the light of day. I tend to jot down rough notes first, then migrate them into these forms when they start to make sense. I have hundreds of these projects, 99% of which are ridiculous. From the 1% that did make sense, this D*I*Y Planner was born.
Goal Planning
A simple template to identify and plan for your missions and goals. Rather like an Objectives form with many, many steps. Especially suited for mid- to long-term personal projects like getting physically fit or learning new subjects. (Based upon the writings of Stephen R. Covey.)
Objectives
Use the Objectives sheet for outcomes-based notes and planning. Each of these can be a "mini-plan," or compliment a full project plan as a sub-project. Outline the benefits, obstacles and steps to meeting the objective. You can set a date, priority, and description for each objective as well. You may use the "Outcome" field either as a note describing the final outcome, or as a place to visualise what the successful outcome will be. (Whichever you find more effective, being a by-product of the way in which you approach projects.)
Covey Quadrant
Despite adhering to GTD, some folks (myself included) tend to find Stephen Covey's Urgency/Importance quadrant diagram handy for setting out weekly tasks. In a nutshell, he emphasises that you should avoid Q3 and Q4 activities and concentrate as much as possible on Q2 when you're not doing Q1. It's not GTD in its canonical sense, but sometimes this process can help to better judge those tasks which deserve to be in your action lists, and to focus on those important forward-thinking items that aren't on your radar because they don't seem so urgent at any given moment. The usage of this form is fairly easy to understand: map your current and upcoming tasks and needs to the appropriate place in the diagram, and make your decisions based upon their location. This is another way of making decisions about Next Actions. You'll find a little more information on the c2 Wiki, SharedVisions, and of course his books (see the Essential Links section).
To Do
A simple and generic to-do list. Among other possibilities, I use this to record all the little and varied tasks I need to accomplish for small projects that are not finitely planned-out. These can be carried into Next Actions forms.
Project Details
(Note to v1 users: the former Project Outline template has now been split into two: Project Details and a revised Project Outline form. Adjust your neural pathways accordingly.) Before undertaking a project, you should think carefully about everything you need to bring the project to a successful outcome, and then document these things. Use the front page of this form to give your project a title, a deadline, and then list your objectives or description -- fill this in, lest you lose focus. Note your basic resources, such as your main team members, equipment, references, etc., and use the rest of the page for sketches and notes. The flip side of the form is for the nitty-gritty. What's the budget and associated restrictions? Who exactly is going to be involved, and what's the best way to contact them? What locations are going to be used, either by way of office, production or shoot? What are the primary materials needed, and are the costs? Use the rest of the form to note other project-related requirements (rentals, paperwork to be filed, clearances to obtain, copyrights to clear, etc.). Once you know this, you can move on to the Project Outline.
Project Outline
This form is used for planning out medium-sized projects (you can use an Objectives form for small projects, but I recommend using specialised project management software for large ones). Project Outline is a natural continuation of the Project Details form, and you should break down your description and objectives further for the front page of this template: be succinct! Summarise your main obstacles and the solutions for them. Use the rest of the form for detailing the main steps needed to bring your project to a wildly successful outcome. (I often suggest people use scratch paper or a whiteboard, and then work backward from the desired outcome to where they are today; however, you will find a hundred ways to plan out a project, depending upon who you ask.)
Project Notes
This is a simple grid that you can use to write project notes, draw diagrams, create lists, outline topics, create hierarchies, devise strategies for disposing of a troublesome team member, etc..
Contact Log
When you're working on a project, you often need to talk to people and write notes and deadlines based upon those conversations. The Contact Log gives you a place to put all the contact's details in one place, summarise each conversation, and schedule follow-up calls (or email).
Sources
This is a handy little form to keep track of people and businesses pertinent to a particular project or subject. Some ideas: a "yellow pages" for types of restaurants; a mailing list; suppliers for a project; mail-order or online stores for your hobbies; invited people for a wedding or party; local computer stores; singing messengers that are willing to dress in gorilla suits.
Notes
The catch-all for everything that won't fit in another form. There are two variations, one light and one dark. Some suggestions:

