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Frequently Asked Questions: Printing

This FAQ is for common questions that we get regarding how best to print the templates out. Please read this FAQ page in conjunction with your printer manual for the best results.

  1. I can't open these PDF files. What gives?

    Please make sure you are using Adobe Acrobat 6.0 or above. It should work fine with Apple Preview, xPDF and various other viewers, but these have not been thoroughly tested.

  2. Which paper should I choose for best results?

    We recommend a 'Bright White' inkjet paper (this type of paper works in laser printers and photocopies too.). The templates generally look best when printed on paper that has a brightness of 90+ and a weight of 24 lb (90 gsm). For the covers, try a good quality varnished or coated (shiny) card stock of 100lb (270 gsm) weight or higher.

  3. ...and card for the Hipster?

    You should certainly use coated (or otherwise hi-res) card stock. If not, you will experience some muddiness and bleeding of ink, making it difficult to read the small fonts. For example, we find 110lb (280-300 gsm) bright white card stock is absolutely perfect on one side (the one with the best coating), and very good on the other. However, the generic index (record) cards we picked up at the local department store result in small type that is almost illegible.

  4. What is the minimum printer resolution you recommend?

    Because of the small fonts and subtle greys you should use a fairly high resolution when printing, at least 600 dpi. However it is equally important to bear in mind the quality of coating on the paper. Too high a dpi can be as bad as too low.

  5. Should I print the Hipster cards as single-side or double-sided pages?

    This is certainly up to you. Personally, we like to use both sides since we don't like to waste space, especially in a small pack with thick cards. Certain cards also make more sense double-sided, like the 'flip-it' version of the monthly calendar. You can also mix and match. For example, you can print the *Project* template on one side and a *Notes* grid on the other.

  6. When I print cards double-sided, they don't line up exactly. What am I doing wrong?

    Chances are, you're doing nothing wrong. Most consumer printers are imprecise and will often slip up to 1/8th of an inch (3mm). One rarely notices this with a full, regular size page. But since the Hipster PDA Edition is so exact with regard to spacing and margins you may notice that the templates are a tiny bit off (and, on the 4-up, you'll see a few grey outlines overlapping onto regular card space). This is difficult to avoid unless you have a professional or high-end printer.

  7. Why do solid lines disappear or appear broken when I print the forms?

    The cause of your problem is probably low printer resolution (generally under 600dpi for a Laser, or 1200dpi for an inkjet) or a dirty head/fuser unit. It should be noted that because most black inks are carbon-based (not dye-based) some inkjets use a lower resolution (720-750dpi) jet plate on the black head. When the printer is set to 'Forced Greyscale' the colour set is disabled and only black is used. You save on colour ink but lose on gradients and fine lines. Missing lines could also mean you are running out of ink, or that your heads might need cleaning.

  8. Help! My templates are too light/dark!

    Your problem is because of a wide range of tonal varieties in printers. For example, we've noticed that some templates are a little dark on an HP laser printer, but rather light on a Canon inkjet. When possible, the designer has tried to come to a compromise. Make sure your printer is set to 'plain paper' ('Normal' on some printers), as a setting for higher-quality or coated paper may be overloading the paper with ink. If it continues to be a big problem, we suggest going into your printer settings and looking for a way to lighten or darken the prints. D*I*Y Planner 3.0 contains a printer calibration form (the FrankenForm) to help with this task.

  9. Why do my hPDA cards print so murky?

    You may be using a printer with a low resolution (under 600dpi) or you might be using uncoated card stock (or both). A good test of printing is the *Getting Things Done Quick Reference Card*. Print it on both sides of your card; a coated stock should show very crisp text, and the colours (or grey-tones) and blacks shouldn't bleed. You may also wish to try printing using the 'Plain Paper' setting, as this often lays down less ink and does not saturate porous card stock.

  10. Why do my templates have a purple/green tint in some lighting conditions?

    Glad you asked. The effect known as 'metamerism' is well known in the professional printing industry, and the most likely cause is interferometric attenuation of the CMY ink/toner set. If you don't understand this, just nod your head knowingly, and set your printer to use the 'forced greyscale' setting.

The Paper Path

We're not going to get into the whole cliché about how we're all different. Let's just say that the instructions and templates provided in these files are a starting point to implement a highly-customisable do-it-yourself planner system, based primarily on Getting Things Done, but flexible enough for almost any methodology. Yes, you heard me right: a planner, with actual paper (5.5"x8.5" or A5 paper, to be specific).

