How to Make a Day Planner from a Composition Book

19 July

I don’t know what I would do without my day planner.  The planner in me NEEDS to be organized.  To-do lists, calendar events, family stuff, and menu plans all need to be scheduled and tracked.  And once I started my blog, there you have it – yet another item to track: an editorial calendar of blog posts.

All of these demands of my attention can easily add up.  I need to guard my time – it’s precious, you know?

The goal of my day planner is to help me be purposeful with my time.

I’ve tried many different day planners, both online and hardcopy.  But nothing really fit the bill for me.  Either planners were missing things I needed, or had unnecessary features that just sat there empty and useless.  And now that I want to track my blog posts in a day planner, I really want to have space for color-coded post-it notes.  My solution: a customized composition book.

Comp Book Day Planner

Why hardcopy versus online?

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology.  I use and love many online tools, including Trello and Evernote.  I’ve actually found these tools to complement my day planner.  But the handwriting and paper planner just ring true to me, for the following reasons:

  • Widely available – Your comp book is available to you at all times.  No relying on spotty internet access or battery/electricity.
  • Sensory output – Handwriting just feels good.  Seriously, the tactile sensation of writing words on paper is a great feeling.  We have our beautiful hands and fingers for more than just hitting keys and pushing buttons – let’s enjoy them!
  • Sensory input – We look at screens hours upon hours, every single day.  Seriously, it can’t hurt to take your eyes off your smartphone, computer, or TV for a little while, to do a little planning on good old-fashioned paper.  Our eyes and brains aren’t meant for this long-term and consistent exposure to screens.
  • Super customizable – When something in your schedule changes (as it often does), just erase it or move it.  Easy.  No clicking from screen to screen to screen to make a simple change.
  • Private – No other eyes or online platforms involved.  With all the online privacy policies out there, it’s easy to get nervous with who sees what.
  • Meaningful – You may find a more meaningful connection to your content when you write by hand.  Your words may be truer, more real, and just less fluffy.
  • Memory – You will more likely remember something you’ve handwritten, versus something you’ve typed.  Physically forming letters with your fingers seems to make an “imprint” upon the brain, according to this Education News article.

Why a comp book versus another hardcopy day planner?

  • Super customizable – This is gold to those of you who just can’t seem to find the perfect planner.  Make it yourself!
  • Widely available – You can pick up a comp book just about anywhere.
  • Inexpensive – Comp books are super cheap.  Ranging anywhere from $0.30 to $2.50, you just can’t beat the price.
  • Approachable – You may find the words flowing more freely written in a comp book, especially if you happen to have a mental barrier to “wasting” pages in a more expensive journal.

Make your comp book planner

1. You need: a comp book, a pen, a ruler, a glue stick, 2×2-in post-it notes, and washi tape or blue painter’s tape.

2. First page: print a yearly calendar from www.freeprintablecalendar.net, cut it out and glue to the top of the page.  Use the bottom portion of the page to record whatever you want (yearly goals).

3. Next 12 pages: print each of the monthly calendars from www.freeprintablecalendar.net (I printed a screenshot using Skitch so it was sized correctly), cut out and glue to the top of the pages.  Again, use the bottom portions of these pages to record whatever you want.

4. Next 2 pages: leave blank.  I don’t know why, I just did, in case I ever want to insert something in there.

5. Next 104 pages: a weekly calendar for each of the 52 weeks, with each week appearing on two facing pages.

Comp Book Day Planner Pages

  • Using a pen and ruler, draw 3 vertical lines on each page: 1.25 inches from outside edge, 2 inches from that line, and another line 2 inches from the line you just made.
  • Write in the days of the week in the top row, skipping the first square.  I begin the week with Monday.
  • Using a pen and ruler, draw as many horizontal lines as you like, depending on what you want to track.  I drew just two lines, making three rows: one to track events/to-do’s, one to track my blog editorial calendar, and one to track dinner menu planning.  Notice I sized my Blog row to accommodate a 2×2-in post-it note.  Each post-it note reflects a blog post.
  • Write in the row labels.  For my three rows, I keep the first big one empty (to later fill in with pencil each week), the second one is “Blog”, and third is “Dinner”.

6. The remaining 80 or so pages: use for whatever you want – notes, pockets, whatever.  To make a pocket, just fold a regular piece of lined notebook paper in half, cut off about 3/4-inch, and tape it to the bottom portion of a comp book page.  Washi tape or blue painter’s tape work just fine.  The decorative washi tape is especially fun to use.  Here’s a pocket example from my day planner…I needed a place to stash my travel confirmations for the 2012 Sewing Summit – a modern sewing and blogging conference in Salt Lake City this October :)

Comp Book Day Planner Pocket

Use it!

Now that you’ve created a one-of-a-kind day planner suited just for you, use the heck out of it.  Here are my personal tips:

  • After I’ve made all the formatting lines and row/column headers in pen, I use pencil for everything else.  I like to erase as my schedule changes.
  • Immediately after I create the planner, I write in all of the year’s events and holidays at once, on the top line.  No more missed birthdays!
  • I love to use post-it notes for my blog editorial calendar.  I color code by blog category.  Yes, I am an organization freak.  Yellow is Organization & Productivity, Pink is Sewing, Orange is Business, and so on.  I have even made a comp book blog planner…I’ll share THAT nugget with y’all later. UPDATE: to see my blog planner, read my post How to Make a Platform Planner.
  • I use the left-most column to pencil in the things I want to accomplish that week, then allocate them to the actual day’s schedule.  I like to balance my tasks among these three spaces: Physical, Mental, and Creative/Emotional (hat tip to Jeff Goins’ The Most Important Part of the Creative Life).  I use Trello to compile all these tasks, then when I’m ready to accomplish them, into the day planner they go!  UPDATE: to see how I use Trello, read my post How to Manage Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Space with Trello.
Comp Book Day Planner Pages Again

I know, it took probably about an hour to draw all those lines and label all those columns and rows.  But that hour was well spent, my friend.  You only do this once a year and you get a day planner tailored to you.

For all you folks who have to share your calendar with others: ooh sorry, this special project works best as a personal planner, not a collaborative one.

Here’s an added benefit I’ve found: since I invested the time making this planner, I am WAY more apt to stick to using it.

Now go out and be purposeful with your time!

 

Making one and sharing online?  Link it up – I’d love to see what you make!

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