  • Information that wouldn't fit entirely on other forms (e.g., further details for a project outline, such as more resources, contact people, procedures, etc.)
  • A daily journal, listing things done and when
  • Rough notes taken during meetings or phone calls that you'd want to move to a pertinent section
    later
  • Technical information for mail, servers, networks, etc.
  • Schedules for events
  • People to keep in touch with on a regular basis
  • Restaurants or stores to check out
  • List of birthdays (keep a master list, and copy these dates into your calendar each year)
  • Outlines for reports or other documents
  • Suggestions for improvements to these templates ;-)
  • ...and so much more...
Cornell Notes
Forms for "The Cornell Note Taking System," created by an emeritus professor at Cornell named Walter Pauk. Two versions are included: one features a soft grid for the notes and lines for the summary; the other has mainly blank space. For larger PDF files suitable for a letter-size planner, as well as instructions on how to use this system, go to American Digest's Free Cornell Note Forms.
Brainstorm
A simple graph-paper grid for brainstorming ideas, sketching, outlining, diagrams, etc..
Matrix (Portrait & Landscape)
These are generic forms used for table-based information, one having portrait orientation and one landscape. Suggested uses: exercise tracking; comparison shopping; weight-loss program progress; project task allocation and/or deadlines; distance between various locations; student grading; district financial reports; home brewing records; science experiments; timesheets; hamster breeding results.
Checklist
Generic checklist. Possible uses: read/review forms; things to pack for vacation; items on loan; books to find at the library; project materials lists; preparation for event launches; and beautiful women/men who haven't yet turned you down for a date. Check off as appropriate.
Trip Diary
If you're one of those people whose job mandates car travel and keeping track of mileage, this form is for you. Use it to keep track of dates, destinations, and odometer readings.
To Buy
This is just a handy little form for keeping track of all the things you need to purchase. Simply write in your "topic" (such as Music, DVDs, Computer Equipment, Books, Electronic Gear, Home Improvement, Christmas Gifts, etc.) and keep track of the store and cost. Check them off as you get them. If you need to
purchase materials for a project, you can use a copy of this form there as well.
Shopping
Simple checklist-based template for groceries, office supplies, and any other list of items that you'll need to purchase while out on errands.
Finances
This is a fairly simple template to keep track of... uhm... finances. The title can be the type of account, the job involved, the project docket, or any other designation. Typical columns for date, item name, amount and whether the transaction is cash, debit card (ATM, etc.), credit card or cheque.
Equipment
Having a fair amount of computer equipment and audiovisual gear, I've been unduly negligent at keeping records about makes, models, costs, serial numbers, and whether things are insured or not. Now I don't have an excuse. Includes small checkboxes for those people toting gear around that want to note whether something is packed or not. (Tip: before leaving on a trip with the gear, photocopy the page for each time you'll need to pack it all up again; check off the boxes as you pack.)
Job Search
One of the problems with job hunting is keeping track of all the possible jobs, descriptions, deadlines, contacts, requirements, interviews and call logging. This form is meant to help you focus on one job opportunity at a time and keep track of all pertinent information. Also designed to help you zero in on your strengths and weaknesses for the position, so you may tailor your resume, cover letter or interview responses appropriately.
Story Idea
I debated whether to include this template or not, as it's less of an organisational template and more of a form for creative purposes. Since I had it done anyway, I included it just in case anybody else downloading this package had a similar need: I use it for coming up with ideas for short stories, essays and other writings. Again: if you don't need it, don't bother printing it.
Web Design I
This is a basic web design template useful for jotting down ideas, objectives, client info, target audience details, and a preliminary sketch for look and feel. I recommend putting a Brainstorm or Project Notes template on the other side, or preferably leaving it blank (so sketches or notes don't show through the paper). This is one of those more specialised templates for which most people wouldn't have a use unless they venture into web design/development territory. However, since many downloaders of the D*I*Y Planner seem to be technically inclined, I figured that including it would not go amiss.
Web Design II
The "continuation" of Web Design I, this is a helpful template for tracking revisions. Also includes a sign-off area at the base, if you're doing this for a particular client: this is very handy for keeping both the webdev and client teams on track. I'd keep the back of this sheet blank, so any scribblings au verso do not mess up your drawing.
Receipts
While you're on the go, use this to hold and keep track of your receipts. This form is included as a separate file, since it should be printed on 8.5"x11" paper and folded. Follow the instructions on the bottom of the page, and it should turn out fine. When cutting, err on the inside of the lines and not the outside, or it may not fit together very well.
GTD Diagrams
As mentioned in the Introduction, these are two PDF files downloaded from the DavidCo site. They have simply been resized and positioned for your planner printing convenience. The first is the basic Getting Things Done diagram as found in the book, and the second is a more advanced diagram suitable for experienced GTD users with good vision. Print the latter in colour with a high DPI resolution

Basic Supplies [Depreciate Febuary 11th 2006]

You should be able to go out to your favourite office supply store or department store and pick up a lot of the basics at a very low cost. Although your needs will most likely be different from mine, here is a little list to get you started.

