I’m a Planner Nerd

Posted on December 30, 2015 by prairiemoonquilts in Organizing

I freely admit it.

There’s something about a blank book with lines waiting to be filled up with lists that just makes me giddy! I love my lists!

I want to buy every planner book I come across, and I look at them all the time. And then I end up confusing myself.

What is right for me?

What type of planner really fits the way I work?

I don’t need every planner I come across — I need one that’s perfect for ME.

And I haven’t found one yet.

I’ve purchased many, and lots of them just go unused because I flounder while using them. Then I feel guilty.

So in preparation for 2016, I started a few weeks ago, and put together my own planner. It’s made up of lots of bits and pieces from lots of other planners. I took the parts I liked, and left the parts I didn’t. I added in things I need, and left out things I don’t.

Below I’ll show you some of the pages I’m using, with links to where I got them.

In the past, with the planners and pages I used, I found I didn’t like the format of them or the orientation of them. Some of the pages didn’t apply to me, some things I needed were missing. I used all that information that I now know about myself and the way I work, and put it to use when making my new planner.

Here’s a few things I’ve found that I need to have:

Big pages — 8 1/2″ x 11″ format
I write big, and not very neatly, and sometimes I have a lot to write. Sometimes I don’t, too, and that’s OK. Forcing myself to write small on smaller pages made me dislike using the planner.

Loose-leaf binder with big rings
I want to be able to add extra pages whenever I want and in whatever position in my binder I need them. I change my mind a lot! I also want everything in ONE binder, so big rings is a must. Here’s the one I’m currently using. I got it at Target.


Section dividers
Mine are nothing fancy. They have the open slots to slide in the little tabs that label the dividers. I’m constantly changing the section names and the order they’re in, so these work great for me!


Month-on-2-pages calendar
I prefer undated calendars with a Sunday start, oriented in portrait mode. I can use the same file year after year, and plug in my own dates. If I mess one up too badly, I can simply print another and replace it. My month spans two pages, with an extra column for notes down one side. I purchased this one from Polka Dot Posie on Etsy. It came bundled with some other forms, so I can pick and choose the forms I like, and leave the rest. This is my entire month in one view.


Week-on-2-pages calendar
I wanted a Sunday start, undated, week-on-2-pages format, also oriented in portrait mode, for my more detailed weekly lists and notes. I’ve previously used landscape mode for some of my forms, and I was always turning my notebook sideways, which annoys me no end, so I learned that I need to have portrait mode for all my forms. This gives me the current week in one view. It came in the bundle from Polka Dot Posie as well, but it did not start on Sunday, so I had to fix that, and now it’s perfect for me. Down the right-hand side is a to-do list where I can write in all the things I’d like to get done each month.


No Daily pages
I’ve learned that daily pages are a waste of paper for me. For my daily to-to list, I use the most basic version of Simple-ology online. Every morning, there’s a Start My Day process to go through, and at that time, I can add in any extra things from lists in my planner as necessary. I like Simple-ology the most for its reminders. I can enter a task in the list, set it to remind me that it needs doing on a certain date, and it will pop up in that day’s to-do list when I do the Start My Day process. Once you get used to it, it’s quick and easy, and it’s easier to edit than a paper daily list. I also like the Dream Catcher, where you can add things right when you think of them, but then forget about them, knowing that Simple-ology will remind you to deal with them every morning — it keeps me from losing ideas. You can even text your Dream Catcher items to the list from your phone! So no matter where you are, you can still catch those ideas, even if you don’t have a pen and paper handy. There are more advanced versions, too, if you want more features, but again, I’ve chosen the parts that work best for me, and leave the rest. My system needs to be quick and simple, or I’ll stop using it!

Special pages
I’m a quilter, a blogger, a business-owner, and I help run a cattle ranch and a household, so I need forms specific to those things. I’ve tried lots of different ones, and while some work, others I’ve ended up designing to fit me better. I’ll detail these below.

Monthly Blogging Schedule
I had downloaded at one time, a free blank monthly schedule which was landscape oriented (again, annoying, so I didn’t use it). To make it work for me, I reduced the size and oriented it portrait-wise, put it on the upper half of a page, and then filled the bottom half of the page with lines for notes and ideas about other blog articles that come up as the month goes on. I like it much better now!


Master Project List
I downloaded an editable Master Project list from Perfectly Organized on Etsy. I can keep four months worth of projects on one page. At the beginning of each month, I update the list, rotate off the month just over, add the next month at the end, re-print it fresh, and just move it along in my planner all year. My Master Project list is very very fluid, and it gets messy, so being able to neatly update it once a month is great for me. I have one for quilting, and one for my house and personal projects. I can easily add others if I see the need.


