What to Buy to Get Started with a Planner
Inside: A full list of what to buy to get started with planners, including explanations of planner products, terms, and the purpose of standard planner pieces. Full list of common mistakes to avoid when buying a planner.
You’re likely here because you know that to get the perfect planner, you’ve got to build it yourself.
You tried off-the-shelf planners from your favorite office supply store and tossed them after the first month.
You tried the wall calendar method and ended up with sticky notes everywhere.
You tried to go “full digital” with your calendar and felt lost all the time, with your nose in your phone all day.
Or maybe you missed an important appointment because your planner wasn’t helping you stay organized.
Nothing worked. And now you’re here, ready to finally build your dream planner.
A planner that will finally help you:
- Stay organized
- Keep all your appointments
Be a productive badass!
Which planner is best for me?
Building your own planner can be intimidating.
You might be wondering where to start or confused by the multitude of options when it comes to choosing a planner.
- What if you buy the wrong pages?
- Which size is right for you?
- And what if you get all-the-things and … you don’t even like it?
Good thing there’s a simple method to follow for building your perfect planner from scratch.
This is why we created Jane’s Agenda.
Our founder, Jane Wild, couldn’t find a good fit with a paper planner off-the shelf. So she created one.
And when other people wanted her planner, Jane knew she had to share her system. Over the 10+ years Jane's Agenda has been helping people build planners, we've learned a lot.
Get started with your own custom planner
Today we’re walking you through exactly what you need to know to get started with your own custom planner:
- Common mistakes to avoid
- What you MUST have for planner success
- And how to make it pretty (because you’ll use it if you love it!)
Why build a planner from scratch?
You’ve probably seen paper planners and calendars at the office supply or book store and wondered why those don’t work.
Ever bought a planner with every intention of using it, got the fancy pens, filled out the first week, and then never touched it again?
If you don’t use the planner, then planning won’t work for you.
Jane’s top 3 reasons for building your planner from scratch:
1. You get the perfect planner, for you.
You don't have the same life as anyone else, so why would you want the same planner?
Off-the-shelf planners assume that everyone has the same needs. You end up with pages you don’t use and a planner that doesn’t quite fit your life.
We don’t buy the same exact clothes as someone else; why use the same exact planners as someone else?
2. You get full control.
Want your notes in the front? Done.
Want the monthly and weekly pages separated? You can do that too.
With our disc bound and ring bound planners, you assemble it, which means you can put it together any way you choose.
3. You get to pick the size.
Want it portable and lightweight? You can do that.
Large and in charge? Yep, you can do that too.
Want to split your planner into two, based on your needs and activity? You can build your planner any way you like!
In just five easy steps, we'll walk you through the process of selecting items and curating the perfect planner for you.
Common mistakes to avoid when buying a planner
First, let's get aware of some common mistakes.
Buying based on looks and not function
We know that if we like our planner, we'll use it. And pretty planners are where it's at, right?
Many "pretty planners" focus on the beauty of the design and put much less attention on the function of the planner pages themselves.
Often these "pretty" planner pages:
- Don't have the space to write what you need
- The "planning" part of the design was an afterthought or minimized to make more room for pretty graphics like flowers
- Focus on areas you personally don't need to "plan" around, such as full pages for "laundry day" or "road trips"
- Are created by scrapbooking companies who are now trying to market to planner people to buy more craft supplies, like stickers and acrylic stamps
- Make planner users feel like their planner will be "incomplete" without all the decorations (don’t worry, you can always add these to your custom planner after you build it!)
Who cares if there are watercolor flowers on every page if you can't use those pages to plan?
Flowers and washi tape are very pretty but they don't make your planner WORK.
Takeaway: Get pages that function for you and then you can decorate them if you want.
Getting locked into a planner that won't grow with you, in the way you want
Most off-the-shelf planners won’t grow with you. Here’s why:
- You can’t add pages or remove sections you don’t want
- You can’t customize the planner based on the way you work and can’t move sections around
- You waste a lot of the planner pages because they don’t apply to you
To avoid these issues, we recommend choosing a discbound planner, like this.
With a discbound planner, you can create any configuration you like!
- Add pages
- Move sections
- Remove pages or sections when you no longer need them
- Choose inserts that fit your life and your needs
- Divide the planner into distinct planners or or create one big chunky planner
Not sure if a ring bound or discbound planner is for you? Read this article next: "Discbound vs. Ring Bound"
Choosing a planner based on price alone
Buying based on price over quality and function can be tempting, especially if you‘re on a budget (by the way, we have a Planner Insert for that *wink wink*)
Your planner is the basis for what you’re going to accomplish in your life, today and the next.
- Cheap planner pages tend to fall out - you could miss appointments if this happens!
- Quality paper prevents bleeding; you’ll end up only using half the pages (the fronts) because the ink bleeds through to the back
- Low-priced planners show wear and tear quickly, get dented or torn, or worse, fall apart completely
Are planners worth it?
