25 July 2016

Guest Post - "Experienced User" can learn a thing or two - Carla

Hi, Carla here.  About a year ago, I was featured as an Experienced User.  Life has changed – AGAIN.  This ‘experienced user’ has learned a thing or two.

Lesson #1) being that a photographer, I am not.  So we’ll talk.  Warning, this will be long.

Lesson #2) find your system, then nothing short of your planner drowning or meeting a fiery end will throw you too far off.  Yeah, sometimes the brain needs a break, but when you’re ready to use your planner again, you have a working foundation.   During my working life, I learned that a separate binder or notebook was essential to keeping my sanity.

Now that I work from home and don’t have many appointments, I downsized from FC Classic/A5 to a Personal.  Everything in one binder.  No more “did I sync or not sync?” Appointments or due dates go on the monthly pages and tasks onto the weekly pages.  I’ve started using Philofaxy’s monthly tracker and foldout year calendar, which would work very well for me, if I could remember to look at them on a regular basis.

Back to the month grid, Hack #1) color-coding and a few symbols help me to keep things straight.  Appointments get penciled in, but that really doesn’t count because we’ve all learned that appointments have a tendency to change.  (The Frixion pen takes care of that.) When that’s done, I’ll pull out the trusty highlighter to show that it’s done. I use a x for business related entries and { for home entries.

Hack #1.5) Home entries are further color coded with a dot, context code or icon sticker.  Now if I haven’t already confused you, my Hack#2 allows me to keep Hubby’s schedule too.  Any dots, codes or stickers to the left of the text are my stuff, and any to the right are his.

Hacks #3 & 4) deal with pens, pen loops and a highlighter.  Many binders provide only one pen loop, but a minimum of 2 seems to be my comfort zone.  One loop for a pen and another for the highlighter that I use to mark the completed items or tasks.  In my Personal size ‘Original’, I only use the outer elastic loop for the highlighter. (The other two are reserved for thin paper clips.) Depending on what I have on hand, a stick-on pen loop, washi covered duct or electrical tape, wide elastic stapled onto a heavier insert, or a binder clip, does the trick.  Making my own allows me to customize the size.  No more minuscule, not good for anything but the skinniest pens or stretched out elastic, excuse for a pen loop dilemma.

No matter which binder I’m using, my Hack #5) is/are page lifters.  Those thick plastic pages are meant to “lift” the papers off the rings so the binder closes like a proper book.  Also, keeping one at either end provides a more stable writing surface over the lumps and bumps of the pockets.  Of course, they make a great dashboard too.  If you do make your own, double punch the holes to a more oval shape so they themselves don’t get stuck on the rings.

Lesson #3) stick with how your brain works.  In my case, impatient and easily confused.  If I’ll need a road map to read the road map, it’s not happening.  Same goes for my planner.  Over the years, I’ve tried keeping separate sections for lists and notes but would spend too much time deciding where something should be filed.  So for me using the A-Z tabs as one big filing system works.  Hack #6) This is where the washi-tape-indexing comes in. I got this idea from Rhomany's Realm. Financial information is filed in the ‘F’ section and marked by a Green-based washi along the outer edge.  ‘Admin’ notes get Blue-based washi, ‘Home’ notes get Orange, and ‘Me’ stuff gets Pink.  Oh yeah, the menu list is filed under ‘M’ and easily found by the Orange tab. So, if I’m looking for my bill tracker, I look for green washi.  Home maintenance schedule, orange washi. One day, I’ll color code the flags too, but not TODAY.  I’m not that organized – YET.

These are my tried and true, never fail to make any binder work for me, lessons and hacks.  I’d love to read of or see other tips and tricks that help make this planning process work for you.  If you have pictures you don’t mind sharing, tag me on Instagram @msorchidlove.  Thanks for reading and letting me share that experience can still be added to, or refined.  BIG Cheshire Cat smile.

Here’s a sample month


  1. Whoops. Sorry, somehow managed to wipe out all my pictures. Add that to my list of new experiences.

  2. Excellent post Carla! I like the idea of using washi tape for color coding sections. That's a new one to me. I always used post its cut and scotch taped to my dividers.

    1. Thank you, Michele. I hope this helps.