It’s that time of year again – old calendars are being trashed, and the (frantic) search for a new planner begins. Everyone’s needs and tastes are different, but I found it helpful to see what others were doing, even if it was just to figure out what I didn’t want. So, here’s what I’m doing with a Moleskine notebook and some GTD background.
My day job is actually providing support for users of the productivity app we have been making for iPhone, iPad, and Mac for the past 6 years. Day in and day out I’m trying to help people get better organized. So, my thinking is heavily influenced by the Getting Things Done method, which advocates (among other things) to keep to-dos (crafty projects) separate from calendar events (doctor’s appointment at 5pm, meeting friends at 7pm, etc.).
With that in mind: I only put my crafty stuff in my paper planner; everything else is managed digitally either via Apple’s Calendar app or via our productivity app.
Before we get to the juicy parts (lots of pictures 😉 ), here’s a bit of info as to why I’m doing things the way I do.
- Transportability I don’t have a car, I’m commuting by train so I need a planner that is lightweight and small (yet large enough to get a few sketches on a single page). I don’t like Filofaxes (tried them for half a year) or any other type of planner that has these clip-open-clip-closed type of ring system. I want a nice flat planner.
- Monthly View I absolutely depend on a month view. It allows me to instantly gauge my workload. I don’t need (nor want) a weekly or daily view because I have no use for that level of detail (all my appointments which would go there are in my digital calendar).
- Sketch pages In addition to the monthly calendar spread, I need tons of sketch pages so I can jot down card ideas for my projects.
So far, I have not found a planner that meets my needs. Ironically, it seems like Erin Condren used to have one like it, but they discontinued it. Moleskine actually makes a monthly planner with lots of note pages, but they have a whole lot of junk in the front which takes up space and weight for nothing.
My Moleskine Hack
After a ton of research, I finally settled on a pocket sized, colored soft cover notebook from Moleskine with dotted pages. The size is perfect to get a few sketches on a single page, it travels perfectly because of it’s size, and thanks to the soft cover, I can bend and squish it depending on which position I’m in when I write (comfy on the couch or nudged between people on a train).
I personally hate squares (remind me of math at school), and lines are not so great when sketching, so I opted for the dotted pages. The dots allow you to keep your sketches somewhat straight and my writing doesn’t look too wonky (on blank pages, it just … it’s really not pretty). Because of that, the notebook comes in only three colors: Underwater blue (currently using it), Orchid Purple (used it at at the beginning of the year, awesome female color), and Khaki Beige (my next color, gotta try them all).
I like to use 2 pages for a monthly spread, then give myself plenty of note pages for each month before the next calendar spread. In order to quickly find each month without having to thumb through the entire thing, I created simple tabs from sturdy card stock with the month’s names and glued them to paper with Tombo Mono.
Yes, the tabs stick out (it’s kinda their purpose, after all) and they do wear, but after carrying this notebook in my backpack (and I really throw it in their and push other stuff in there roughly), nothing has torn or ripped in three month!
Each month gets two pages for a calendar spread. I simply use a ruler and a fine tip pen to draw the squares. Mind you, because I’m a scatterbrain, I usually pencil in everything first to make sure I actually get seven days in a row … and enough rows per month 😀 You really don’t want to know how I came to rely on this method …
Here’s what March 2015 will look like for me. I’ve entered all my Design Team duties for Make The Day Special Stamp Store and Stempelküche Challenge, since those are assigned days. The yellow stickies (I’ll mention them further down again) are for the Gerda Steiner Design Team, where I have flexible days. As you can see, the month actually spreads over 6 weeks – so I’ve “added” the last two days in the top row because I had space there.
The above image shows October 2014 – as you can see, I simply wrote down the names of the weekdays and the month, and a bit of washi tape gave the spread some interest. Originally, I wanted to have the date of each day in a circle with a colorful background, but the Moleskine paper is not suited for stamping with dye ink. It bleeds through horribly. So I only stamped the outline circle instead.
Projects which are done, meaning I have created the card or tag or whatever, get a red tick mark. That doesn’t mean I’ve edited the photos, or the video, or even written a blog post, but I do have a card which I can share, no matter what. As you notice, the red checkmarks really stand out – that’s because I try to use as little color as possible in my planner. If I were to color code my design teams differently or throw in appointments which now live in my digital calendar, I wouldn’t be able to instantly see what’s going on. So the lack of color is a purposeful choice. Thanks to it, special events like the two blog hops I participated in immediately come to attention – as they should, since they were super important and I needed to be on time. In my philosophy, less is more.
