Every year around October I start to think about finally printing out inserts for my planner for the coming year. As I’ve printed my own inserts since 2016, I’ve always took this time to review my usage and make adjustments. Thanks to stumbling upon this video with mid-year review of planner usage by team at US stationary shop Yoseka, I’m now aware that this practice has a new trendy, japanese-inspired name of “Techo Kaigi”, thanks to thriving planner culture around Hobonichi Techo and other planners.
So, below are my musings about my planner usage, my experiments with insert layouts and what I’m going to test out in coming month, before I commit to a full year of inserts.
My current setup consist of 2 main ring-binders + several other binders, dedicated to specific areas of my life, that I interact with when the need arises. Those extra planners act as archives for past projects, organise various info and hold ideas about future projects. All of them are in Personal format, to allow for easy movement of content to my main planner, when project becomes active.
My main planner since 2017 was and is still custom Van Der Spek in their Standart size (Personal in Filofax terminology).
Diary inserts I’ve used are:
- Monthly foldout – my custom version
- Week on 2 pages – heavily modified Philofaxy insert v. 2.5.1 (originally called Personal Enhanced TM Week View)
- Custom daily pages (only added as needed)
I’ve used those since 2016 with very little alterations.
Monthly foldout got a Habit tracker to one of the fold sides, but remained unchanged otherwise.
Weekly pages too had no major changes till last year, as this layout of Week view (reminiscent of Hobonichi Weeks) gives me a good outlook on my affairs.
Editorial/Blog/Web projects planner
For my web-related personal projects I’ve been using Filofax Original A5 in Navy for the last 5 years.
More space is conductive to keeping my many lists of planned posts, ideas and topics to cover, records of content I still have to import, design sketches, features ideas, notes on troubleshooting…
I have a lot going on with my projects and even more is planned, so this binder is THIC and HEAVY!
So thick, that it became very uncomfortable to use diary section, where I was supposed to plan posts for the current month and at the beginning of the 2023 I’ve moved this section to the spare inexpensive A5 binder from AliExpress, that was originally bought just as a archival storage space.
My planner usage
So this is my setup, let’s see what I’ve discovered during my review and what changes I plan to implement to each of those.
Van Der Spek (Personal) – main planner
Right side page
I used to loosely group tasks on right side of my page in a few major categories (Personal, Home, Health, Hobbies, Work, Money), but in 2022 I’ve added more structure to that side and made those fields permanent, reserving the rest of the space for tasks for a specific days.
I’ve enjoyed this setup, so now it’s time to alter my templates and make this division permanent, so I don’t have to draw boxes myself every time.
Left side page
On the left hand page is my main week overview, listing events and appointments, also a lot of tracking goes here, but looking on my past months made me realise, that I’ve never developed a structure how to record everything, aside of some basic colour-coding. So every week is very different and it makes it hard to find some of the info I write down at a glance.
After experiment with dividing right hand side turned out to be a success – I’m thinking of doing the same for left-hand page too. Draw a line at the center, so events and meeting/appointments go in one slot, and everything else goes in another: records of films I’ve seen, projects I’ve worked on…
I plan to test this alteration in coming weeks and decide, if it’ll make it into new year inserts.
If changes to Weekly pages are very small, as this layout works well for me, with Monthly pages I clearly had some work to do.
Throughout the year I would notice how little I’ve used them (or even folded them out)! Even Habit tracker, placed on a fold-out page so it’s visible, would get neglected and space for projects in major Life Categories right next to calendar would stay empty for some months.
Some of this lack of use is down to the fact, that I used Monthly Pages to block out time for travel, business trips and other events I had to plan my time around, but last few years had very little of those. But I felt, that I could rejuvenate those pages by adjusting placement of sections, to draw attention to Monthly pages and encourage a bigger picture outlook for myself with that too.
First, I’ve moved my Habit tracker to the 2nd pane of foldout page, so when page is folded in – that’s the first thing you see, in hope to encourage better tracking of those habits I want to build into my routine.
On the third pane, previously occupied by Habit Tracker, I’ve placed a space for Monthly tasklist + some empty space for jotting down ideas and info. This pane has an advantage of being visible, when Monthly foldout is half-open and also lines up side by side with a space I used for listing projects and main events in my Life Categories. This allows to generate task list based on those priorities and always have those tasks in sight, to incorporate them in my weekly day-to-day planning.