At this point, you're probably asking yourself, "Why are these people even advocating using paper in today's day and age: what with Palms, PocketPCs, TabletPCs, super-cell phones, groupware, wikis, Personal Information Managers such as Outlook, and every other digital data manipulation tool out there?"

Well, while paper-based planners certainly aren't for everybody, there are plenty of reasons to consider one.

  • You miss the quality experience of writing using paper and pen, as well as the additional focus it lends you.

  • You find it far easier to write down your thoughts or notes on paper, rather than struggling with PDA hand-writing recognition, or typing while others are trying to talk.

  • 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 endless tweaker, and often spend so much time tinkering with "productive technologies" that you actually get nothing done.

  • You're an organisational geek who thinks Day Runners/Timers/etc were created by the gods, fountain pens are fit for worship, and the toting of leather-bound collections of cool templates instills you with a profound sense of empowerment.

  • You're a disaffected 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 viruses 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, and that handling technical work via a computer while using paper for creative work is one way to make peace between the two hemispheres, therefore increasing your effectiveness in both areas.

  • You're an organisational junkie constantly searching for new systems to explore.

  • You're 'old-fashioned'.

  • Further thoughts on this topic can be found on the designer's blog, especially the entry "Paper? Ain't that extinct?"

So if you fall within one of these categories (the designer has been all of these, at some point in time in the past), you might consider giving pen-and-paper planners a try. To give you a head-start, this handbook will help you build your own do-it-yourself planner, using a set of forms (or templates) to organize your thoughts for most organisational activities.

Few needs are similar, and the approach must necessarily vary. For example, you have very little financial work to be concerned with, but often have a full slate of project planning and management tasks to perform. Or you may be a project manager or account needing to keep track of every number. You may have very few appointments on your calendar, instead having very hefty to-do lists, or every moment of your day could be tied up in meetings. We've tried to consider as many circumstances as we could, but there is only so much we can do with limited time and resources.

This document is filled with random thoughts, vague ideas, potentially dangerous procedures (you may lose a finger or two), seeming contradictions, and perhaps even some functional and practical advice. This is not meant as a user-friendly be-all-end-all guide to implementing a planner system. It's a starting point to help guide you in one of many possible directions. (One of which could actually be the right one for you. Or perhaps not.)

We encourage feedback. Don't be afraid of letting us know what you think, or sending along any ideas for these or other templates. The designer, Douglas Johnston, can be reached via his contact form.

The Production Team

[Under revision... please don't fret if you're not here yet! And don't forget to send me your links. - DJ]

The production team would like to thank all the members of the community for their continual support and inspiration, and especially the DIYPlanner Development Group for all the wonderful advice, proofing and testing that resulted in such a high-quality product. We couldn't have done it without you!

  • Designer and Executive Editor - Douglas Johnston
  • Editors - Sardonios, Jaymi Elford and Rebecca Downey
  • "Four Monkeys" Illustration - Brad Reid
  • Writing, Advice and Suggestions - Beebe, Chris Bellamy, Andrew Calverley, Scott Cheatham, Ray Dicasali, Rebecca Downey, efm, Jaymi Elford, Bob Fairbairn, Katina French, Raymond Gilford, Melissa Carrell Hall, Stephen Howell, Gretchen Imbergamo, Maston E Jackson, Alan Jakub, Charles Kooij, Ralph Lambert, Robert Lynch, 'Max', Drake Nguyen, 'peninah', Daniel Pruett, Cindy Rasmussen, Alan Schauer, Owen Schultz, Eric.Shotwell, Avi Solomon, Mayur [Trivialpursuits], Dan White
  • Beta Testers - Beebe, Simon Brown, Scott Cheatham, Ray Dicasali, David Douthitt, Rebecca Downey, efm, Jaymi Elford, Bob Fairbairn, Katina French, Raymond Gilford, Susan Gross, Melissa Carrell Hall, Nick Hatch, Stephen Howell, Peter Humphris, Maston E Jackson, Lisa Kirwan, Charles Kooij, Samantha Lienhop, Robert Lynch, Joel Millican, Norbert Mocsnik, Tim Morris, Matt Parker, Daniel Pruett, Cindy Rasmussen, Alan Schauer, Owen Schultz, Jim Sheafer, Marc Simcox, Damian Wallace, 'wamcadoo', Dan White
  • Additional Template Assistance and Testing (and a helluva great guy) - eric Farris
  • D*I*Y hPDA V3 OOo Tenplates - Tim Foreman
  • Goofy Mascot (to distract the fans when things aren't going well, or to goose the competition when things are) - Steve Sharam

The Why of D*I*Y?

