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How To Set Up Your DIY Business Planner

I admit it, I LOVE all the pretty business planners that are out there! I have used an Erin Condren in the past and currently have a Happy Planner that I use for my family planner. BUT for my business planner, I am not looking for cute, I am looking for effective!

I have tried using online planners in the past, but find that working from a paper planner is the best for my business, combining “get things done” and time management together in one place!

How to set up your DIY business planner. Includes tips and ideas for dividers, sections, dashboards and more!

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Why “Standard” Business Planners Don't Work For Me

OH how long have I spent looking for the “perfect planner”. I have bought at least 20 over the years including the new cute ones, Filofaxes, notebooks, Bullet Journals and the Day Planner. I would start using them all happy and cheerful thinking THIS TIME is the one that will fix all my time problems.

Because that is really what my problem was. Time.

All of those planners allowed me to record my time, but they didn't help me to manage my time. I need to have really clear worksheets that walk me through whatever I am trying to accomplish. Just having the days, weeks or months organized differently didn't actually make a bit of difference at all!

I do different things throughout the year.

Another reason for my dissatisfaction with regular calendars or planners was that I change what I am doing often throughout the year and what works on January 1st when I am in “bright and shiney planning mode” will not work when I am in the weeds at the end of the year, digging in and doing hard core sales.

Wire bound planners are my favorite, but are horrendous for making changes. I know Plum Planners have the ability to somewhat customize their contents, but once they are printed and bound I am “stuck” for the rest of the year.

I have “stuff”

Put Extra Stuff In My Business Planner

Regular planners generally don't allow for “stuff”. You can't print out the fonts you just bought and keep them in the front for reference. You have to find glue and sticky tape solutions and wonder which pages you are going to have to sacrifice to keep everything you want. OR you have folders with all your bits folded and stored somewhere.

I like my “stuff” to be where I will be using it!

They are funny sizes

Last but not least is the fact that most of the planners are not 8.5X11, letter sized. I HATE when I have to start chopping things up or formatting them for different sized planners.

I can't tell you how many times I have been there with a paper cutter or scissors trying to get something to line up perfectly with a weird sized planner.

How I Set Up My DIY Business Planner

When you see DIY planner do you think “cheap”? Well I am here to tell you that my DIY planner costs more than all but the highest leather-bound planners out there.

Don't get me wrong, you can do this much less expensively than I did using a three-ring binder instead, but I LOVE how mine has turned out and am super happy with the results.

Okay, there were a few things that I had to have to make my binder perfect and I finally have one that works for me!

Shop My Staples ARC DIY Planner

Letter sized business planner

I am sick of dinking around trying to figure out paper sizes. A5, A1, etc. Honestly I can buy a ream of really high quality, 32 pound, 98 brightness paper for under $20 at almost any office supplies store. This is a nice heavy paper that will hold up and that looks absolutely amazing with my scribbles on it! (amazon link)

Using this standard sized paper also generally assures that any handouts or extra things I want to add in will fit easily without having to be folded or managed.

I really like to keep additional materials near (in order) to where I will be working on them in my binder.

Additional Resource :: Discbound Notebook Planner Ideas!

Dividers are my best friend

I know that “normal” planners have monthly dividers, but I have a much more hectic and busy life than what I can divide with 12 month dividers.

I have dividers that are on the sides, showing my different work focuses. Right now they are:

  • Leads (potential business)
  • This Week (my to-dos todays)
  • Monthlies (month at a glance for the next 4 months)
  • Forms (my work)
  • Marketing Artfully (my company)
  • Paperly People (a product line) – I use a big ideas worksheet set to keep this in order
  • Glamorously Vintage (a product line) – I use a big ideas worksheet set to keep this in order
  • Clients (for work I need to do for my clients)
  • SEO Research (for the web and my Etsy stores) – I use my SEO research worksheets for this
  • Blank (I have one tab that I can change out if I start a new project)

I also have “across the top” tabs for my months. I use these to keep track of things that are coming up but which I don't really have to worry about right now. For example, I have a speaking event in January that I don't want to double book, but it doesn't have to be top of mind right now!

Additional Resource :: How To Make Laminated Scrapbook Paper Dividers For Your Discbound Planner

Focusing On What You Need

So that is what I need, now what do you need to be organized and manage your time better? The thing about doing a DIY Business Planner is that you can customize it any way you like!

How To Set Up Your DIY Business Planner

The first thing that you want to do is figure out how you like to calendar your time (as that is what business planners are generally thought to be for).

Daily Planner

I use a daily to do and goal worksheet rather than doing an appointment style day. That said, some people do have multiple appointments in a day and need to have a firm grip on where they will when.

Weekly Planner

Surprisingly to me, many people like to have a weekly layout overview of what they are doing. This is the standard “Week at a Glance” style calendar that is in most business planners. This weekly planner page can be either landscape or horizontal depending on your preference.