  1. Purchase a planner that takes 5.5"x8.5" pages. There are plenty of generic planners available at department stores for about $10-20: usually the price is an indication of quality in both cover and pages. The planner you choose should take into consideration your personal style, the intended use, availability and cost. Some recommendations:
    • Day Runner "Classic": The Day Runner company makes excellent (and sometimes pricey) planners that are often a great fit for professionals because of a wide range of cover options and a large selection of templates with an emphasis on project management, finances and other big business needs. Often the first choice among organisational geeks, especially those with corporate aspirations. Unfortunately, their website is currently buggy, unfriendly, and you have to live in the U.S. to order a catalogue (booo!). Day Runner also has an upscale "Pro" series (but be careful of the number of rings -- see below).
    • Day-Timer "Desk": Planners meant for everybody else, including students, coaches, on-the-go moms, fitness buffs, etc.. Available in a wide range of covers and with quite a variety of "look and feels" (e.g., beach, sunset, mountains, sports). While they don't manufacture as many "professional" templates, they do have quite the range of planner styles, shapes, sizes and levels of quality, as well as a number of "non-professional" templates like ones for journalling, counting calories, handling diabetes, American Heart Association activity logs, etc.. Free catalogue at the DayTimer.com website (mine arrived, U.S. to Eastern Canada, in less than two weeks). Note: the Day-Timer Desk size has --if I remember correctly-- seven rings for its pages. The only hole punch I've seen for this has been a Day-Timer one selling for $35 USD, found in their catalogue.
    • Franklin-Covey: I would be remiss not to mention Franklin-Covey and their website, since Covey's methodologies and ideas are prevalent enough to find a place within this package. That being said, their planners are pretty scarce in this neck of the woods, and so I've never even seen one up close. I do believe that the "Classic" size is actually 5.5"x8.5", but please verify this before you purchase. They do have quite a number of interesting planners and refills on their website, though, so go check them out.
    • Mead (which is also the owner of the Day Runner line) makes some decent-quality planners for about $10-15 USD. They also produce the At-A-Glance templates, which are cheaper than the Day Runner ones, but still of good quality. (These are the ones you're likely to find in your local department store stationery aisle.)
    • Beware of super-cheap department store models: the vinyl often breaks apart easily at the corners and seams, creating an edge that can rip your fingers to shreds. That being said, get the best quality you can rightly afford: you can always "upgrade" later, should your usage warrant it. (Many of the forms found inside those planners can be tossed out: they have the consistency of toilet paper, the smell of formaldehyde, and the English of a low-budget Hong Kong martial arts film.)
    • Get a type that suits your environment -- not just for working, but for carrying. For example, I often have to tote mine through inclement weather and rough conditions, so I opted for a full zippered enclosure that would keep the insides dry and well-contained.
    • If you are using a planner along with a PDA, you can actually buy planners with sleeves or velcro attachments for it. Bring your Palm (or PocketPC or Zaurus, or whatever) along with you while you're shopping so you see how it fits. Pay careful attention that the PDA can't be crushed, or its screen scratched. You can also get a "PDA holder" that snaps into your rings. In my experience, these are awkward at best.
    • Make sure it's roomy enough for your papers without being too bulky. Too slim, and it'll be bursting at the seams; too big, and its bulk will discourage you from carrying it. Get whatever feels "portable" to you. Account for your PDA, if necessary: it'll probably add at least a half-inch to the thickness. I find that a 1.5 inch ring is perfect for my needs.
    • If possible, get a planner with three rings, not six or seven (e.g., Day-Timer "Desk" size). More than three may help a little in keeping things in place, but it'll make forms more difficult to find and/or make. If you do prefer a planner with this configuration (the Day Runner "Pro" series also has more than three rings, I believe), make sure you track down a hole punch with the right placement and number of holes.
    • If you have the money to spare, there are a wide range of "fashionable" planners out there. From weathered and rugged calf-skin to embossed daisies to super-expensive hot pink Italian leather, you can probably find something that suits your personal style. (Perhaps this would be greater incentive to carry it with you everywhere?) Order a few catalogues and scour the Day-Timer, Day Runner and Franklin-Covey websites mentioned above if you're interested.
