Since starting this blog, I have used a few different planners. I have always loved being as efficient and organized as possible, and felt the best way to accomplish that in terms of keeping track of my appointments and to-dos was with an electronic calendar and to-do list system. So when I first started simplify 101, I used the electronic calendar on my Sony Clie. (Remember those?) Let’s just say, this didn’t work for me. Not. At. All.

Here’s why. I was only able to look at my appointments, and process them in my mind, one day at a time. This lead to all sorts of negative consequences, the worst of which was over-booking. My schedule always felt kind of out of whack. But that was nothing compared to the time when I booked a follow-up appointment with a client, and inadvertently booked her every single Thursday…forever. Clearly that wasn’t what she had intended…but which Thursday had she wanted to see me? I had no clue so I had to call her to find out. Talk about a planner not working well for me…

There are several morals to this story, but let’s focus on just one for now:

The best organizing systems are the ones that think like you do.

There are a number of reasons that the PDA calendar didn’t work for me, but the biggest reason is that my brain doesn’t process time one day at a time. Instead, my brain processes and plans best one week at a time. I also process time and to-dos best on paper…not on a tiny computer screen using a pointing device that is thinner than a pencil (a.k.a. a stylus.)

Fast forward a few years (past a few tried-and-not-so-true paper planners) to my (almost) perfect paper planner—The Planner Pad.

planner pad cover before customizing

The layout of this planner is perfect for me…there’s a month at a glance page at the start of each month.

planner pad - month view

There are two pages per week, and the week starts on a Monday, which is exactly how I think of time. This planner  also allows me to track my appointments and my to-dos, on paper, all in one place.

planner pad - task view

But that’s not all…the spiral bound design lays flat, which means it’s actually easy to write in the planner. (If you’ve ever used a think, ring-binder planner than you know what I’m talking about…when you try to write your hand falls off the page…when it isn’t running into rings.)

But here’s the best part…there are 8 unlabeled columns across the top of the planner that allow you to categorize your to-do list however you want – by goal, by project, by business functional area, by child, by personal / business, whatever. For me, that was the clincher.

planner pad - task view

There was just one problem and let me put this as gently as possible…I’m just not physically attracted to this planner. That’s right…it just isn’t pleasing to my eye. Ouch! So, I had to call on another one of my organizing principles to make this planner work for me. I had to customize it so it would look nice to my eyes. Because the more you love how an organizing solution looks, the more likely you are to use it!

Here’s how I did it.

Step 1:  Gather your supplies.

All that’s needed for this project is:

how to customize your planner

Step 2:  Trim your 12 x 12 patterned paper down to 8-1/2 x 11 using your paper trimmer.

cut 12 x 12 down to 8-1/2 x 11

Step 3:  Print your cover and month tabs onto your patterned paper.

how to make month tabs for your planner

Step 4:  Use your paper trimmer and scissors to cut out your cover and month tabs.

how to alter your planner pad cover

Step 5:  Insert your month print outs into your plastic tabs.

month tabs for your planner

Step 6:  Attach the tabs to your planner.

how to add tabs to your planner

Step 7:  Use your trimmer to cut out your planner pad cover and use corner rounder punch to round corners. Attach paper to cover using glue stick. Then apply two to three very thin coats of decoupage on top of the paper to give it added durability.

how to alter your planners cover

Step 8:  Enjoy using your customized organizing solution!

Happy organizing!

Aby signature

P.S. If you need help figuring out an how to handle your to-dos and appointments in a way that works for you, join me for It’s About Time, the online class that shows you how to manage time and build a customized time management system that is built on your priorities and values.

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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