Feb 252015

Although I wrote what I thought would be the last post in my “choosing a planner” series yesterday, some new information came to light today about the discs for the Staples Arc style of planner that I use, which utilizes a disc binding system. If you recall from the previous post, the disc binding system is available under various brand names: Levenger Circa, Rollabind, Staples Arc, Atoma, and there are probably others of which I am not aware. To make this system work, the minimum starter items you need include a planner and a set of discs. Obviously, if you buy a planner, then you have the discs, as shown below. This is my vacation journal, which accommodates about 60 pages that are included in the planner.

Vacation Journal

If you need to add pages to your “starter”planner or notebook, you’ll need to purchase expansion discs. Locally, many of you will have the option of shopping at Staples, and buying either black or blue discs. My own experience is that my local stores don’t carry the discs (and other accessories) in large quantities, but you can solve that issue by purchasing online at Staples. The planners can be found HERE, and the accessories HERE. If you visit Coupons.com, you may be able to find a coupon to purchase these items at a discounted price. I bought the punch and planner, for example, for 25 percent off the regular price. Another more economical punch option is to purchase a Levenger’s Circa 1-2-3 Portable Punch for $19. The lightweight punch, which handles one sheet at a time, ships free anywhere in the U.S. 48 contiguous states.

The other option is to visit the sites I named above that sell disc bound planners. One of them, however, Rollabind, may not be a viable option. According to “MK” of Red Harp Ants in her post, More on Disc-bound notebooks, this company has not been accepting orders. When I checked the Better Business Bureau report on this Florida company, I felt a little leery. You can read the report for yourself, and come to your own conclusions.

“MK” really likes the disc binding system and has been searching for places to buy the discs. Her research pointed her to Atoma, the Belgian company that invented the disc binding system and began selling it in 1948, and to a U.S. distributor in Appleton, Wisconsin called Myndology. I have contacted this company about their discs, which are imported and come in a range of colors, and hope to receive some samples soon to determine how well they will work with my Staples Arc punch. You may find this video from the Atoma company fun to watch, especially since it illustrates both business and non-business uses of the disc bound notebook system. Interestingly, the covers shown are all made of a flexible plastic or vinyl, similar to the quilting template I punched to use as a sheet protector and as an adhesive sticky notes holder. You could visit any office supply store and pick up an inexpensive vinyl or thin plastic folder or binder, and re-purpose it to make covers for a disc bound notebook.

After my husband saw my planner, he asked if I could design the inside pages for his own disc bound planner. Looks like his “At a Glance” planner is seeing its last days!

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Feb 232015

In yesterday’s post about Finding the planner that suits your needs, I promised to discuss what kind of a planner works for me. Before I outline the components of my planner, I want to point out that most of us have multiple planners we use every day, both digital and paper-based. On my iPhone and iPad, I use a calendar app that keeps track of personal appointments, birthdays, holidays and vacations. I utilize a contacts app that is my personal-and-business telephone and address directory. On my computer, I keep a folder with Web links I have researched. In the same location, I maintain an inventory of products for sale, as well as a list of items waiting to be crafted. All of this information is backed up in a combination of places: the cloud, a portable hard drive, and flash drives. And all of these items are planners of a sort.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Because it’s so easy and convenient to compile and track information digitally—and to make a back-up copy of it—it’s not necessary to duplicate the same data in a paper-based planner, unless you desire portability. You may find yourself wondering, if you use a paper planner, whether you’re a dinosaur. Certainly that is how LeAnn Frobom of Pasque Flower Ponderings felt when she showed her pocket calendar to her employer.

“I don’t need something that big anymore,” says LeAnn, “so I usually just carry a pocket calendar which has some extra NOTES pages these days. My young boss laughed when I pulled it out one day. (He’s gone 100% digital.) He said his mom still uses a planner, too.”

On the other hand, if you scan the listings of planners, calendars, address books and other types of planners on Etsy, you’ll see thousands of listings that suggest pen-and-paper planners aren’t going away anytime soon.

“The general message I take away from your post (and Rose’s post),” says Natasha Nunez of The Artisan Life, “is that paper planners are alive and well!”

According to Charlie Gilken of Productive Flourishing in his post, Using Paper to Scaffold Your Productive Motion, he uses physical notebooks to structure fluid forward movement toward a goal, rather than just moving toward the goal itself.

“For me,” says Charlie, “nothing beats the fluidness and simplicity of paper for charting, planning, and capturing. Everyday [sic], I write down what I need to do and draw (DRAW!) a daily planner (or use my own if I have one printed). That planner becomes my dashboard for the day and this takes me about ten minutes to do.”

Likewise, Andre of Tools for Thought, in Questioning My Assumptions: Switching to Paper-Based Task Management, points out that the importance of a paper-based planning system is that it allows you to think, without distraction, about your work flow without using the same electronic tools (laptop and cell phone) you use to produce work.