Monthly Planner

I know a gal who does all of her calendaring on a three month at a glance version. This is because she is a former airline employee who travels extensively and who needs to know where she will be at any given time.

You can also do your monthlies the way I do, having them all in a row so you can keep track of upcoming events and appointments. I find that having my monthly goals all in one place makes me more aware and focused on what I have planned to accomplish!

Additional Resource :: Should you do your business planning Daily, Weekly or Monthly?

Sales and Marketing Bits

Lead sheets.

The very first thing in my planner is a leads sheet. That way I can check daily to see if there is someone who I can do work for or followup with. Leads are the lifeblood of your business so should be treated with respect!

Creative products order forms.

Equally important to me are the people who have bought and paid for something already and who I need to make sure to make items for (you may have people who have bought a policy that hasn't gone into effect or have a house you just listed that you need to focus on).

If you have a daily social media to do list, blog post log or any other kind of marketing routine, you might put those in this front section!


This is where all the “normal” planners let me down. I have one business and two product lines that I have to manage. They have special to do items, calendar dates that have to be scheduled and marketing that needs to be done to promote them.

Division or product management

I use my Wicked Good Ideas system to make this work. This walks me from just having ideas and thoughts, through scoping out the big picture and finally implementing the product and launching it!

Your special thing

One of the big things in my business is forms. I make productivity forms so I have a whole section dedicated to making and completing these. If you are a party plan business, you might have a whole section for upcoming parties with a checklist of what you have completed for each one. Realtors might have an open house or brokers open set of lists and notes where they keep track of what they need to do.

Check out my Entrepreneur, EtsyDirect Sales, Author or Realtor Planners!

Your Business Planner Doesn't Have To Be Perfect

The cool thing about doing a planner like this is that it doesn't have to be perfect out of the gate to achiever your goals. I have gone through several iterations of my organization until now I am settled on a fairly stable style.

BUT when you start, you will probably be moving your sections around or creating and deleting new ones for a while.

That is what is so awesome! You don't have to commit for a year or stress about “messing up”. If you have a form and it doesn't work for you, pick another one.

Think you want to do weekly and then find out you really need more daily help, just throw out those monthly sheets and print up a couple of new daily tasks ones.

All you have to have is a system and your life will become immeasurably better. My problem was being able to figure out that system in the first place, but now, now everything is glorious and my business is humming along like never before!

The Staples ARC Planner System

I am not a salesman for the ARC system from Staples, but I do love it and recommend it to my clients that can afford it! (amazon link)

As I said, the pieces (cover, discs and dividers) are not cheap and you have to get a special hole puncher to use it, but for me it is totally worth it, here are a couple of reasons why:

1. It opens flat. My one problem with using a three ring binder is that my desk is not huge and I don't have room to open up two sides of a binder to let it lay flat. The ARC system acts like a ring-bound binder that can get the cover flipped over on itself.

2. I can add and remove things. I am not a “one size fits all” kind of gal. I am creative and interesting and need to be able to add and remove things as needed.

3. I can move my sections around easily. Much like you can with a three ring binder, I like that I can rearrange my business planner whenever I like. As I said, something that I am super passionate about in May might be just another to do item by August and I can devote that section to something new when that happens.

How To Set Up The Perfect DIY Business Planner

How To Set Up The Perfect DIY Business Planner

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 1 hour
Active Time: 2 hours
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Difficulty: Medium
Estimated Cost: $75

Tips and ideas for finding, picking and setting up your DIY business planner to help with daily, weekly and monthly goal setting and time management. My example is the Staples Arc planner but you can use three ring binders or any other letter sized system.


  • Staples Arc Notebook System or 3 Ring Binder
  • Binder Rings
  • Pretty Cover
  • Tab Dividers
  • Pen


  1. Pick the type of binder you are going to use. I like the Staples Arc because it folds over on itself.
  2. Set up divider tabs to designate the sections of your planner. These can be your business types, your orders or calendar sections.
  3. Add worksheets or forms to your planner. By using an 8.5X11" planner you are not limited by size.
  4. Fill out on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.


Do not think that you have to get this right right off the bat! The great thing about a DIY planner is that you can change your sections around as much as you need or pick a different style of calendar pages if you don't like the ones you are using now.

Honestly, once I started making my own planners I can't think about how I used to be "stuck" with pre-made ones that sort of worked, but that I always had to finagle to get to work for me and my business!

Business Planner Wrap Up

If you are like the old me and struggling with getting yourself organized and on track, I hope that this business planner post has helped.

My Paperly People Store on Etsy has ALL of the items that I have talked about today available, here are just a few that you might be interested in now!

How To Set Up Your DIY Business Planner.. How to set up your DIY business planner. Includes tips and ideas for dividers, sections, dashboards and more!
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