Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Six-Month Follow-Up on My DIY Planner and Journal/Log

A freshly made planner on top of the used one.
It’s been nearly six months since I started using the planner and the journal/log book that I made myself from standard notebooks. (Click the links in the previous sentence to review my initial motivation for making them.) Although the impetus was sketchbook-inspired, the ways in which I use the books themselves are not related much to sketching, so I’ll indulge only briefly here to follow up on how they are working out for me.

In short, I love them! I enjoy using them every day. They suit my needs ideally – no compromises based on a manufacturer’s template.

The planner didn’t require much adjustment on my part – it’s the same two-page-per-week, A5-size format I’ve been using for the past few years. On each weekly spread, I keep appointments on the left and a to-do list on the right. Longer-term planning goes on a monthly grid calendar in the back of the book. (This used to be in a separate calendar previously; I really like now having the weekly planner and the monthly calendar in one book.)

Glued-in reference items.
A small section of blank pages falls between the weekly planner pages and the monthly calendars. I wasn’t sure how I’d use these pages – I had initially thought to write long-term goals or other notes – but I wanted anything I put there to be relevant only for the year so that I don’t have to keep referring to an old planner once the year is over. I ended up using the pages to glue in small paper items that tend to sit on my desk but are prone to getting lost, such as Gage’s drop-in life-drawing schedule (cut from their catalog), business cards and coupons. (I use Tombow Mono Removable Tape Glue on coupons so they can be taken out easily.)

Weekly log pages, filled and empty.

The journal/log book was a slight change in format in that the two are now combined into one A5-size book lasting six months (I used to keep my log in a pocket-size notebook, and the journal was a separate A5-size book). I like having more space for the log in the first 26 pages of the book – about an inch of vertical space across the page for each day. I record things I’ve sketched, seen, eaten, read, heard and otherwise experienced that day. It’s just a list – no commentary – as the latter goes into the remaining freeform pages of the book. If I wrote in the journal about something noted in the log, I put a page number in the log for easy reference (the pages of the Leuchtturm notebooks I use are prenumbered). It looks like I’ll probably have a few pages leftover in the volume at the end of the year, which is fine (better than running out of pages, which would raise my hackles!). I’ll start the new year with a fresh volume.

You’ll note that there’s nothing pretty about my planner, journal or log pages; I’m not into stickers or washi tape. My esthetic awareness in these mostly functional books is limited to using fountain pens. (But that’s probably where I go overboard: I currently have 14 fountain pens inked up with a rainbow of ink colors – and that’s not even counting the pens I sketch with!)

2015's planner and journal/log are
made from Leuchtturm notebooks with
a dot grid page format.
I used a rainy afternoon last month to make my 2015 planner and my journal/log for the first half of 2015. The only change I made was to use dot grid notebooks for both. I found the grid ruling in the Moleskine book I used for my planner to be a bit too dark and obtrusive. The log/journal I’m about to finish has blank pages, which is my preference for writing, but the DIY ruling goes a lot faster when I have the dots as guidelines. And the Leucchturm dot grid ruling is pale enough to be unobtrusive.

Is there anything more satisfying than starting the year with a fresh, blank journal and planner?

Maybe only ending the year with a fully used sketchbook.

Update: See my review at the Well-Appointed Desk about how I make my log now.

Journal page of a visit with
family in L.A. . . .
. . . testing a paper with various
pens. . .
. . . restaurant review.


  1. I'm more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl so I don't use a planner, but it looks like you've worked it out well for yourself. Nice!

  2. Sorry if this is a repeat but I hit "publish" and nothing happened. Apparently lost my comment into the ether.

    Do you carry your planner and/or log/journal with you throughout the day?

    I went electronic for my calendar/planner (& contacts and notes) in the mid-1990's when I got Outlook and a Palm Pilot. I used to carry a two inch think Day Timer everywhere and thought it a good trade to have everything and more in the small format of the Palm.

    I did enjoy choosing a new paper planner every year and filling out the recurring dates and appointments. Outlook does that automatically now.

    My journal remains paper.


    1. When I worked full time, I used to carry my paper planner around everywhere, but now that I work part time and mostly from home, I can leave it on my desk most days. Despite working in the high-tech field for many years, I never got into keeping an electronic calendar! I guess I'm just a paper gal. My log/journal always stays home. Now it's just my sketchbook that goes out with me every day!

  3. I forgot I'd also asked this in my original post:

    Do you also keep your appointments/planner electronically, in your phone or other device?


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