  2. If your planner doesn't come with good calendar pages or contact/address forms (although it probably does), you may wish to purchase these as well. Get "modern" address forms: look for the email boxes. The calendar should suit your appointment schedule: unless you're a very busy individual with lots of meetings, those calendars with months in two-page spreads should be sufficient. Otherwise, the two-page weekly spreads are probably enough. Resist the temptation to buy one-page-per-day calendars unless you need it: it's a lot of extra bulk. I recommend tabs for months and A-Z address sections to facilitate quick look-ups. (In D*I*Y Planner 2.0, there are now various types of undated calendars, but you may prefer to buy a dated set to make your life easier.)
  3. If your planner doesn't come with a "Today" plastic clip-in ruler insert, I recommend getting one so that you can find today's month (or week, or day) at a moment's notice. If you can't find one, look for a flexible plastic ruler (the type that doesn't snap if you bend it): line it up against one of your punched sheets, and punch holes to match. Cut a slit from each hole to the edge so you can insert it into your binder, and then round the edges of the slit slightly to make it easier to snap on the rings. Make sure that the top extends above the page by a tab's length, and then round the corners slightly so it won't cut you. Voila! Barring that, you can always use a coloured sticky, but that's not as convenient nor glamorous.
  4. Get a good pen that writes smoothly and fits well in your hand. People often like expensive fountain pens for this, but I like the Pilot G-2, which is nice to grip, writes fluidly, and is pretty cheap. The 0.5mm one is just the right balance of smoothness and line thickness for me. You might also want to pick up a decent mechanical pencil for writing things likely to change, such as addresses or brainstorm diagrams. If not, your planner will get messy fast.
  5. Optional: a clip-in calculator. I have an older Day Runner 043-111 solar calculator/ruler that's both thin and functional, but there are probably far better and slimmer ones out nowadays (mine is ten years old). You can also get a cheap credit-card sized one to adhere to the inside cover or slip into a business card slot.
  6. Other organiser forms: although I provide a number of templates, you may wish to purchase other (professional) ones to fill any gaps in your needs or workflow. Be careful: these can be expensive, and will suck your bank account dry if you buy everything you see "just in case." A potential source of addiction for organisational geeks.
  7. A "zipper" pouch insert (like a heavy zip-lock baggie) and some business card pages don't go astray; fill the former with stamps, paper clips, quarters, extra labels, etc., for convenience and emergencies.
  8. Most of the provided templates print onto 5.5"x8.5" paper. If you can't find this size, you can cut letter-sized paper in half. You can buy a decent guillotine from department stores for about $20-30 USD, and you'll no doubt find it handy for a million other things over the years.
  9. As for the hole-punch, be sure to find one that can punch the right holes: not as easy as you might think -- get a specialised three-hole punch from an office supply store, or one that can be adjusted to conform to different sizes/spacings. Many of the cheap ones do have sliding punches, but you might have to examine them carefully before you buy, as sometimes the boxes aren't very informative. (At a local office supply store, I found an Acco #50505-74003 with adjustable punches for less than $7 CDN, or about $5 US.) Some of the inexpensive ones don't have adjustable paper guides, but you can always mark the top and bottom with liquid paper or a white china marker. If you are so inclined, Day Runner has a clip-in hole punch (041-112), but it only punches a page or two at a time, and not that well. If you have a seven ring planner like the Day-Timer "Desk" size, it gets more complicated: you can purchase clip-in punches (about $10 US) and full-size ones (about $35 USD) from DayTimer.com or their catalogue.
  10. You can purchase a couple of sets of tabbed dividers, or you can make your own. If you choose the latter, I recommend 100-120 lb card stock and Avery self-adhesive "Shield Tabs" -- I found the clear ones (37107) at the local Wal-Mart for about $1.50 USD.
  11. If you like colour-coding (I recommend it for this planner), grab some Avery "Colour-Coding Labels" (44021), which are actually just red, blue, green and yellow dots ($1.50 USD).
  12. Get a few cheap pads of lined and blank note paper pre-punched for your planner. Some graph paper may come in handy, too. Make sure the pads are really 5.5"x8.5" or you're wasting your money -- there are slightly smaller and larger pads which you might pick up by mistake!
  13. Just because you'll always need them, no matter how organised you are, you might want to pick up some sticky notes. I keep two pads, one small and one medium-sized, on the inside front of my planner.
  14. Optional goodies: cheque book holder, floppy holder, CD-ROM holder, photograph holder, file pockets, clip-in wallet, page magnifier, and more. Remember, though: carry only what you need, or you won't be carrying your bulky planner anywhere.