From time to time, we're going to be asking users why and how they use the D*I*Y Planner system. This is the first....

From Maston E. Jackson, Ridgeview Baptist Church

The experts have written volumes on the methodology of getting organised. They cannot help but design systems that reflect, in part or whole, their own person. The systems they design work perfectly for them, but in order for those systems to work perfectly for me, I must follow the 'honed version' of their natural way of doing things. The D*I*Y Planner is flexible enough that I can adapt it to the way I work.

With this system I have the freedom to pick and choose forms and ideas that complement my way of processing information, categorisation and execution, while maximising the opportunities to minister personally to those in need. With the Widget Kit, I have at my disposal the ability to design, test, and re-design the forms that serve me best. D*I*Y offers the best platform to organise my time, touch every item of responsibility, and leave plenty of time to spend touching lives.

I was asked why I use it. This is as candid an answer as I can give.

Planner Selection Tips

When you go to buy your planner, you may want to keep these tips in mind....

  • Get a planner that's easy to use and carry. For example, if you have to tote yours through inclement weather and rough conditions, opt 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 our experience, these are awkward at best.
  • Make sure the planner is 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, as it'll add at least a half-inch to the thickness. Many find that a 1.5 inch (32mm) ring is perfect for their needs.
  • 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 Runner, Filofax and Franklin-Covey websites to find the best match to your style. eBay is also a good place to hunt, as many people sell empty planner binders, since their form inserts are all used up, or too old to be any good (e.g., old calendars).

Recommended Planners

For those who get overwhelmed with the available multitude of planner offerings at your local store, we've compiled a list of some of the more popular planners that can be found today. Many of these planners are used by members of the D*I*Y Planner community, so if you still need advice on picking the best planner for your lifestyle, feel free to post on our forums.

  • Day Runner 'Classic' (North America only): 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 'looks 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, managing diabetes, American Heart Association activity logs, etc.. Free catalogue at the website. Note: the Day-Timer Desk size has seven rings for its pages and some models may only be available in the 5.5"x8.5" size.
  • Franklin-Covey: We would be remiss not to mention Franklin-Covey and their North American and European websites. The 'Classic' size is the one for 5.5"x8.5" or A5. They do have quite a number of interesting planners and refills on their website, though, so go check them out. Note: the Franklin-Covey Classic size has seven rings for its pages.
  • Filofax make a wide range of good quality planners and accessories. Covers range from student to executive, and templates range from basic calendars to project management, finances and other big business needs. Although rare outside their native Britain, they do offer an excellent mail order service. (Be aware: shipping costs can be prohibiting.) Note: the Filofax 'A5' size has six rings.
  • Mead (North America only) makes some decent-quality planners for about $10-15 USD. They also produce the At-A-Glance templates and planners, which are much cheaper than those of Day Runner (which Mead also owns), but still of good quality. These are the ones you're likely to find in your typical local department store stationery aisle.
  • Beware of super-cheap department store and Dollar/Pounds shop models: the vinyl often breaks apart easily at the corners and seams, creating an edge that can rip your fingers to shreds. Get the best quality you can afford; you can always 'upgrade' later, should your usage warrant it. (Many of the forms found inside the cheaper planners can be tossed out, as they have the consistency of toilet paper, the smell of formaldehyde, and the English of a low-budget Hong Kong martial arts film.)

Recommended Readings

Shameless plug: Buying any (or all) of these fine books or audio products with the DIYPlanner links to helps keep the site running, and helps purchase paper and ink to continue developing and testing new templates.

David Allen and Getting Things Done

  • Allen, David - Getting Things Done: A classic and very effective 'bottom-up' strategy for processing your inbox, dealing with day-to-day items, and working up to the bigger picture. The chief inspiration behind the D\*I\*Y Planner project.
  • Getting Things Done (Audio version)
  • Allen, David - Ready for Anything: Essentially the sequel to GTD, this book contains 52 ways to boost your productivity and ensure you're making the most out of your time.
  • Ready for Anything (Audio version.)