“I also underestimated how much distraction was happening by using my cell phone as a list manager. Every time I’d pull the phone out of my pocket to review an action list, I’d feel the urge to play Sudoku or Advanced Brain Trainer, validate myself on Twitter, or listen to music on Pocket Tunes.”

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In determining what kind of a paper-based planner will work for me, I find it helpful to think about when I tend to be most productive, and what helps me to be productive. Rarely do I find myself writing in the early hours of the morning, for example. I’ll write for several hours during the afternoon, then take a break, then resume in the evening after dinner, and often will write past midnight. Obviously, a planner that provides space for me to list tasks every hour and half-hour is not going to be practical. Scratch, therefore, any daily planner page.

What about a weekly planner? I think the problem is similar—I prefer to set goals for tasks to be completed “sometime” during the week, rather than during a specific, date-set-in-concrete, time period. Do you see the problem? It’s beginning to look as if I need a planner that offers me a lot of flexibility. I can see myself writing on color-coded sticky notes and flags, and moving them around from square to square on a monthly planner or a bulletin board grid—something like the dry erase board shown below, available from A Lovely Detail on Etsy.

Dry Erase Board

Seriously, before I even get to the monthly page of a planner, I need to identify a need or interest, then brainstorm some ideas that might address it, and finally begin researching ways to mesh the two together in a practical way. That’s what comprises a project for me. For example, I began this series of blog posts when I realized I needed a better way to plan my work flow than the planners in office supply stores provided. Then I began listing what types of things I want a personalized planner to do for me. This turned into a research project involving a review of many different types of planners, digital planning pages, and binding systems. I’ll talk more about binding systems in the next post, however.

Image courtesy of LeeGillion at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of LeeGillion at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What I finally decided to put together is a mix-and-match personalized planner that allows me to add, remove and rearrange pages anytime I’d like. I chose a minimalistic look, preferring function over form . . . but some of the pages have colored decorative borders that I like nonetheless. I want to have enough room to write a great deal, so I selected letter-sized pages. Also, this is not a planner that will ever leave my home, so I didn’t have to choose a smaller size that might limit my content options. I printed enough pages to address three months of planning before I have to print additional pages. The sections are fairly straightforward: monthly planning organizers for blogging, crafts and education events; a section filled with project planning forms; another section with brainstorming forms, and a back section filled with lined paper. Not a traditional planner at all!

Planner Pages

Where did I find the content for my planner? Most of it was available on the Web, either at an economical price or for free. I designed one of the forms myself, and modified two of the free ones. Here’s the breakdown.

Section 1, Monthly Planning: I printed the pages for February, March and April. Some of the pages can be updated and moved from one month to the next. All of the pages are double-sided, printed on 28-pound HammerMill Color Copy Paper, a delightfully smooth, bright white, acid-free paper that is likely to hold up well over the course of a year.

2 Page Monthly Planner Calendar

Productivity Kit for Time Management

Printable Blog Planner

Section 2, Blogging & Project Planners. These forms help you gather the details of your blog posts, blog giveaways and other projects. You can add them to the Monthly Planning section, as needed.

  • Blog Post Planner, excerpted from Minimalistic & Stylish Printable Blog Planner – 2015, by Grafika Studio on Etsy. This planner includes all kinds of reminders, such as a Before Publishing Checklist, a Post Promotion list, a list of tags and keywords, and more. On the back side, I printed the Notes page from the same Blog Planner kit.
  • Giveaway Tracker, excerpted from Minimalistic & Stylish Printable Blog Planner – 2015, by Grafika Studio on Etsy. Although there already exists a Giveaway Tracker in the Monthly Planner section, it is simply a list. This form is geared toward the planning and follow-through of an individual giveaway, with sections for Sponsor Details, Giveaway Details, Requirements, Promotion, and Winner Contact Details. On the back side, I printed the Notes page from the same Blog Planner kit.
  • Project Planner, excerpted from the Productivity Kit, by Laura Drayton Creative on Etsy. While many of the pages in my planner relate to blogging, but a different type of planner is needed for crafting, taking inventory, or anything else. This planner allows you to set either a fixed or hoped-for due date, identify goals and objectives, and attach a to-do list. On the back side I printed Notes, excerpted from UNplan Monthly 2PG – Planner Page Printables PDF – All 4 Sizes by Miss Tiina Digital Art on Etsy

Section 3, Brainstorming Tools. I expect to add to this section, as there are many different ways to generate ideas, but the forms in this section can be completed and added to the Monthly Planning section, as needed.

Section 4, Lined Pages. The planner notebook I am using comes with some pre-printed, lined pages, but they are rather expensive to buy separately. You could use lined loose leaf paper, and it would work perfectly well, but I wanted to have pages that matched the purchased ones. I simply designed one using my word processing software. If you’d like to download it and use it yourself, click HERE to download the PDF form.