What's New in D*I*Y Planner 2.0? [Depreciate Febuary 11th 2006]

What's New in D*I*Y Planner 2.0?

So what's new? Well, here are a few highlights. (If you haven't had any experience with a previous version of this planner system, feel free to skip over this information.)

  • New covers, with a template cover kit (using OpenOffice.org Draw) for creating your own.
  • New logo, and a slightly different name. (Note the asterisks.)
  • Plenty of new forms: there are more than three times as many templates in this package, over 50 altogether. Some are requests, some are new takes on old ones, and some are forms that I've designed to meet a personal need.
  • Every existing form has had some type of make-over. The same basic (i.e., "non-offensive") style has been kept for all templates, but a few subtle look-and-feel elements have been added to tighten up the design and help with the consistency. Speaking of consistency, there is now far more of it: I deviate only occasionally where I think it would allow for more efficiency or legibility.
  • There are some "alternatives" for V1 forms. For example, some people have no use for two full lines per item in Next Actions, and so I've made slimmer versions which only have one line per item. The V1 templates are also included, so you can choose whichever one best suits your style and methods. (Myself, I generally use two lines.)
  • Per request, the use of grey has been toned down in certain forms. Some pages, like the Notes templates, have both lighter and darker versions.
  • Some V1 forms have been broken apart into other forms. For example, the former Project Outline is now the revised Project Outline (with step-by-step planning) and Project Details (for listing objectives, resources, personnel, budget, etc.).
  • Included are more generic templates like Checklist, Matrix and Shopping, that are flexible enough to be used for many different purposes.
  • There are a few specialty templates, like Web Design I and Web Design II, which may be helpful to those working in certain industries. (Many more are planned for the future.)
  • The PDF file is no longer just 8.5"x11" with the need to print two per page, then cut (which we call 2-up). We also offer 1-up 5.5"x8.5" format. This way, you can use pre-cut paper if you have it, or just guillotine letter-size paper before printing (which is what I do). It also has the added benefit of making it very easy to produce an A5 version, which I’ll be working on just as soon as the North American version is out through the door.
  • Starting with version 2.0, the files will be split into different "packs," either for topic-related, formatting or logistical issues. For example, the Receipts template is in a file by itself, since it's a cut-out form based on larger paper, and the GTD diagrams are also in a separate file, since they weren't created by me (only resized to fit the planner).
  • Yes, I've succumbed to your requests: there are undated daily, weekly and monthly planning pages. Don't ever say I don't care about you folks. ;-)
  • More testing and tweaking has been done to account for the differences between laser and inkjet printers; there are still many variations in tonal quality (because of the underlying technologies), but all text and backgrounds should allow enough contrast for legibility. That being said, I use an inkjet most of the time, and thus the forms probably look slightly better on that style of printer.
  • Since my philosophy is to provide templates that cater to a highly-configurable (i.e., "tweakable") planning system which is malleable to the different needs and situations of many types of users, I've adopted two important goals when producing version 2.0:
    • Make allowances for alternative planning systems: besides GTD (which is still a primary design objective, since I use it daily), I've also provided many generic forms and a few Covey-inspired templates;
    • Mix and match: I've attempted to ensure that many forms can be printed on two sides of the paper, which means -- for example -- you can face a Weekly Planning page with a Covey-esque Weekly Goals (sharpen that saw!), another Weekly Planning page (for a two-week spread), a Next Actions page, a To Do list, or a GTD All-In-One. Experiment until you get a layout that works for you. Isn't it great to have options?

Introduction to the Handbook [Depreciate Febuary 11th 2006]

I'm not going to get into the whole cliché about how we're all different. Let it just suffice to say that the instructions and templates that I provide in these files are simply meant as a starting point to implementing a highly-customisable do-it-yourself planner system, based primarily on Getting Things Done.  Yes, you heard me right: a planner, with actual paper. (5.5"x8.5" paper, to be specific.)