Year-on-2-pages Calendar
Also from Perfectly Organized, I downloaded this year-at-a-glance, portrait-oriented on two pages, yearly calendar. It’s not undated, so I need a new one every year, but so far, that has not been an issue. I can see my entire year this way. I’m also planning to use this calendar to help with scheduling my customer quilts on the longarm this year. I’m hoping it will help me — this past year was completely unorganized, and therefore, very stressful.


Address Book pages
I used to despise having to update my address book. People move, some addresses you no longer need, others you need to add, and the entire thing just gets messy. So I made myself editable pages where I can type in the addresses I currently need, with space to write in others as they come up. Once a year (or more often if I want), I can go back into the file, update it, print it out again, and it’s done. I don’t even have to print pages that didn’t change, so once you have it set up the first time, it’s very quick and easy to update. So much less annoying.


Habit Tracker
I told you about this one earlier, and made it available as a free download, if you want to try it yourself. I’m using this to track new habits I want to create for myself. For example, I’m using one to work on my fabric scraps 30 minutes a day to get them under control. I’m planning to use one for exercise in 2016. The file has a 30-day tracker, for a habit you want to do every day, and a 52-week tracker, for a habit that you only have to act on once a week, but want to do for an entire year, such as putting money in a savings account.


52-Week List
I found this form from Rogue Crusade on Etsy. It’s perfect for planning and listing things like the weekly tasks I prescribed for the Studio Organizing Challenge, and it’s gonna be perfect for planning out the new weekly challenges I have coming up for you next year! Stay tuned!


This form also came in the bundle from Polka Dot Posie, and this is what I’m using for extra daily notes and such — my catch-all pages. These are the pages where I don’t care if I get messy, I’ve got lots of room to write, and I can add or delete pages as necessary. I’ve also stuck some blank loose-leaf notebook paper in the back for when I might need it. I thought about adding graph paper, but decided to leave it out. I use it for quilt planning, and I have all the quilt-planning notes and papers in a separate notebook (which probably needs to be cleaned out to start the new year).


So that’s the basics I’m starting with. I’m sure I’ll find more pages to add as the year goes on. If I don’t like the order I have them in my notebook, that’s easy to change because it’s a loose-leaf binder.

I printed everything one-sided, too, which may seem like a waste, but I’ll be using the blank sides for notes and extras as well, so for me, it works best that way.

I got myself some cute little goodies to help decorate it up as I go.

I bought a new set of Sharpies:


Some washi tape, colored highlighters, Post-it flags, and cute paper clips:


And I’ve got stickers and other various notions to make it fun. I have serious envy when I see other people post pictures of their planner books and they’re so cute, and mine is just a scribbled-up mess. I’m hoping this year will be different. At the same time, I don’t want to spend all my time decorating my planner all cute, and not actually getting any work done, so . . . we’ll see!

I’ll leave you with a few links to planners I love the look of, and the idea of, but was afraid to actually purchase because of the things I mentioned above (size, format, orientation, etc.). Perhaps one of these ready-made planners will be just the thing for you.

I’ll start with my personal favorite, and the one I almost caved in to: The Quilter’s Planner by Stephanie Palmer, the Late Night Quilter. It’s designed by a quilter, for quilters. It would just about be perfect, but by the time I saw it, I was full into putting my own together, and decided to keep going with my original plan. If any planner could have swayed me, this one would have been it!

Start Planner. Also very tempting, but not tempting enough. However, it’s the perfect thing for a lot of folks — perhaps you?

There’s always FranklinCovey planners, which I actually used for years because they have large-size, portrait-oriented, loose-leaf pages, and lots of various forms to choose from. This is one kind I could possibly find myself returning to and liking, if the mood hits me just right.

Erin Condren planners. Love them! They look so fun. I really wanted one of these, too, but just couldn’t make the decision to get one.

And another one that was very tempting: Bullet Journal. Very neat method.

There are many many more, if you just look around. And Etsy has lots and lots of instantly downloadable forms and other types of planners and notebooks. You can spend way too much time looking at all the choices — trust me!

If you’re a planner nerd like me, and love lists like I do, I hope you found some of this interesting and useful. I’m sure mine will evolve as time goes on — it’s always a work in progress.

I’d be interested to know if you use a planner, and if you do, what type of planner do you use?

Here’s to a well-planned 2016 for all of us!

16 responses to “I’m a Planner Nerd”

  1. randy says:

    yikes I started re using old 3 ring binders. lined not book paper and clear sleevss. A friend nagged me to take photos of completed quilts.
    Over a year it really shows what I have done.