The final page of my planner really doesn’t fit in any of the other sections, but it’s a helpful tool: an HTML Cheat Sheet for Bloggers, from Business & Blogging Free Printables by Life Your Way. I slipped it in a sheet protector so I can use it for many years to come.

The beauty of the planner system I have assembled is that if I discover something is not working, I can simply remove that page. If my needs change, I can switch to different or additional pages. If the pages don’t seem to flow well, I can re-arrange them. Is my planner a Filofax, like Rose Clearfield’s, or a three-ring binder? Neither. Read my next post to find out what binding system I selected. The bottom line, however, is that if you can’t find exactly what you need, compile your own personalized planner by mixing and matching components from different sources.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Feb 222015

I have to admit I love the look of planners, all planners, but every time I attempt to use a so-called classic planner that is divided up into monthly, weekly and daily sections, I end up with more blank pages than not. Perhaps the one exception occurred years ago, when I taught after-school enrichment classes at six different elementary schools. At that time I had a need to more closely track my doings in a more traditional way. These days, however, my activities are more project-based; they simply take the time they need to take. Deadlines are loose and self-imposed, so a planner that provides line-by-line spaces for each hour of the day brings a smile to my face, but doesn’t particularly appeal to me. Still, I love the idea of such a traditional planner.  Whether it’s useful or not depends on your life circumstances.

Last week I read an inspirational post, Joining the world of Filofax, by freelancer Rose Clearfield of Randomcreative Art in which she describes the flexible planner system she has decided to adopt. Rose goes into even more detail in this second related post, How I Set Up My Filofax Personal Finsbury: My Ring Binder Organization and Tips. What seems to make her Filofax work especially well is the fact that she can personalize it any way she wishes. She has created two types of calendar sections (monthly and weekly), as well as sections for contacts, household tasks, and personal pages. The Filofax, a six-ring pocket-sized organizer, enables you to easily add or remove pages, as well as rearrange them. It’s helpful, of course, if you purchase a six-hole adjustable punch, as Rose did, to take advantage of that flexibility. Rose points out that while you can decorate your pages, her philosophy is to “Concentrate on organization first and decorating second.”

The strength of any ring-binding system is the flexibility to add, remove, or rearrange pages. Image courtesy of blackstock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The strength of any ring-binding system is the flexibility to add, remove, or rearrange pages. Image courtesy of blackstock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

When my husband worked in pharmaceutical sales, he used a monthly planner, but these days he supervises about 80 people across six states and finds a daily planner more appropriate for his needs. “I simply found that the monthly style didn’t have enough space for all of the events and people I have to track,” he told me. John’s statement underscores how your needs can change over time.

John's Planner

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently received an e-mail from Etsy, indicating it had just revamped its product categories and subsequently re-assigned sellers’ items to new categories. To my surprise, I discovered that my address books were identified as planners. This made me think about what else a planner might be. For example, would  my “Save the Date” (important dates reminder) books be classified as planners? What about the “Sewing Machine Stitch Diaries” I sell?

Other Types of PlannersAccording to Andrea of the Scattered Squirrel Web site, a planner doesn’t have to be a paper-and-pen organizer. “A planner,” says Andrea, “is simply a tool or system used to help you keep track of important dates and appointments, build or maintain routines, and make the best use of your time and energy.” As such, it can be the address book you keep on your smart phone, mind maps you sketch in a blank book, a shopping list, sticky notes you paste to a bulletin board, a mood board (either physical or digital)—basically any systematic approach to collecting ideas or information that you use. To answer my own question from the previous paragraph, all three of the books I described—address book, Save the Date book, and Sewing Machine Stitch Diary—are planners.

In her series about Creating the Planner That Works for You!, Andrea stresses that you can’t really know what kind of a planner will work for you until you identify what hasn’t worked for you in the past, as well as what has worked well. She points out that while you can purchase a planner with pre-existing sections, there are many free or economically priced planner printables on the Web that you can download to create a personal planner that is perfect for you. There are printables for busy moms who organize family appointments, grocery shopping excursions, children’s chores and household tasks. For bloggers, there are printables that help you track social media and blog statistics, keep track of sponsored ads, keep all of your blog post-and-series ideas in one place, identify your goals, provide an editorial calendar, and follow up with contacts. In short, there are printables for every need you can conceive, and what you can’t find you can probably create yourself using your favorite word processing software.

This post is not intended to provide a comprehensive list of printable resources, but below are a few links that provide a starting point for planner printables:

In my next post, I’ll discuss what kind of a personal planner I believe will work best for me, and how I arrived at my conclusions. Let me know in the comments below what planner system(s) you use, and why they work for you.

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.