D*I*Y Planner Contacts Package 2.5 (Letter/A4)

The conversion of the official D*I*Y Planner pack continues. The team proudly presents the next interim pack in letter and A4 size: The Contacts pack.

Included in this pack are the same templates included in the Classic Size Contacts Pack [Editor: which is now part of the Classic/A5 Core Package, pages 55 thru 62] . Four templates, in both front and back page versions:

Contact Pack Large

  • A new Contacts template, for address book type pages;
  • A Sources template, suitable for building your own personal "yellow pages," lists of references for things like restaurants and stores;
  • Contact Logs, in two styles: one with lots of contact metadata information, and one with minimal contact information and a long contact log space.

Setting Up a GTD-Based Hipster PDA

HipsterPDA KitI think many first-timers to this site trip across something very confusing. They want to learn how to set up a Hipster PDA using the D*I*Y Planner templates, but the forms are so flexible (or, if you would, "non-exact") that such a thing isn't immediately obvious. This is by design, I'm afraid: I believe in trying to create templates that allow people to create hPDAs to suit their own lifestyles and system. And therein lies the problem... how can people get started if they have no idea how to use the cards or build a stack in the first place?

So look at this post as a little guide to implementing a simple Hipster PDA that might be used for David Allen's Getting Things Done productivity methods. And simple is the operative word here. As you use it, you'll find quite a number of ways to modify the system for your own use and circumstances. So don't take this as gospel, only a starting point.

Template Design 101: Getting Started

So you have this great idea for a template, and you've looked around in vain for a similiar one. Despite a few polite suggestions and heated requests to various designers, they're booked solid and don't have the time to make it. So what can you do?

Well, make it yourself! You'll find that it isn't really that difficult. All you need is an idea, a little brainstorming session, and some software you either already have, or can find for free.

If you have the urge to make a template, you're not alone. One of the questions I generally find in my mailbox at least once a week is, "What's the best way to go about making a form?" That's usually followed by further questions about the suitability of, Illustrator, Word, InDesign, Scribus, Inkscape, and so on. So I decided to jot down a few rough notes about the best way to create your own template. This is going to be a bit vague, and I'm not going to dwell on certain applications; this little article is only meant to give you the bare basics.

The Commonplace Book: Part II

L.M. Montgomery, Ontario Red 2Continued from Part I.

The Commonplace Books (or just commonplaces) of old were series of books, stuffed with scraps, inspirations, snippets of information, sketches, clippings, photographs, poems, jokes, references, and anything else pertaining to the interest of the person (or group) who kept it. A common fixture in the homes of writers, professionals, artists and academics for many centuries, the notion has all but faded in this digital age of commodity data and instant searches. But there's no reason that we can't resurrect such a invaluable resource in this day and age. In fact, it could ultimately prove worthy not only for our daily work and pleasure, but also as a legacy to leave our children and grandchildren, a gathering of those pieces reflecting both the personality of its keeper and the happenings of a bygone day.

In Part I, we looked at the uses of commonplace books in history, and how they were used for gathering information and learning. In this article, we'll examine how a commonplace book works, and provide a few ideas towards starting and maintaining one of your own using modern supplies and methods. (Note that, while this article chiefly concerns keeping a paper-based version, many of the concepts work equally well using digital tools like DEVONthink Pro for Mac OS X.)

The Commonplace Book: Part I

Milton's Commonplace BookOver at the PigPog Blog is a great post about Storing Nuggets of Information, calling for ideas. This is something I've been struggling with for many years myself, and have only lately been making any sort of headway. When I think about all the years of WordPerfect files, text files, photos stuck between pages of books, MS Office files, sundry (often ancient) forms of databases, scraps of paper in drawers, JPGs, PSDs, PCXs, shoeboxes of articles, OOo files, CorelDRAW illustrations, Commodore 64 Paperclip files, and so on, it's a wonder I have any sort of retention at all except for memory. Half of the files I've gathered over the years are locked in obsolete proprietary formats gathering dust on 5.25" or 3.5" floppies, probably never to be seen again. (For the record, none of my current computers even have a floppy drive). I've had to face the fact that many of these potentially valuable scraps of information have been lost forever.

There is a possible solution for this dilemma, though, and one that comes from a bygone age. For many centuries, it was one kept faithfully by the learned, the artistic, the scholarly, and even the merely curious. I'm referring to the Commonplace Book.

Franklin Virtue Chart

Franklin's Virtues: IndustryI've been looking for a nice lightweight way to jump into using the release candidate of 2 Draw (I'm not quite ready to tackle the Widget Kit yet), and inspiration came from the forums where Anonymous Ed requested an hPDA template of Benjamin Franklin's virtues chart, dating all the way back to 1726. I'm a sucker for historical methods of tracking information, as well as a fan of dear old Ben, so this series of fascinating charts seemed like the perfect opportunity to try my hand. (For more information about them, check out the FlameBright page on Ben's virtues and a short 43 Folders discussion about it. )

This template is a bit of an anomoly, since it doesn't follow the D*I*Y Planner look and feel, but rather a semi-historical one. (Click on the image at right for a larger view.) It includes:

  • Charts containing all thirteen of Benjamin Franklin's virtues and descriptions (at least, according to the FlameBright site)
  • A completely blank template, with only days of the week (this is suitable for more than tracking virtues, of course -- e.g., exercises): you can print these up and write in your own "virtues" and descriptions
  • A blank template with text, so you can click on the text in and change it to something else

I've included the OOo2 source file so you can modify the templates as you see fit, or you can use this as a base for different sizes and configurations (such as 4-up or 4"x6"). The font used is the nice old-fashioned Century Schoolbook, as installed via OOo2.