A Word About the Details
You might wonder (and rightly so): if I give my completed cards a red checkmark, how do I keep track of where I’m actually at in terms of photos, videos, and blog posts?
Here’s where my digital productivity app comes in. I have a project template, that looks about like this:
Notes for the project, for example links to inspiration on Pinterest or the names of the products I might use. In case of blog hops, all the information shared by the organizer goes in here.
- Create the card
- Photograph the card
- Edit the video (cutting + voiceover + export)
- Edit and export photos
- Upload video to YouTube and schedule it (get the link before scheduling!)
- Write blog post
- Add product links to blog post
- Add product links to video on YouTube
- Schedule blog post
- After publication: Upload photos to relevant groups on Flickr
- After publication: Add to relevant challenges
Each project has the due date of when the card is being published, so I always know what’s urgent and what’s not. I work my way through this list – of course it’s rather simple, but if – like for the last 6 months – you have to share about 12–14 cards per month, you can quickly get lost so these tasks keep me on track.
Back to my analog paper planner. You saw me using a few stickers – yellow labels are for the Gerda Steiner Design Team, orange butterflies are for super special events like blog hops, and I also have little pink circles in case something else comes up that I need to keep in mind. I could buy the stickers, but I have tons of sticky notes from the 1€ store, some even dating back to my college days (and I finished college over 8 years ago). So, I grabbed some of my punches and created my own stickers.
I simply lined up the shape of the punch with the sticky part of the adhesive note and … punched. I also had a few Moleskine stickers in a sheet left over, and those come in handy for stuff that will most likely move around and therefore can’t be written into the planner directly. I keep all of the stickers in the packaging of a tiny stamp set and that all goes into the pocket at the back of my notebook.
Last, but not least, here’s a peek at my sketch pages: I usually only need one page per project. I simply start sketching what comes to mind and then I write down relevant information – what kind of products I was thinking of, where I got inspired, what colors would be great etc. Not all of these sketches get turned into a card, those which do get a thick vertical line next to them. It’s great to have the notebook as a reference to what I’ve created and if I’m ever stuck, I just thumb through my sketches and find something I haven’t done yet.
How do I know how many sketch pages I need between monthly spreads? Educated guess 😀 I know how many cards are due for my design team duties, so that’s one sketch page per assignment. Then I add about 2-3 extra pages just in case something else comes up … who knows, maybe I’ll try out for another design team?
As you can see, I keep things pretty simple. The planner, to me, is a tool that is supposed to help me stay on track. The only decorations I allow are the ones on the monthly spreads with the washi tape – other than that, I keep it as clean as I can since I found that adding too much color or pictures or stickers just makes it hard to see what I need to see.
I’ve made one change after the last three months: starting with 2015, I am adding the birthdays of people whom I want to send a card to into the planner as well. This helps me see if I can combine the birthday card with a Design Team project or a challenge I want to participate in. Birthdays are written in with my ball pen, but the date circle is colored in with a purple marker (I love purple!). So that’s the only other colored marker besides red that I’m using. Will have to see how this goes – February is covered in purple right now. Incredible how many people have birthdays there!
When this notebook travels, it’s safely closed with the typical Moleskine rubber band, and my pen resides inside (hasn’t fallen out once since I started to use that method in February 2014). For the pen, I use a Parker Pen Jotter K60. It’s about 6€–7€ via Amzon. I love this ball pen because it writes super super soft. Some ball pens require you to press down hard, or they don’t give off ink evenly. The Parker is a dream – you almost need no pressure to write, it’s simply awesome.
So, that’s my planner setup. I have been using this particular method since February 2014 and I’m super happy with it and will stick with it. I’ve found that I can easily fit half a year into one Moleskine notebook, and still have plenty of room for other stuff. If you craft less than me, you might be able to fit in up to ten months. If you craft every day, you should still be able to get about half a year out of the planner.
I hope my ideas inspired you to look at your planner needs with fresh eyes and I hope you find a solution that works as well for you as mine does for me.
Now, off with you to ring in the new year – stay safe, have fun, and see you on the other side!