    • Yvonne says:

      Long ago I started taking pics of every quilt I made – sometimes just the finished quilt and sometimes step by step. Plus a photo of the tag I put on the back.

      It has been helpful for memories but also if I decide to make another like one already done.

  2. Paula says:

    Shelly – thanks for all the great ideas.

  3. Cynthia says:

    What a good idea. I am sure I have a 3 ring binder here I could use. The custom pages I have downloaded or created are just pinned to my notice board and I was only thinking yesterday when I needed to add a new workshop page I have to file these better so I can use them. I alway have good intentions at the beginning of the year of being organised but half the ideas don’t work and after a couple months I stop using them. So I am going to set up my own customised planner ans see what happens. I love reading your blog post.

  4. Meloney says:

    I’ve come to rely on the computer. Franklin Covey works, I just was too tied to it and told myself that when I retired, I would reduce my planning in that manner.
    I use excel for how much material I use.
    I use word for the projects for the month. It lets me move them over if I don’t complete them in the month I put them.
    I also use my blog to track what I am doing and keep me accountable.

  5. Bec says:

    I write in a journal everyday. I used to buy one every year then I decided they were far to expensive. For the last 30 years I’ve used note book paper and a 3 ring binder. I can often get 2 years in one binder.

    I print the yearly calendar and monthly calendars free from the Internet (Google free printable calendars). I also get my lists free (via Google). I use the plastic sheet protector for the calendars after the month has passed.

    I’m a list maker, so there’s a section in my daily planner (in a separate 3 ring binder from my journal).

    I’ve got the same sharpie highlighters, same page markers. I don’t use paper clips, I do understand the way!

    I depend a great deal on both these notebooks. They go on vacation with us too!

  6. Sue Hook says:

    Your planner looks amazing.

    I have had planners in the past and start great in January and by June I cannot locate them. Now I keep list on my ipad of projects I want to do – need to do – and shopping list.

    Of course work is a different story – I plan and stay organized at work most of the time.

  7. Rose Marie says:

    You are a planner nerd. I don’t want you to see my lists and my planner!! (it is a recycled art calendar that I write lists of stuff on). It’s certainly cheap.

  8. Lori says:

    I love it! I, too, am a planner nerd. I kept trying different things and nothing really worked for me, seemed I had too many things to update in too many different places. Finally, last summer I plunked down some hard-earned cash for an Erin Condren life planner and…guess what? I absolutely love it! It works great for me. There was some serious cash outlay for it and I had a hard time with that but I figured with all the different things I had bought in years past and not used, it was not really more expensive. Whatever works, right?

    If you want to know more, check out http://erincondren.com.

  9. Susan says:

    I AM a planner, and constantly looking for the perfect, do-it-over-and-over-again method of planning! I’m trying your Posie Dots and we’ll see where that takes me. Thanks!

  10. Gayla says:

    Love your ideas and will be checking out those links. I caved and bought the Erin Condren vertical. Love it! I would like the option of adding sections. I use tiny hole punch, washi, or cardstock, and little scissors to add spiralized extra pages, but it is tedious. I am not that busy, but I like stickers, lists, and planning! Love your blog.

  11. Thanks for taking time to do this post, Shelly! So many helpful ideas and great to see what your readers offer, too. I’ve used a Franklin Planner for 20+ yrs for daily life and a dry erase monthly calendar in my sewing room…very cute w/ flowered post-it flags and notes. Then I have a looseleaf w/ lined pages, graph paper and clear sleeves for quilt designing. For my needs it works well, but I’m also going to check out some of the printed pages you’ve shared…I can always use improvement.

  12. Edi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I have the same struggles and challenges. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one. You have some great ideas.

  13. Judy Smith says:

    Some great ideas here! Makes my little spiral bound notebook look pretty wimpy. I may be looking at something a little more updated, although I like the portability of it, as well as the size (6×8).

  14. Marsha Yahl says:

    Wow, Shelly, you have given me some great ideas and new tools. I had an organizer that I started last year, but will incorporate some of your ideas to make it even better. Hopefully 2016 will be better organized and I will be more motivated to get all UFO’s (or at least a good portion of them) finished. I am enjoying my more organized sewing area thanks to your inspiration, although it is far from perfect!

  15. Barb Bevell says:

    Oh, man, sensory overload. I read this the day you posted it and wasn’t able to pull up the links on my phone (well, I could pull them up, I just couldn’t SEE the pictures well enough). Now I’m going through EACH ONE and having a blast!

    Thanks, Shelly!

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