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Welcome to your Beginners Guide to Custom Planners. There is a whole planner community full of creatives who love paper and customizing their planners to fit their needs, but there is also a ton of people trying to figure out where to start. Before you go and buy anything, I would suggest you consider your desired use and plans for a planner.
Consider why you want a planner in general. A lot of people buy planners and never use them. I used to be one of those people until I started using Passion Planners. The prompts and things in there made me think and function differently. I had 2 passion planners, but ultimately decided that wasn’t the style of planner I wanted long term. I was beginning to understand why I had never used the prior planners and why after a while I was a bit burnt out on the passion planners. The passion planner and store bought planners no longer fit my specific needs; it was general, but I knew I needed something more direct.
Saying that to say whether you are going the store bought option or going the custom route, if you don’t have a specific plan you may not need to read any of this. It’s easy to buy planners in the store because they are pretty. The reason why pretty doesn’t equate to consistent is because it’s just a planner; there is nothing specific that you need or that is guiding you toward your goals. The reason that custom planners work most effectively for those who figure out their setup is because it’s a custom built system.
Before we continue I wanted to include a word bank so you all would know what I’m referring to when I mention certain phrases especially if you are unfamiliar with planner terms.
- Planner Sizes: A5, Half Letter, Personal, Pocket, Mini (not all of the sizes, but most common sizes)
- 6 Ring: Style of planner that has 6 rings that open and close similar to a notebook
- Discs: Style of planner that has 7 or 9 discs (instead of rings)
- Inserts: The actual paper that is inserted into the planner (calendar layout, weekly layout, notes, habit trackers, password storage, etc.)
- Dashboards: An insert that acts as a cover for planner sections; usually thicker material such as Vellum.
- Accessories: Additional items such as dots, stickers, page flags, planner cards, sticky notes etc.
All of that said let’s dive into the Beginners Guide to Custom Planners.
What Are Your Planner Needs and Goals?
If you just want to be able to write stuff down and keep up; that’s fine, you may not need a custom planner setup. If your goal is to track habits, create a capsule collection or keep record of your current skincare routine, for example, these goals can be accomplished by using custom planners. If you want to be able to manage your finances, goal set and the like, a custom planner may be for you. OF COURSE there are other ways to track these things, but if you already use a planner or purchase one every year, a custom planner may be for you. I have 3 planner covers, but only use one, but all I need to do is replace the inserts and things that go inside.
For me having a place to track habits, write what I’m grateful for, have space for blogging ideas and the like are just a few of my goals and reasons for using custom planners. I actually use my planner and last year was using it as a way to track the things I did every day. I’m going to do the same as well as track projects that I’m working on.
Ultimately if you want a planner, pre-made or custom, it is key to get clear on what your goals and needs are for it. You’re more likely to use it, if it’s tailored to who you are and what you have going on.
Pick Your Custom Planner Cover
Planners are not one size fits all and custom planners are certainly not one size fits all. There are a variety of sizes; the standard size and size that I have is A5. Other planner sizes include: Personal, Half Letter, Pocket, Mini (not all of the sizes, but most common sizes). A5 is the most common and most used size. It is just big enough without feeling overwhelmed. For someone like myself who has bigger hands, or needs real space to write, A5 is perfect.
When it comes to choosing a cover, since it will last a long time, choose something you love. There are a ton of options. The most common style is leather; think quilted caviar leather or think Louis Vuitton Agendas. There are also super simple covers like the one I’m currently using, it’s from Amazon and it’s a clear cover; it was like $6 or $8 dollars and I love it because aesthetically it speaks to me and I can see what’s in my planner. I like that peak into my world.
My first planner cover was a quilted caviar leather agenda book from Cloth and Paper and I wanted that one specifically so I waited to start my planner journey until I could have it. My goal is the Louis Vuitton GM Agenda, still on my luxury wish list. The thing I love about custom planners is the ability to insert multiple things while keeping the same cover. Occasionally clean out your inserts and dust your cover out because depending on how many inserts and how you store it, it can and will collect dust.
Rings and Things
Custom planners are bound several ways. The most common way is ring-bound or disc-bound. Most people including myself go the ring-bound route. It’s more common and if you’re heavy handed or not super gentle, rings are probably your best bet. Rings come in several colors, mostly black, gold or silver; clear if its a spiral notebook of some sort. Discs on the other hand come in a variety of colors because it is a full object. Discs are super dope and aesthetically super pleasing, but because they are discs, the paper doesn’t actually latch on, but it’s in there and stays. I’ve asked several people who have disc bound set ups do they feel like their planner is easy to use and most have said it’s just about being gentle or the planner may not be their main planner.
Rings and discs come in a variety of sizes; the sizes vary as you shift through the sizes mentioned in the previous section.
All of that said, whatever system you decide on, your inserts when you shop will need to match. We’ll get to inserts next, but if you’re just beginning, I would suggest starting with a ring-bound system and as you get a feel for your planning style and planner style, you can move on if you desire.
Inserts and Dashboards
What goes inside of a custom planner? Inserts and dashboards. They are basically the same thing, but in the planner world they function differently. Inserts are the meat of the planner. Inserts are your calendar views, weekly layouts, habit trackers, password trackers, finance and budget tracking and the like; the stuff you would see inside of a traditional planner at Target or Staples. The difference with a custom planner is obviously you get to choose what else goes inside outside of just calendar view. Inserts and covers usually cost the most because they truly are the makeup of a custom planner. The larger your planner size, the “more” you can expect to pay.
Dashboards on the other hand are like accessories. Think of like a bag or shoes to complete your look. Dashboards are used to break up sections, introduce sections and just really bring that wow factor to the inside of custom planners. Dashboards can range from quotes to prints of your favorite luxury brand or champagne brand. Dashboards are my favorite thing about custom planners; it allows me to really speak to myself and build out that ideal plan for me. There is literally nothing wrong with store bought planners, I’ve had my share, but outside of being pretty, none of them provided the productivity and accountability or desired space and layout that worked for me. Saying all of that to say, dashboards are not a requirement, but if you want “the look” dashboards are great additions to bring life to your planner. Dashboards come in a variety of options, colors and finishes and they are usually on thicker paper, usually vellum, may be shiny or something laminated.
Other items that can be inserted into your planner are pockets, monthly calendar tabs, divider tabs (monthly, financial, blank), 4 way pockets for business cards or planner accessories.
Custom Planner Accessories
You can get planner goods from a variety of places. Local places include Michaels, but the best places are usually online only. Amazon has some cool items, but if you’re not sure where to start, it can get tricky. No matter where you buy from, one thing that is very important is making sure you are getting things in your correct planner size.
My favorite planner shops in no particular order:
There a ton of other great shops, but I would encourage you to look for yourself so you can get a feel for what you’re looking for. These are just the basics when it comes to starting your custom planner journey. You don’t need everything at first. Yes the accessories and additions are super cute, but remember to think about functionality and productivity before you buy a ton of things. Still need a little extra information? Still not sure if the custom planner route is for you? Check out my post 5 ways a custom planner elevated my life.
In case you missed it, CLICK HERE to watch a quick time lapse of my current set up.
*Any purchase you make through my links, I make a small commission.