There are few productivity tools that are as irreplaceable as the planner. And having one that’s customized to your needs can go a long way toward helping you keep your resolutions and meet your goals in 2015. It’ll remind you of what your goals are, help you track your progress, and give you the resources you need to do your best work.
Both of these companies make high-quality planners that come with default pages and can be easily customized with refill packs that you can buy from the company. For example, the Filofax original planner ($104) comes with a year’s worth of week-on-two-pages planner pages — but you can add a wide range of other pages, from to-do lists and meeting planners to sticky notes.
To customize the planner to your liking, it’s easy to buy an assortment of these pages and mix them. You could have a year calendar at the front to track your long-term goals, and a month calendar at the beginning of each month for short-term ones and calendaring. Two pages of weekly calendars could be followed by a number of to-do list pages or blank notepaper. Whichever pages are most useful for you can be ordered how you like.
The Circa smartPlanner ($44) comes with a sampler pack of “apps” (what Levenger calls their other types of sheets) that includes to-do and take-with lists, meeting notes, a travel sheet, and a brainstorming sheet. You can buy refill packs of the pages you like, and combining these various types of pages allows you to create a planner that works with your style.
Well Customized: Bound Custom Journals
Bound makes hard-cover journals and lets you choose every single one of the 140 pages. There are 19 categories of pages, ranging from lined and to-do formats to music scales and food-focused ones. There’s even the sought-after Cornell format. To customize the journal, you add exactly the pages you want to.
There’s no yearly calendar available, but most people will be more likely to use monthly and weekly ones anyway. By combining these calendars with note and to-do pages, you can create the perfect combination of calendars and utility pages that will help you keep track of your goals, mark your progress, and be productive. You could even write in your goals ahead of time so they’re set down in ink.
Unfortunately, there’s currently no option for going beyond 140 pages. This means that, unless you just want weekly calendars and some notes pages, you’ll need more than one of these books to make it through a year. And at $35, the cost will add up. But the fact that you’re getting a customized hardcover journal that helps you meet your goals might outweigh the cost!
Fully Customized: DIY Planners
If the above options don’t cut it for your passion planning, or you don’t want to shell out a couple hundred bucks over the course of a few years for planners, your best bet is probably to take matters into your own hands and build your own planner. It sounds intimidating, but you might be surprised at how useful of a planner you can make on your own, or with a little help.
The first step in creating a DIY planner is to come up with a design that works for you. Fortunately, many people have trod this path before and have left templates in their wake; all you have to do is find them!
If you run a search for “diy notebook page templates,” you’ll come up with tons of options. Here are a few of my favorites:
- 20 Free DIY Planner Printouts
- DIY Planner Templates Directory
- Graph / Grid Paper PDFs
All you have to do is combine sets of different pages to make your perfect planner. If you’re going to be using your planner to help you stick to your resolutions and meet your goals for the year, I’d recommend starting out with a yearly calendar to note your long-term goals, a monthly calendar for each month to note your shorter-term goals and time obligations, and adding a couple pages after each month to take notes on your resolution and goal progress.
Beyond that, it’s up to you! Include the kinds of pages that you like — weekly or daily planner pages, checklist pages, isometric grids, unlined, dot grid, or any other sort of page that you like to work with. Once you’ve come up with a design for your planner, you have two options for getting it bound and turning it into a notebook.
Option 1: Have It Printed and Bound Professionally
This is the easier of the two options. Most print shops (like FedEx or Staples) offer at least a few different ways of binding your planner — you can go with whichever method suits you best. I like coil bindings, because losing pages is quite difficult when they’re secured by a coil. D-rings, strip bindings, and staples are all viable options, as well.
Once you’ve decided on a binding method, you just have to print your pages! Talk to someone at the print shop about the best way to get the prints done—whether you should send a PDF or a series of files, which types of paper are available, and so on. I recommend going with a high-quality paper for the best printing, as you’re going to be using your planner all year.
Option 2: Bind It Yourself
The other option is to bind your planner yourself. You can still have the pages printed, or you can print them out on your own (though you could find yourself spending a lot of money on ink if you print a lot of planner pages). There are a number of ways to bind your own planner, and instead of trying to give you tutorials, I’ll link to a few good methods here:
- Simple needle-and-thread binding
- Glued (“perfect”) binding
- Composition-book-style binding
- Spiral binding
- Stitching binding
There are probably other methods out there, but one of these five will get you started. Once you’ve chosen one, bind away, and your planner is complete!
What’s Your Favorite Planner?
With these three methods at your disposal, you should be able to create a planner that contains exactly the types of pages you need to be productive, stay organized, and meet your goals this year. Setting reasonable goals and putting motivational tools in place are important, but going through the effort to make a custom planner that perfectly suits your needs will help you have a productive, successful year.
Do you use a planner to stay organized and help you be productive? Do you use it to help you meet your goals? Have you ever tried a custom one? Share your thoughts below!