Making your tools work for you: My Planner

Despite all the digital tools out there to help us manage our time, plan our days and track our to-dos, I can’t seem to get entirely away from paper.

There is just no substitute for writing a list, checking things off, and seeing your week laid out before you on a paper that leaves room for scribbled notes and reminders. There is no system as flexible and adaptable as a paper and a pencil. 

Having had many years of experience trying out the various planners on the market, I have developed a strong sense of what I like in a planner. And I’ve finally concluded there is no planner on the market that is just perfect for me. So I made my own. (I think I got this instinct to make my own from my dad, who has designed his own elaborate digital system for managing his to dos and calendar.) 

A curious friend asked to see my self-made planner, so I’m posing it here in case it’s interesting to any of you as well. 

I designed it in Google Sheets. I print it out on regular paper at home, and use a glue stick to paste the pages into a cheap spiral notebook from Staples. It’s not particularly pretty, but it works for me.

Here is the left side of the two page spread:

Starting at the top left corner, here is what I included and why:
  • I like to write down the top two or three things that will make my week great. (They must be things I have control over.) If all else fails, I make sure I do those few things and the week is a success by definition.
  • Below that, I have a box for my weekend plan. I notice that if the weekend arrives and I haven’t put any thought into what we’re going to do, we tend to have a directionless and frustrating weekend. This box reminds me to make a plan.
  • Space for notes. This could be a reminder, a quote I heard, or an address I copied down while on the phone. 
  • Below that, my Dailies checklist. I keep track of what I’m committing to do every day, and check off that I did it. I like to see those rows fill up with "X" marks. (Examples of what might go there: walk 10k steps, post to the blog, write in my journal.)
  • Along the bottom, I have room to list my “inputs” which could be books I am reading, podcasts I’m listening to, events I attended, or important conversations I had. These inputs become fodder for my writing, and I have space to the right of that to jot down writing ideas as well. 
  • The heart of the page contains the daily columns, with time based slots at the top to block out when I’m going to do what, and a “to do” list below.

The right side of the spread finishes out the week and provides space below to plan projects that span more than one day.

I am a big fan of tweaking routines and systems and tools to fit you best, and not settling for something that's only sort of good. I hope you enjoyed this peek into my planner and that it gives you the courage to adapt, tweak or replace your tools with ones that fit you best.


  1. Laurel, I really like this system. I especially like "this week will be great if" and the "weekend plan" very interesting. this is super useful to me and helps me think about my own weeks. COOL!

  2. Love this! I'm going to try it!