Stephen R. Covey

  • Covey, Stephen R. - Seven Habits of Highly Effective People : Covey's seminal best-seller concerns the cultivation of those behaviours which can lead you to a happier, more productive and more effective life though social, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual means.
  • Covey, Stephen R. et al - First Things First : The Covey time management system, first outlined (or rather hinted at) in his earlier best-seller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. A classic 'top-down' strategy for starting with a life-guiding mission, setting roles and goals, then working down into everyday actions and events.

General Productivity

  • Bliss, Edwin C. - Getting Things Done: A hard-to-find gem of a book jam-packed with advice from A-Z concerning almost every aspect of productivity. The short articles are easy to digest and ponder, and backed up by thought-provoking facts and studies. (See the AMMT Review)
  • Emmett, Rita - The Procrastinator's Handbook: Learn why we procrastinate, and how to get over the various stumbling blocks imposed by fear, emotional issues, disorganised workspaces, and rigid situations that often leave us paralysed.


  • Badonsky, Jill Baldwin - The Nine Modern Day Muses: 10 Guides to Creative Inspiration for Artists, Poets, Lovers, and Other Mortals Wanting to Live a Dazzling Existence : Revisit the greek muses as you've never seen them before, revised and updated to fit in with today's fast paced society. This wonderfully unique and creative book shows you how to reconnect to your creativity. Be inspired and come play wtih the muses.
  • Bradbury, Ray - Zen in the Art of Writing (Expanded) : From the author of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles comes this series of essays about the art of writing and the pursuit ofinspiration. A wonderful mix of anecdotes, fantastical imagery and solid advice.
  • Cameron, Julia - The Artist's Way: This 12-week creativity program helps people recover their creativity. It carefully guides and unblocks any preconceptions on what creativity is and means. Through a wide variety of exercises and techniques, especially journal writing, The Artist's Way can help anyone get back in touch with their expressive side and allow them to start sharing their creative aspirations with the rest of the world.
  • Gelb, Michael J. - How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day : One of our favorite creativity books, this teaches you how to use your senses to find new and creative ways to explore the world around you and your inner self. Gelb discusses and gives exercies to explore seven principles (Curiosita, Dimonstratzione, Sensazione, Sfumato, Arte/Scienza, Corporalita, and Connessione) and how these principles can heighten and expand how you perceive the world, along with your purpose in it. If you've ever wondered about Leonardo's fascinating talents of perception and creative analysis, then this is the book for you.
  • Goldberg, Natalie - Writing Down the Bones : One of the most respected books for creative writers, this is a collection of short essays that dispense morsels of wisdom, intimate anecdotes, methods drawn from years of practical experience, and learnings gleaned from Zen philosophy.
  • Lamott, Anne - Bird By Bird : Subtitled 'Some Instructions on Writing and Life', this engaging work offers up sage advice to writers and creative types in general, in Lamott's provocative and disarmingly raw style. Sometimes raunchy, often times funny, always thought-provoking.
  • Rilke, Rainier Maria - Letters to a Young Poet : Landmark book collecting ten beautiful letters from the famous German poet to a young writer, filled with sublime instructions on writing, soul-searching, and living a full life.
  • Wylie, Betty Jane - The Write Track: How to become a freelance writer and actually make a living at it. Meant mainly for Canadians (especially those entangled by taxation rules and federal regulations), but also containing a lot of quality advice that would apply equally to other countries. Very practical, no fluff.

Miscellaneous Paper-Luvin'

  • Sellen, Abigail J. & Harper, Richard H.R. - The Myth of the Paperless Office: An excellent study of how and why we use paper, despite the so-called advances, promises and ease-of-use of digital technologies. Not just for scholars, it's a fascinating exposé of productivity methods and cognitive psychology in the workplace.

Creating Your First Planner

So you have read the introductory material, downloaded all the D*I*Y Planner templates, but still have no idea where to begin to make your own planner... well, this chapter is for you. We have three pieces preparing you for the switch to the D*I*Y Planner templates. Then there are articles about printing your planner forms, assembling your planner, and tips on how you can make your planner and productivity system work for you. If they do not answer all your questions, please visit our forum and ask the question there. Our community is generally happy to help.