Calendar stayed the same, but space nearby saw an addition of structured space for listing Monthly project in Life Categories, in the same way I have them on my Weekly Pages. I hope that uniformity of those will help to draw my attention to the space, as I’ve already trained myself to look those up, when planning on a weekly basis.
Changes planned to the Monthly pages I’m very sure about, so I’ve already gone and prepared all the relevant files for printing.
Filofax Original Navy (A5) – editorial planner
Moving Diary section into another binder improved comfort of writing, but… I’ve discovered, that I would forget to check up on all my past plans and ideas, that were left sitting in Original for months. No good.
Than, I’ve scrutinised my actual usage of the diary section. Results were mixed.
I have 2 pages for each month: 1 A4 foldout page, with Stats and planning section on the outside and Monthly calendar on the inside and the second page is a A5 page with vertical Monthly planning space on one side and a table with all my projects and relevant social-media outlets.
Foldout page (left-hand side):
Stats records and and space for planning priorities and tasks for the current month – worked great, unlined space was invaluable for quick jotting down ideas and sketches. I’ve made good use of those sections and don’t see what I could improve there.
On the inside of the foldout I have a Monthly calendar intended for recording of content posted everywhere and planning it around other posts. And that didn’t work for me.
I have many projects, space is limited, social media accounts not always repost original content on the same day, colour coding various outlets and projects and adding lines to the date space didn’t really help me to get a good overview of all my staff. It was always a struggle to keep track of what was posted where and stuff would routinely fall through the cracks, especially when I was saddled with unexpected hurdles to my usual posting routine (Tumblr soft-ban, VPN not working etc).
My verical month planner gave a good overview, but just was not able to accommodate everything I needed And it was a duplicate of a Monthly spread, just in another format. The table at the back was fun to look, but gave just too little info on my posting schedule and required another duplication of information.
This needed a new approach entirely, so I got to work, trying to find a way to stay on top of things.
Experiments with layouts
Before drawing out layouts for the editorial planner setup I had to make another decision – should I keep using A5 OR try to incorporate this into my main planner? My problems were not limited to the layout, so I had to look at completely different approaches before setting to work.
This analysis led me to consider incorporating Diary section into my main planner, and keep using A5 for projects/lists/info. My main planner is always open on my desk, so I won’t have to find space on my desk for a third planner, in A5 size, as I tried (and failed) in last year.
Editorial planner layouts in Personal size
Originally were were 2 reasons to move web-related projects to a dedicated planner: too much info and it was crowding my main calendar. As my usage shows, classic Calendar Monthly spread doesn’t work for my case anyway, so I went to look up some inspiration for Monthly pages.
Vertical calendar worked for me somewhat, but it had too little space, so my first thought was – what if I put in on it’s side and it can be used as a Gantt chart too?
First test was trying to combine web and all my other projects on one page. It just wasn’t working, so I never even finished filling it in and tried another one.
Second attempt had original blog posts below calendar and reposts and other items above it, colour-coded by account. I was able to fit my info, but above section was too messy and didn’t provide me with a clear outlook even with colour-coding everything.
Third try: I thought, maybe more structure will help? Dedicated space for all accounts… No go.
I was unable to fit all content in readable manner in the space provided.
Next, I thought about classic gantt charts and project management.
Why not track preparation time for posts, publication and following promotion this way?
Attempt to do it revealed that I would be unable to track sharing on social media accounts easily.
This is how I’ve came to the idea of using multiple vertical calendars, one per project/account.
This way I had great outlook of any individual channel, it was easy to schedule and check what’s been posted where.
I’ve tried it on separate pages and on a foldout page – looks promising, so that’s what I’ve decided to try in coming weeks/months, before I commit to printing out 2024 inserts.
Editorial planner layouts in A5 size
Decision to use vertical calendars for planning content by account prompted me to modify my existing A5 Monthly foldout in similar fashion with some white-out. This way I could test this format in my A5 setup, with addition of some changes to my work routine and workspace setup in my new flat I just might be able to keep this section in A5 yet.
Results of 2023 planner review
In conclusion, I came to find that my Personal planner works very well for me, changes to my layouts there are mostly minimal and only serve to enhance visibility of existing sections.
Experimentation with Editorial planner revealed that I’ve already had a solution to my user case, I only had to duplicate this functionality to keep track of various projects separately.
Trying-out various formats with my actual data proved invaluable to weed out unworkable solutions, and test-drive in the coming months will allow me to decide on course of action with confidence.