Yes, they’re worth as much as you use them and they support your life.
Not using your planner
Yes, there are people who buy planners and never use them!
- You set out with the best of intentions
- Get a planner
- And then it collects dust
The only reasons you won't use your planner are because you likely made one (or more) of the mistakes detailed above. And that means you miss out on all the benefits of planning.
Now, let’s build a planner you’ll actually use and love!
5 Ways to customize your planner so you’ll use it
There’s a divide in the planner community … to decorate your planner or not?
- Is washi tape bad for your planner?
- Are you not a “serious planner” if you use stickers and pretty stuff in your planner?
- Or is it okay to have a “plain planner”?
You got into planning so you can:
- Take control of your life
- Accomplish your goals
- Do all the things!
The point is to build a planner you’ll use. Stickers, washi tape, and chunky discs aside!
You don’t have to decorate your planner to use it. We give you permission to do what feels best!
But if you want to decorate it, you can.
Follow these tips:
Tip 1: If you love it, you’ll use it
Build a planner you’ll love (hint: start at Jane’sAgenda.com)
Be sure to include covers, inserts, and dividers that speak to your personal style and needs. Remember, your planner is going to be by your side every day. Make it beautiful AND functional!
We’ll get into details on how to do this later in this article.
Tip 2: Decorate your planner
Once you have your planner built, decorate it however you like:
- Use pretty page finders to give your planner personality
- Use washi tape, stickers, and art supplies to decorate your planner pages
- Accessorize with new covers, cardstock, and dashboards that are functional and beautiful.
If you like putting a “new outfit” on your planner every month then our Monthly Cover Club is for you!
Get a new cover, dashboard set, and more each month to freshen up the look of your planner and try new products. Get more details here: Monthly Cover Club
Tip 3: Invest in good pens
Invest in good pens to use in your functional planners like ours at Jane’s Agenda.
Our favorite pens are the Frixion pens and highlighters because they’re erasable, creating even more flexibility in your planner experience.
Tip 4: Get a professional look by investing in a quality cover
The cover completes the look of your planner and provides additional protection for everything inside your planner.
Upgrading from Laminated Covers to Vegan leather Covers can elevate the look of your planner, which is great for busy professionals in and out of the office.
Professionals love our highly-rated Vegan Leather Covers because they:
- Give the outside of your planner a polished look
- Protect everything inside your planner, protecting your inserts and any fun decorations from damage.
- Are durable and well-made
Tip 5: Keep things fresh
Like we buy new clothes with the seasons, keep your planner looking fresh and clean with new covers, page finders, and dashboards throughout the year.
Join our Monthly Cover Club to get a fresh cover, dashboards, and a page finder every month to keep your planner looking so fresh and so clean clean.
(insert gif here with so fresh and so clean clean or make one https://media.giphy.com/media/yOgKZSPRYZr70QyTQ9/giphy.gif )
5 Steps to building the perfect discbound planner
Building your planner doesn’t have to be scary.
Your planner should be fun to create and use. We’ve broken the planner building process down to 5 easy to follow steps.
Step 1: Pick a Planner Size
Wondering which planner is best? Jane recommends the disc bound planner style for building a planner from scratch.
We offer four different sizes for our discbound planners:
Mini Size - our smallest and most portable disc size. This affordable size is recommended only for those that don’t need a ton of planning space or for those who have small handwriting.
Junior Size - An open planner spread is equal to a letter size piece of paper. This is our preferred size for portability and function. A half-folded piece of letter size paper will tuck away nicely in this planner.
Classic Size - This size makes an excellent “work” planner. Great for those that really need the room and want to carry their planner between home and work. Classic provides lots of planning space yet you may not want to carry it to the grocery store.
Letter Size - perfect for students or those who leave their planner on their desk all of the time. Maximum planning space but very limited portability as these get heavy! Students and professionals will appreciate being able to put a full size sheet of paper into their planner without bending it.
As you build your planner, you'll need to know what size you chose, so keep that size handy. (hint: you can mark it in your planner somewhere!)
Note about ring bound planners: If you do choose a ring bound style, we offer two sizes: Personal and A5. You can start with our ring bound planner covers here: Shop Ring Bound Planners NOW
Change the size of your discs or rings anytime, by removing all of the inserts, dividers, and any Laminated Covers. Then slip these onto the new discs or into the new ring bound cover.
You can increase the size of your planner, make it smaller, or even split it into two or three separate planners by changing the disc or ring size.