Good luck on Ch. ;-)


Mobile Computer: "Say goodbye to paper"

UK Mobile Computing ArticleEvery now and then, someone points me in the direction of some press article about the D*I*Y Planner that I knew nothing about. This time it was our good friend Neal Dench who mentioned that the project has appeared in the pilot issue (November 2005) of the new UK magazine Mobile Computer, and he was also kind enough to forward a scan of the page. Click on the thumbnail to read the article in a new window.

Of course, there's a special irony at work here. The teaser reads: "Tablet PCs are perfect for jotting down notes but, with a little effort, you can create an electronic Filofax-style planner and say goodbye to paper for good." (If you don't know why this is ironic, you're probably on the wrong site.)

But let me be the first to say that there's nothing wrong with doing something like this. I've always been to first person to chime in, "Use the best tool for the job," and for many people --including a few friends of mine-- the Tablet PC is the best tool. As an information designer, the notion that some people like the idea of paper- planner style templates in conjunction with MS Journal or OneNote is not at all disconcerting to me. Perhaps some day I'll even give it a whirl, but till then I'm more than happy with my leather Day Runner, real paper, and a good pen.

Anyone here already doing this sort of thing? I'd be interested in your thoughts.

The Value of Reference Numbers

I've been asked a number of times, "What's the deal with the reference numbers in your templates? Aren't they just taking up valuable space?" Well, no: a reference number is a very handy thing to have in an organisational system. Although I'm sure other people implementing the D*I*Y Planner (and DayRunner and Day-Timer forms) have no doubt come across other uses for them, there are two that do stand out in my mind: Dockets and Links.

Reference Number as Docket

If you've ever worked in a large organisation, you've probably experienced the ubiquitous "docket numbers", and may have even considered them the bane of your existence. They are numbers, usually created and tracked by an accounting department, that are assigned to each project. When you spend time working on the project, you must note its number, along with the time spent, on your timesheet. The accounting department then adds up all the time for that docket as a way of tracking project costs. Numbers often have several parts; for example, "04-0543-012" might be department 4, client 0543, project 12 for that client.

All well and good if you're in a large organisation, but there are benefits to using them for small companies and even personal projects. First and foremost, it serves as a way of separating projects for filing. Now, a paper planner is not infinite. If you use it much at all, you'll probably want to clean out all the "done" stuff every month. The reference number serves as a valuable way of grouping the material for your files. Simply keep a folder in your file cabinet labelled with the docket, and move all work with that reference number into that file. That way, you won't have hundreds of pieces of unsorted paper teetering in a pile atop your scanner or other semi-flat purposes.

Second, the number becomes important when you're tracking work for clients. "043-03" could stand for client #43, and the third project with them. Tracking projects in this way becomes important if you provide ongoing service for a client, or are sending them an invoice for work completed. It can also be used to track contracts, bills paid, expenses incurred, agendas, and so forth.

Third, a reference number can become an easily-understood identity for certain types of projects. "ENG2201-04-01-03" to an English teacher might mean the 2201 course, unit 04, section 01, lesson 03. When you sort your work later, keeping all the course resources together and in the right order becomes a no-brainer.

Of course, if you're using a docket reference system, be sure to keep a list of ongoing docket numbers in your @Reference tab of your planner, so you have an easy look-up system when the number escapes you.

Reference Number as Link

Even if your work situation demonstrates no clear need for dockets, the reference number can still become invaluable for linking material together.

An example might best demonstrate this. In my planner, I have a tab for a certain project, and in it is a Contact Log form for keeping track of discussions with that client. Normally, there's only a line or two for the subject discussed, and the date on which it occurred (as well as a date for follow-up, if necessary). Let's say, though, that we discussed quite a number of matters on a particular date. I write up the details of that conversation on a Notes form. But how to link them together? Simple: with a reference number. Atop the Notes form, I might write "CL-050603-01" (using the date as a basis), and in my Contact Log I write "See CL-050603-01" in the appropriate line for the date. Voilà! Instant link. I simply put the Notes form behind the Contact Log in the planner, and have immediate access to it when I need it. I use similar "links" for material in Project Details, Project Outline, Objectives, Finances and anywhere else there isn't enough room on the base form to contain all the important details.

People using software or Palm PIMs will no doubt have their own way of creating linked notes, but I've found that this concept works fine on paper too.

I'm sure there are other ways of using reference numbers in planners, and it is very much dependent upon how you work, who you work with, and how your filing is set up. Regardless, the reference fields can prove quite handy -- if you get into the habit of using them regularly and consistently.

Satellite Action Card

The Satellite Action CardNote: a new version of this template is included in the DIY Planner 3 Hipster PDA Edition kit.

In my use of a medium-sized planner, there are three little issues that have often bothered me:

  • The occasional need to have a light-weight solution for on-the-go (e.g., shopping) that works well with my planner;
  • Using Next Actions (or Waiting For/etc.) lists within a weekly or monthly calendar spread, without flipping pages back and forth; and
  • Quickly finding a Next Actions list among the pages of my planner, since I have a lot of side tabs.

Introducing a new concept for the D*I*Y Planner kits: the Satellite Action Card. This is a way of addressing all the above, and giving people an option that bridges the gap between the portability of the Hipster PDA and the versatility of a regular planner.