One of the biggest problems I used to have with scheduling is trying to work with mass-produced daily planners. Most cleanly separate hourly tasks from general tasks (if even offering both), spreading a single day across multiple pages. Additionally, each page tends to be cramped, especially when including fancy patterns as part of page design.
A few years ago, I switched to using an At-A-Glance day planner. It was letter-size, had quarter-hour lines for scheduling, and plenty of remaining space to record other information. I would take a ruler and split each page into three columns. The first two columns were for information about the time slot. The third column was for general notes/tasks. This was an improvement compared to previous planners, but drawing straight lines on every page was tedious. It was a lot of work for something that cost $18 each year.
Last year, I decided I needed to design a planner for myself. It needed to cover any type of day I might have and not force me to reference multiple pages to single out today. So I created a page template using Google Sheets, which provides space for every type of information I might want to record for a given day.
Create a customizable copy by opening the spreadsheet and in the “File” menu, select “Make a copy”.
The page is currently optimized for printing on a US standard letter size with slightly more margin on the left side for punching binder holes. The grid borders only print where border color is defined.
The template has five sections.
- General information about the day: date, day of the week, holidays/birthdays
- Hourly schedule with quarter-hour increments, covering 16 hours of the day
- Task/To-do list
- Notes for general comments related to the day
- Personal log for “self”-specific details
I decided to share my template because I couldn’t find something like it, at least not hidden behind a paywall. Many templates are similar to commercial planners or branded for a specific purpose without an easy way to clean up. My template is functional with a clean design.
What do I do with the planner?
I print a varying number of copies at a time, ranging from one extra day to a few weeks. I use a three-hole punch on each page and insert them into a binder.
Future pages go in the front of the binder, in ascending order. This puts the closest days at the front. I also put blank extras at the end of this section.
I have a binder calendar after the future pages. It provides a month reference and acts as a divider.
Past days are in descending order in the next section. Again, the purpose is keeping the most recent days near the front.
Another divider separates days from previous months at the end of the binder. This section only contains older pages for the current year.
The page for the current day frequently stays out of the binder. I keep it on my desk so I can conveniently reference or change it. I write in a combination of pre-planned items and notes about the day’s activities as they happen. Near the end of the day, I return the page to the section for previous days.
Pages for last year are currently in a separate binder. I’m not sure how I will continue to handle archiving preceding years. 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 spent around $5 for a planner that didn’t provide or have the space for the functionality I needed or $18 for a planner that involved wasting time on formatting each day.
With printed pages, the cost is divided into individual resources.
Ink: $24 for a new cartridge that lasts 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
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.