The do-it-yourself guide to converting any pocket notebook into a custom planner & task management system.

Planner Hack: Do It Yourself!

Mike Rohde's Custom Moleskine Planner

Creating a Custom Planner

in May of 2006, I wrote on my Rohdesign Weblog in some depth about my interest in the analog task management system created by Bill Westerman, for use in his Miquelrius notebook. In that post, I pondered the idea of ditching my Clié N610C in favor of a Moleskine for my personal agenda and task management.

The week after this post, I picked up a new, ruled Pocket Moleskine notebook, a set of 4 ultra-fine 0.38mm Uniball Signo RT Gel pens and a package of 3M sturdy tabs (686-RYB) to create a custom weekly planner. Over the weekend, I planned out the page format, determined how many pages I'd need through December 2006 and began drawing up my custom planner, pictured above.

You may want to visit the Flickr page, and check out the notations I've placed on the image there, complete with detailed descriptions of each area of the planner.

Planner Formatting

On the ruled Pocket Moleskine, I found I could divide the page vertically into 3 sections of 7 lines each, with room at the top of the page for the month on the top left of the page and week number on the top right of the page. I've even kicked around the idea of using this space up top for inspiring quotes.

Next I added the days and dates to each section of the two-page spread, dividing the 6th block on the lower right page in half with a vertical rule for Saturday and Sunday. The Uniball Signo 0.38mm pen worked very well, as the thin line dried quickly and didn't bleed through the Moleskine paper stock.

I continued with this format for 31 two-page spreads, through December 31, 2006. Pocket Moleskines have 192 pages, so it's possible to do an entire year and have several pages left over for notes (one distinct advantage over a stock Moleskine Weekly planner).

In the remaining back section after December 31st, I separated sections with the sturdy 3M tabs for 5 next-action lists where I can capture tasks to be completed. The toughest decision was the allotment of pages for each action list before starting the next (I chose 6), though I can always move the tabs around if need be.

I've decided on a 6 month test to see how my system works, before I decide to either create a new book for 2007 myself, or buy one of the flexible covered Moleskine Pocket Weekly planners from Modo & Modo.

Symbols and Use

Once the planner was created I started populating it with activities and tasks for each day of the week. I made use of the space to the right of each day for recurring or regular events, and the bulk of the 7-line sections for activities or tasks.

Inspired by Bill Westerman's symbols, I created a similar set, with a circle as an open action, checked circle for completed action, slashed circle for deferred (with an added arrow symbol to indicate where it was deferred to) and a dash for items which are informational rather than actionable. As I use this system I suspect a working set of symbols will emerge and become more refined.

Initial Impressions

After using the new custom planner concept for about a week, I'm appreciating the full week across two pages. I can now see how my entire week is shaping up with a single glance. I can have much more detail for each day or even each entry. With the Palm, I could see a full week, but it was either filled with very tiny type, or the type was large but clipped off, requiring additional taps to see an entry.

I like having my planner open at my desk while I work - I can glance down between tasks and be reminded of what's to come, or recall an item I need to add to the agenda. I never need to worry about the pages blinking off to save battery life. The quick "wake from sleep" mode (cover closed) is wonderful!

I'm also finding a small book handy for storing small bits of information, such as a business card, a post-it note or whatever. Because the Moleskine has an elastic strap, stuff stays inside. If I'm concerned about something staying put, I can store it in the Moleskine's inside back cover pocket.

My capture of thoughts has increased since switching to a Moleskine planner. This is a good thing, because I'm now capturing ideas that were formerly floating away when faced with entering text using Graffiti on the Palm - even though I'm pretty quick and accurate with Graffiti 1.

I'm not as worried about the Moleskine as I was with a Palm. I can drop it, slide it in my back pocket and sit on it, or toss it across the room without the screen cracking, or resetting the device. As an added bonus, the Moleskine is thin, and the width and height are less of an issue than I'd suspected.


Overall, I am very pleased with the new system. It seems to fit my needs well, feels good to use, lets me experience the tactile sensations of pen on paper, and frees me to enjoy the process again.

I do hope my notes and images are helpful to others considering a PDA to paper switch, and those keen on customizing a Moleskine as a planning tool.