The Mechanics of a RYO Planner

I mentioned in the post “Time” that I’ve rolled out my own planner. In order to document this, both for my own sanity and recreating later, and anyone else who would follow suit, see below for the gory details.

For me, my journey started three years ago when I switched from small form factor, wire bound DayTimers (pocket and compact) , I switched to the Harvard Elite planner as it appears in the Lee Valley Portable Office.

The Harvard planner is not just a planner, it’s a philosophy. Much of that system, I modified to my own use; much of it didn’t apply. And the wire binding, I found to be, well, binding. I couldn’t manipulate page order, easily build connections between events, notes, appointments, etc. What I could do, however, is track moved appointments with ease. That is something I love. I’ve also added a GTD-esque system to it. Then, I found circa, when looking for a solution for my Dear Wife.

I started realizing that I could, at the minimum, buy the 2008 Harvard, cut it off and circa-punch it. “But wait”, I thought, “I can do better!”. So, I did. I started hanging out more in the forums at, looking at their template, as well as the templates of others. I found out, by reading this, that I could build a graphic and then do a mail merge in OpenOffice. By giving the page for the mail merge a background pic, that which you made for the planner, it worked like magic! For me, it was key to have the margins of the original pic and the document the same.

I build a spreadsheet for the merge that had the year organized by week for 2008 and merged it into my document with my Harvard-esque structure as the background. Now, I went through several iterations of this. It took me a while to get it all lined up. I also found that the graphic you make should have no text thereupon. Add the text during the mail merge; it will look much nicer in the end.

Once I had the OpenOffice document merged and the way I wanted it, I exported it to a PDF. I did this several ways, and ended up with two different documents: one that held the left hand pages, one the right. Because I was not printing to a full 8.5×11 page, but to a 5.5×8.5 page size, I had to have each page as a full page, independent of it’s facing page, to let my printer handle the auto-booklet-ing features. Now, I had to documents, pdfs, to merge. How?

Well, I found out about Multivalent here (search for multivalent). It required java, which I had, and ran off the command line. It could split out each page of my two pdfs, which was helpful. I had ran into a bug in OOo’s mailmerge feature that inserted an extra page between each one. So, I had 100+ pages instead of the normal 52 or so, in each pdf. So, I blew them apart, each to a separate folder, and deleted the blank pages. Now, I could merge, and merge I did. I started finding this to be tedious off of the command line. Then, I found out about pdfsam. It too is java, but it’s a gui. I splits and merges pdfs, but it can also reorder pages on the to-be-merged pdf. That’s what I did.

I took ygor’s wonderful Dynamic Templates. These are wonderful little standalone apps that generate calendars and lists of varying configurations. I used the 2 page per month and 2 page per year ones to build in monthly overviews and yearly overviews. The monthly ones go inline with the weekly pages, just before the month starts. The yearly ones are at the front. The only thing left was a cover, personal identification, and to round out the pages.

I copped the Personal Info page from the DIY*Planner v3 core package (pdf in the link — beware!) – it was stretched to fit an 8.5×11 page, the cover from the v3 covers package, and the notes pages to fill the back from ygor’s Notes -v1.0 package, saved as pdfs. I took all the pdfs, and merged them into one massive pdf with pdfsam. It seems that the pdf pdfsam generates isn’t quite normal – some apps won’t handle them well. For instance, Quark and Adobe Acrobat (not reader) should have imported the file, but wouldn’t. Nevertheless, Acorbat Reader and Foxit Reader both handle it fine.

The test prints have proven to work well. The margins fit the circa discs and punches fine. The advantage of the circa binding allows me to move things around. If I want to insert a note page with the week of January 1, I can. If I want to put a project list in the middle of the May monthly, I can. I can also shuffle off past months to archive so I’m not continually carrying around everything.

If you would like to see the first test shots, take a look here. My plan is to do the final print late October/early November on 24#-28# paper and take my time binding.

Solo Deo Gloria,



About javajeb

Full time dad and IT guy. Part-time Sunday School teacher. Full-time follower of Christ.
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3 Responses to The Mechanics of a RYO Planner

  1. Gerald says:

    It’s going to take me a few months to follow your lead. Which is good because by that time you should have all the bugs worked out. Right? 🙂

    Seriously, it might take me a few months just to go through all the information here and absorb it enough to understand it all.

    Good luck with the printing!

  2. phil says:

    Thanks for the blog. I love it!

    Is there any way you might be able to link to our site?

    Phil at Maestro Coffee Roasters

  3. Scott says:


    You may want to try the system outlined in “Forget the 7 Habits & Break All the Rules” by Trapper and Mark Woods. I’m a pastor with commitments outside the traditional planner mode and found this system to be much easier to manipulate. I’ve posted some templates on DIY Planner but they’re not online just yet…Probably within the next few days or so.

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