So you're probably asking yourself, why is this person even advocating using paper in today's day and age, what with Palms, PocketPCs, TabletPCs, super-cellphones, groupware, wikis, Personal Information Managers such as Outlook, and every other digital data manipulation tool out there?

Well, there are a number of reasons to consider a paper-based planner, including:

  • You miss the quality of real writing using paper and pen.
  • You find it far easier to write down your thoughts or notes on paper, rather than struggling with PDA hand-writing recognition or typing.
  • You can't afford a portable digital organiser (such as a Palm or a laptop), or feel that it lacks a personal connection to you and your work.
  • You haven't come across a good digital workflow for getting your notes, your calendar, your contacts, your to-do's, and everything else to work seamlessly and intuitively for everything you do.
  • You're an organisational geek that thinks Day Runners were created by the gods, and toting around leather-bound collections of cool templates instills you with a profound sense of empowerment.
  • You're a disenfranchised techie who seeks to escape from the digital realm once in a while, and would even prefer stone-hewn tools to facing another machine. (How many virii or spyware programs have you been forced to eradicate from your clients' machines today?)
  • You find that the creative and technical halves of your brain don't always function as a team: handling technical work using a computer, while using paper for creative work, is a way of making peace between the two hemispheres, therefore increasing your effectiveness in both areas.
  • You're an organisational junkie constantly searching for new systems to tweak and play with.
  • You're "old-fashioned."
  • (Further thoughts on this topic can be found on my blog, especially the entry "Paper? Ain't that extinct?")

So if you fall within one of these categories (I've been all of these, at some point in time in the past year), you might want to consider giving pen-and-paper planners a try. In the efforts to give you a head-start, I've provided this handbook for building your own do-it-yourself planner, and a few PDF files containing the basic templates for most organisational activities.

This is not a primer on David Allen's Getting Things Done, sorry. If you visit organisational circles or productivity blogs, you've no doubt heard about this methodology a hundred times recently. Do yourself a favour, and buy the book -- see the Essential Links section to buy it from Amazon.com. Read it thoroughly, then come back here and set up your planner. That being said, there are enough generic templates included with this system to get you started, even if you aren't familiar with the book.

First, a few disclaimers and notes:

  1. I take no credit for the Getting Things Done diagrams in the diyplanner2_gtd.pdf file. They were originally PDF files found on the DavidCo site (links: Basic Diagram and Advanced Diagram) that were simply resized, reoriented and included within this package purely for your convenience. For appropriate credits, please see the base of each diagram. (If the original copyright owners wish me to no longer include them, or wish to include any of their own notes within this document, they are free to contact me and I'll be happy to oblige either way.)
  2. I provide no guarantee that this system is in full accordance with GTD. In fact, there are quite a few things that you won't find in Allen's books. That includes a little bit of Covey sneaking in here and there, especially with objectives and goals (roughly analogous to the GTD notion of altitude), along with a number of "organisationally-agnostic" templates. I don't find these ideas in opposition to GTD, but rather supplemental to it. Just use whatever you require, and disregard everything else.
  3. My organisational needs are no doubt dissimilar to yours. For example, I have very little financial work to be concerned with, but often have a full slate of project planning and management tasks to perform. I also have very few appointments on my calendar, but very hefty to-do lists. You may be exactly the opposite. I've tried to consider as many circumstances as is feasible, but there is only so much I can do with limited time and resources.
  4. This document is filled with random thoughts, vague ideas, potentially dangerous procedures (you may lose a finger or two), and seeming contradictions. This is not meant as a user-friendly "be all and end all" guide to implementing a planner system. It's simply a starting point to push you in one of many directions. (One of which might actually be the right one for you. Or not.)
  5. The only instructions within this document for implementing GTD are those that pertain directly to the templates or my suggested planner layout, especially when something might prove ambiguous (or not obvious) to someone who already knows GTD. As such, don't expect to learn the GTD process here. Have a look at the Essential Links section to find out more information about David Allen's works, and how others have summarised his methods. (Yes, I know I'm being redundant about this. For good reason.)
  6. I encourage feedback. Don't be afraid of letting me know what you think, or sending along any ideas for these or other templates. Please feel free to drop me a line at my website (www.douglasjohnston.net) -- I'd love to hear what you have to say.