Obviously you can just pop the planner into a regular 3 ring binder. I tend not to like binders because they are so stiff, and the rings get in my way while I write, and they don’t fold back on themselves like a regular notebook. So I searched for an alternative. I came up with two.
Flex Notebook $5:
Five Star has a new notebook line called “Flex.” It is basically a 3 ring binder, but with flexible rings and a cover that folds back on itself. They come in a variety of colors and only cost about $5-7 depending on the version. I think this is a great potential planner cover.
- Color variety
- No special punch needed
- None of the regular 3 ring binder folders fit. They stick out of the edges. (Although, I did just notice there is a Flex “Note Binder” for $16 on Amazon that might not have this problem.)
- Cover is a little flimsy.
- Might not hold enough paper. (Pictured holds 120 sheets- again, the Flex “Note Binder”).
I think for most people, this option will be perfect. I even found that a good eraser and some elbow grease will erase the brand markings on the cover. Then you could leave it as is, or decorate!!
Staples Arc System/Martha Stewart $30- $70:
Staples has a line of “discbound” notebooks called the Arc system. In recent years Martha Stewart has come out with some office products, including a rebranded, Martha Blue leather discbound notebook for $29. Between the color, the business card pockets and the pen sleeve, I knew this planner cover was perfect for me. I armed myself with a coupon and bit the bullet.
The main drawback (and its a big one) for this notebook is also what makes it so flexible. The cover doesn’t use any sort of ring binding. It uses a special, solid disc that the specially punched paper sort of grabs on to. Key words: specially punched. I went ahead an invested in the $40 punch since I’ve been book binding for years, and I’ve used my custom planner for 4 years already. You might not be willing to jump in at that cost. (I’ve recently read that this punch on Amazon also works with the Martha/Staples Arc system. If anyone tries it, let me know)
- Professional, business card pockets and pen holder
- Flexible, folds back easily.
- Plenty of accessories to add (I got 3 pocket folders and a clip in ruler.)
- Easily add/remove pages without opening a ring.
- Can purchase larger discs for more paper.
- Can punch and include smaller scraps of paper in with larger pages, since it doesn’t have to be large enough to reach 3 rings like a binder.
- Expensive to start
- Must use special punch
- Limited color selection in covers
- UPDATE: It appears Martha Stewart has discontinued her line of these covers, so now the colors are even more limited.
A personal planner is always made better with accessories! Here is what I use:
- I LOVED my Avery stick on printable tabs from last year (#16281). So, I did the same thing again.
- Like I mentioned above I bought some clear paper folders to go inside my planner. These have been ESSENTIAL in keeping me from losing stuff that I normally just “tuck” in.
- I used those folders to hold some post it flags in pretty colors. I just take the backs off the pad and stick them to the folder. (Martha and Staples had a bunch of shmancy post-its and page markers etc but when I buy expensive stuff like that, I’m too cheap to use them. Its plain Jane Post-it Flags for me!)
- I tend to write with my Pilot G-2 pens. I get them in all sorts of colors and change by the day =D
Be sure to use accessories to further customize your planner and make it exactly what YOU want it to be!
Printing the planners should be easy. For the regular letter sized version, simply open in up in a PDF reader, select “Print Two-Sided” or “Duplex” (each printer is different). Then follow your printer’s instructions on feeding the paper. Done!
- TIP: If the words are coming out faint, you might need to set your printer’s quality setting to “high” or “fine” or “best”.
The Junior (half size, 8.5in x 5.5in) planners might be a little trickier. I held off on offering these planners for quite some time while I figured out how everyone would be able to print them at home. Printing two to a side when there are two pages to a sheet gets really tricky.
Then it hit me. Don’t print two to a sheet. Cut the sheets first. I tested this method on inkjet and laser printers, and everything worked with no headaches! Here are the steps:
PRINT THE JUNIOR PLANNER
- Cut your paper to 8.5 x 5.5 sheets. Staples or OfficeDepot will do this for a nominal fee. ($4 or so per 100 sheets). I did mine on my rotary cutter.
- Load your paper into your printer’s tray, being sure to use the side you would normally use for envelopes. If your printer has paper guides, be sure to set them to 8.5 x 5.5.
- Open the planner file and click print. This should bring up some settings. Every printer is different, so it is difficult for me to tell you exactly what to click. But usually there is a “page setup” or “advanced” or “Printer options” tab. In that tab, you’ll usually find the paper size. Change it to 8.5 x 5.5. Here is what mine looks like. I had to click Setup > Preferences > Print Preferences to get here.
- Navigate your menus to find the double sided print option. Make sure that is on too. For most ink jet printers, they will print the back side of all the pages first, then have you put the paper back in (per your printer’s instructions) to print the other side.
- That’s it! If you aren’t printing at home, taking the cut paper to a place like OfficeMax or Staples should work the same way.