Need more details? Read our guide: "How to Choose Disc Size"
Step 2: Select a Cover
Planner covers are available in a variety of materials. We offer:
- Laminated planner covers
- Vegan leather planner covers
Laminated Covers are great for planners who:
- Like a softer look
- Want to see their pages layered through the cover
- Want an elastic band (we call these “ribbons”) to keep their planner closed
- Are looking for a lightweight planner for more portability
Vegan Leather Covers are perfect for planners who:
- Want a professional polished look
- Like keeping any sticky notes or tabs hidden
- Want to protect their planner while carrying it in a bag or purse
Step 3: Pick your Inserts
Inserts make up the bulk of a planner. These are the pages you’ll plan on, such as calendar pages, notes, and checklists.
- Choose Calendar Inserts
- We offer monthly, weekly, and daily options. You can use one option or all three, depending on your needs
- Like your monthly to start on a Monday? We've got that for all of our dated monthly calendars.
- Or start on a Sunday? We've got that too.
- No matter what you need, we’ve got an Insert for that!
- Choose Inserts for other areas you want to plan in your planner, such as:
Remember, if your planner gets too thick, you can set extra pages aside because your planner is custom and grows with you!
Step 4: Choose accessories
Some accessories are for function, some are for looks. Some are for both. Planner accessories allow your personality to shine through.
Here are some of our favorite must-have accessories:
Our laminated dashboards:
- Make a great place for sticky notes
- Add a pretty layer in your planner
- Function like a divider for different sections
- Add stability to thinner, floppy planners
We also offer page finders to help you find your place in your planner and mark important sections.
Our founder Jane uses several page finders for different purposes in her planner.
And some of our subscribers to the Monthly Cover Club use their page finders as mini dashboards.
Other Accessories include tabbed dividers, sticky notes, pen holders... Can you get by without these? Sure, but why would you want to? Add all the accessories you need to your cart.
Step 5: Pick your Discs
Discs are the binding that holds the planner together. We offer a variety of materials, colors, and sizes.
Note: If you chose a ring bound planner, you do not need to choose discs.
The thicker the discs, the more pages (such as Inserts, dividers, and dashboards) the planner can hold.
Keep in mind that if your discs are large compared to the thickness of the Inserts you chose, the planner will be likely to wobble. If that happens, jump to the next size smaller discs.
What’s Better: Starting with a Planner Kit or Building a Planner from Scratch?
We know that some people like starting with a kit and other people want to build a totally custom planner from scratch. Let’s help you discover which type of planner you are:
Our Planner Kits are for you if:
- You’re not sure what you need to have in your planner
- You know that once you start using a planner you’ll have a better idea of what you need
- You want the basics of a calendar and notes but not sure what else you’ll use
- You like customizing things that already exist, not building them from scratch
- You might be the kind of person who bought a move-in ready home that you just have to decorate
If this is you, start with one of our Planner Kits now.
Want more? Discover what you really want in a planner with our Deluxe Planner Lifestyle Box, for planners who:
- Like having ALL the THINGS! This Box includes everything in our Monthly Subscriptions in one beautiful Box
- Want a fresh new look for your planner each month - we curate everything in the Box to coordinate so you don’t have to!
- Enjoy getting unreleased, special edition products - this allows you to try new Inserts and views as a sample versus committing to buying a whole year’s worth of Inserts
- Want your computer to match your planner with our *included* digital wallpapers every month
Building a planner 100% from scratch is for you if:
- You know what planner views you like and which you don’t
- You have a clear vision for how you work and can choose your own planner Inserts
- You like to be fully in charge. If you were buying a car, you’d do all the research and select the exact options you know work best for you
- You’re a DIYer through and through. Maybe you live in a fixer upper or you like the idea of customizing everything in your home, even to the point of knocking down walls!
If this is you, start with our 5 step process outlined above:
- Select a size
- Choose a Cover
- Pick your Inserts
- Get accessories
- Choose your Discs
Watch how to assemble your planner, step-by-step here: How to Assemble Your Planner
You’ll love our Monthly Cover Club which gives you a fresh look for your planner every month:
- A new laminated cover (or use it as a dashboard!)
- A cardstock dashboard set … so pretty for layering
- And a complementary page finder for marking your place
Get yours and browse all the options here: Monthly Subscriptions
Ready to put your planner together? Check out this video:
Now you’re ready to show off your planner!
We love seeing your planners! Share your planner pics and videos on social media and be sure to tag @janesagenda in your share.
We recommend joining our Facebook group to share your planner and meet some other planner lovers like yourself. Plus, our group is where we ask for feedback and get ideas for new products!
I was able to purchase some discs several years back from Levenger that allowed pen storage in the middle of the discs. Is there any chance you may be able to carry these as Levenger no longer does. This is an extremely handy way to carry a ‘slim’ pen or pencil at all times without it being so external as other methods available.
Lakeisha Bing said:
how do you switch sizes when you’ve started with one size already? Like I’m using a size 4 and I do like it but I can see why a size 6 would be better. But all my cute sub boxes are in 4 and I love those items!😩😩
Great read Jane. I’m in the middle of planning myself a disc bound for work and I found this article very helpful.