One of the biggest problems I have had with scheduling, is trying to use mass-published daily planners. I’d gather that most of the planners I’ve bought couldn’t do the job I needed. Most cleanly separate hourly task from general tasks (if even offering both), spreading a single day across multiple pages. Plus each page tends to be cramped, especially when including fancy patterns as part of page design.
About three years ago, I switched to a day planner (At A Glance brand) that finally gave me space to do what I needed, a full size pre-bound planner that showed quarter hour increments with each day taking a full page. I was able to take a ruler and split each page into three columns. The first two columns covered information about the hour and the third was used for general notes/tasks. This worked well compared to your average day planner, but drawing straight lines on every single page to neatly split data reduced the value of a planner that cost around $18 each year.
Last year, I decided I needed to just make my own planner. Something that would cover any type of day, whether crammed with stuff to get done or just covering the highlights of the day, and not force me to reference multiple pages to single out today. Through several iterations, I created a spreadsheet hosted on Google Drive/Docs that provides space for every type of information I might want to record for a given day.
To make your own copy, open the spreadsheet and in the “File” menu, select “Make a copy”. From there, you can edit your copy or export to another format.
The page is currently optimized for printing on a US standard letter size with slightly more margin on left side for punching binder holes. Grid borders only print where border color is specifically defined.
My template is split into five sections.
– Header with general day information: date, day of week, and holidays/birthdays
– Hourly schedule split into quarters, covering 16 hours of the day
– Task/To do list, with unmarked lines
– Notes, unmarked lines for general comments/reminders about the day
– Personal log, which is basically another note section for “self” specific details
What makes my template different from others on the internet, is that it’s completely free, completely customizable, and makes no significant assumptions about what you’re using the day planner for. It can be a personal diary, a way to coordinate family members, a content marketing planner, or a something else that requires looking close at each day.
What do I do with the planner?
I print varying number of pages at a time, depending on how busy I am, sometimes an extra day at a time, sometimes going ahead a couple weeks. Each page I use a three-hole punch on and insert into a binder.
At the front of the binder are future pages in ascending order, as in having the nearest days at the front. This allows me to pull out tomorrow from the front when it’s time. I also put blank extras at the end of this section.
Then I have a binder-sized monthly calendar, which both acts as a general month reference and a content divider.
Finally, I have past days, in descending order, so the most recent day is still near the front. Past days exceeding the current month are put after another divider.
The page for today frequently stays out of the binder, instead staying on my desk, so I can reference and edit it at will, without pulling out the binder. The contents are a combination of pre-planned items and notes about the day activities as they happen. When this page returns to the binder, it goes on top of the “past” section (as I do this usually at end of the day).
Last year’s planner pages are in a different binder. I’m not sure how I will continue to handle archiving previous years as time moves on but I presume I’ll eventually decide on a cut off point to remove/recycle days that didn’t have anything particularly important about them.
In previous years, I’ve spent around $5 for a planner that didn’t really provide or have the space for the functionality I needed or $18 for a planner that at least gave space but involved wasting time on formatting each day.
With printed pages, the cost is divided into individual resources.
Ink: $24 for a new cartridge that last 2-4 months or $10 for a refill kit that lasts a year
Paper Ream (500 pages): $3-6, depending on paper quality
Binder: $1-5 new or $0.25-2 second-hand (check that the rings line up correctly and use a damp towel or mild cleaning wipe on binder before use)
That means my planner is as low as $5 a year, less when accounting that the ink and paper are shared with other projects, with trivial extra time (perhaps most important resource) spent on formatting.