Sunday, September 29, 2013

DIY Arc Planner for Work

I feel like I have been a very organized person in most aspects of my life, including work.  However, when I took on a different role last year, I found that my style of organizing tasks and notes just wasn't cutting it.

Due to the nature of my job, I tend to write down a lot of notes.  These notes are separate from meeting notes, and are of a more day to day type nature.  For virtually all phone conversations and face to face discussions, I am taking notes, even if it is just the name of the person and a few words that summarize what was talked about.  From these discussions I often generate to-do list items.

In the past I was very successful organizing these tasks either with the weekly view on the uncalendar (which I previously reviewed) or even just a little notebook with a daily task list which I would transfer to a new page everyday. I could leave this on my desk and work directly from this list.  However, those items do not work well now that I am taking all of these notes, as that is what I am primarily using.  When I try and use two separate books, I either end up taking notes in the planner and there is not nearly enough room for that or I scribble the task in my notes where they easily get missed.

So I decided to use my Arc hole punch and rings to make a custom solution for this problem.  Here is what I needed with this planner:
  • Quality paper, with narrow lines (so no Arc branded paper)
  • Color
  • Small enough to fit between my keyboard when pushed forward and the edge of my desk, since I am also often using the computer on these calls to look things up and what not
  • Task list on each page, but without having to re-write it due to the number of tasks/projects
  • Space on the task list to keep things that need to be on my radar in front of my face everyday, as some items can take days or weeks to resolve
  • A spot to outline the daily priorities from the task list
  • Flexibility, because one day I may take three notes on a half a page and other days I may take five pages of notes. 
This story will read a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears....I couldn't get the planner to work out "just right".  I started with a simple, initial prototype as displayed in the first picture.  For the cover, I re-purposed some of the junky manilla folders that I had around since they were well past their prime. I really wanted this notebook to have a binding at the top of the page rather than the side, so that I didn't have to write across the rings.  It was challenging to line the punch up correctly with the paper due to the fact there was no marked line on the Arc punch for this size of paper or for a top of sheet punch.

The first prototype was just a regular letter sized sheet that was punched and bound using the standard Arc discs.  But it was too big to fit in front of the keyboard.  In an effort to go smaller, I bought a pack of notepads, tore out the pages and bound those. This ended up being a bit too small as you can see from the picture.

I didn't really like either of these initial prototypes due to page size and because the discs were too big.  I bought a heavier weight ream of paper and hat it custom cut at Staples and I bought discs from Levenger that were only 1/4" instead of the 1" discs from Staples.

I ended up cutting the paper down one inch from the side and top and with the smaller disc (which hold about 50 pages) it was the perfect size.  I also took the time to print the paper with various colors, line widths, borders, dot grid, margins/no margins etc.  This solved my color, quality and size problems.

To solve my task problems, I printed half sheets with plenty of room for tasks as well as keeping a separate area for daily priorities.  For items I need to keep on my radar, I just write on the back of the list or use a post it on the back.  This half sheet can be moved as I go from page to page and it keeps the list in front of me so I don't scribble tasks on the note pages.  The cover is another folder that I picked up from the Target One Spot section several months ago.

Here is a shot of the planner in action.  Notice the half sheet, moveable task list and the yellow dot grid paper.

I started using this planner at the beginning of September and so far it has worked out OK. There are still some design flaws, like some of the ruling is a bit too narrow and the line color and weight on some sheets is too dark.  The best pages are really the dot grid, I think I could just do an entire one of these with dot grid paper.

I would love to hear your ideas to make improve upon this design or any tips for better organization. also let me know if you have any questions!


  1. I love your creative spirit and ingenuity , Melinda! Are you still using this planner? I wonder how you have modified it since...ANd I see you have been journaling since you were 14...I host a monthly journal link up- I would love if you considered joining in! It is fairly small but solid. Each month we have a featured Journal Keeper as well- it is great fun, plus- ell peeking into journals! There is a giveaway on my blog right now for a book called Love Letters to God, by the Featured Journal Keeper of the month. y blog is called Enthusiastically, Dawn

    1. Dawn, I do not use it anymore. I switch things up about every two months. Sometimes I decorate a composition book or a spiral notebook. I love the variety. I do use ARC notebooks though for my meeting notes, specifically the Martha Stewart/Avery brand paper b/c I like the line width on those better. I am currently drooling over the Rhodia meeting inserts. I have used that layout before (and I could easily make it myself) but I am considering adding it to my ARCs for work. I am not sure what a monthly journal link up is, but I'd love more info.