Over the last several years since graduating from college and “finding myself” in my career, so to speak, the skills I’ve developed and excelled in at work have quietly transferred into my personal life after taking the time to analyze and address the lack of consistency between my two worlds.
For example, my “work self” is highly efficient, acutely organized, obsessed with systems, embedded in project plans, and on top of every possible deadline. Between my Outlook Calendar, Google sheets, and my folder system in my inbox, one might classify me as an obsessive organizer. That is, until you would look at my personal life. Here, you’d find random scraps of paper with stream-of-consciousness to-do lists scribbled on them, countless unfinished journals with unfinished thoughts, and a Gmail inbox of over 2,000 unread emails.
At a certain point I had to stop and ask myself: what’s the deal?! How is it that I’m the most Type A person at work, but the most Type Z person at home? And this was followed by the thought: imagine how exponentially better my personal life would be if I transferred some of the same habits and practices I actively use at work into my day to day routine outside of it.
As my personal life has gotten busier over the last several years, the need for an effective accountability system has become non-negotiable. Without a method for keeping track of my priorities, events, meetings, miscellaneous tasks, I was leaving myself wide open for dropping the ball, which in turn, would lead me to disappointment and frustration. In thinking back to the last time I truly felt on top of my entire schedule holistically, college immediately came to mind. It occurred to me that since elementary school, I’d been trained to use a planner to keep track of my homework assignments, tests, after-school meetings, etc.–and it worked! I can probably count on one hand how many times I actually missed a deadline because I forgot about it throughout those 16 years of formal education. Nevertheless, for whatever reason after graduating from college, I completely abandoned the idea of using a planner, and it hadn’t occurred to me until recently the impact that its had.
For a while, I searched for a good planner at a few typical stores–Target, Barnes & Noble, and the like. Sure, I could’ve spent $29.99 on one of their planners and made it work for me, but my fiance brought it to my attention that I could customize my own planner, print it, and get it bound for a fraction of the cost (but a bit more work). I decided it was a worthy investment of time.
If you find yourself in the same boat right now, it’s easy to create the planner of your dreams in no time! Here’s how I tackled this project:
First, here’s what you’ll need:
- A design software program (I use Canva for all of my blogger headers and other digital designs. It is so user-friendly–and free!).
- Access to a printer
- Access to Kinko’s, FedEx, or another location that can bind paper
Step 1 | Determine your layout
I decided that I wanted a weekly view and a daily view of my schedule, because I like to have an idea of my day-to-day cadence, but I also need a daily to list of priorities in order to stay on top of things. You decide what works best for you!
Step 2 | List out your priorities
For me, I have my job, a board I sit on, a marketing & event planning company I help run, a wedding to plan, various house projects to keep up with, and several personal goals for myself. Once I determined that these were my top priorities, I designed my planner to specifically highlight them, so that I spend deliberate time thinking and action planning around them everyday. (Without doing so, I’ve noticed, things can easily slip your mind and fall off of your mental to-do list entirely).
Step 3 | Design your layout (in Canva, or another program!)
Like I mentioned earlier, I absolutely love Canva because it’s so user friendly (and free!). I use it to design all of my blog headers, social media posts, etc., and have even started using it to do some freelance design work on the side! Trust me, I am not one of those people who is a self-taught anything, and I somehow managed to teach myself how to use this program in no time.
All you need to do is create a username, and the Canva world becomes your oyster. You can customize the dimensions of your planner (I just used standard paper size — 8.5 x 11in). Once you’re in, you just use the icons on the lefthand side of the screen to add different elements to the page. Play around with it to get a feel for what you can do! Here’s a screenshot of me doing so:
See how easy it is?!
So, I used Canva to create this layout for my planner:
And don’t forget to design a cover page, too!
As you can see, my weekly view allows me to write down each of the to-do’s in my top priority categories, and my daily view provides a more robust run-down of everything that I’m responsible for. I also added a box to keep track of my various bank accounts, so that on a daily basis, I’m being conscientious of spending and saving.
Step 4 | Print + assemble your new planner!
If you decide to do a daily planner, you’ll want to print about 183 daily sheets (365 pages front and back), and 52 weekly sheets (one for each week). I recommend using a laser printer at an office, library, Kinko’s, etc., rather than burning through all of your ink with your standard home printer.
Step 5 | Get your planner bound
Once you’ve finished printing and organizing, you’re ready to make it officially by adding binding! I visited my local FedEx store and got my 200+ page planner bound for just around $5.00. Can’t get much better than that! If going to a store in person isn’t an option for you, I know there are plenty of online printing/binding services that you can pursue as well, but these might be a little pricier because of shipping/handling.
Step 6 | Use + enjoy your planner everyday!
I am absolutely in love with my planner already, and am blown away how much more on top of my life I feel on a daily basis! Please, don’t pay $30+ for something that isn’t customized to fit your needs — design your own, save money, and feel great!
I hope this is helpful! Be sure to let me know how this process goes for you if you decide to create your own planner!