Make Your Own Planner: Predict the Future

After bawling my way through Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman this summer, my nephew asked me, “if I could have any super power what would it be?”. Would it be the power of flight? Super speed? Super strength? I finally decided that being able to predict the future would be my go to Super Power. Knowing what is going to happen ahead of time would be pretty great, I could make decisions like what to save my money for, what kinds of clothes to buy, where to go…. Luckily for me I don’t have to be a super hero to predict the future. I can just plan it out.


Gretchen Rubin, in her book on habit building, Better than Before asserts that: “If its on the calendar, it happens.” That point really resonated with me. Of course, there will be times when everyone gets the flu, and there is no way on God’s green earth that a delightful trip to Crozet to buy magic cheese from the nuns there is going to happen, but even given that unusual circumstance, you are far more likely to do something if you write it down on a calendar.

I survived college just fine with no calendar and no planning, but when I got to Grad school and was teaching full time and going to class full time, I missed multiple meetings,  and multiple deadlines, until one of my professors pulled me aside and asked me “Why aren’t you using a planner?”. There is no way to remember everything you have to, want to, need to do without one.

Grad students know this, and Teachers really know this. I do not know one teacher who doesn’t have a planner in their bag at all times. Some teachers prefer to use their phones, of course, but I am old school, I want to have written it down, I want to physically touch it. It also makes for a great breather when you want a minute to decide if you want to do something “Oh, I left my planner at home, let me check and see if I have a conflict and I will get back to you…”

Because I am an artist, I want my planner to be beautiful, I want space to draw in it, but I also want my month at a glance, so these rinky dink little 5 by 7, or even 8.5 by 11 planners just weren’t enough for me. Also the paper is often so thin that if I use any kind of colored marker in one, let alone paint, it bleeds through to the next month. Last year I thought to myself after I bought my planner, which was a pretty good one, that “what I should do one day is just suck it up and make my own”. Crazy, I know, but its something I literally use every day, and if the paper is too thin, and the blocks too small over and over again every year, maybe its crazy not to.

I know teachers who have spent over 75 dollars on a fancy Erin Condren planner (these planners are lovely, and are the Gucci of Teacher planners, with special post its and markers that come with it and fit perfectly inside). I could have done that, I could have, but I wanted something that was uniquely mine, and would take any medium I wanted to use. Also, full disclosure here, I love projects, and I lay my whole year out in my planner in the summer time.

So this is my year, friends, this is the year I did it, I am doing it, and in the spirit of sharing and loving the world, I am going to give you step by step instructions to make your own as well.

If at this point you are thinking “Dude, this girl is wasting her time and money on something she could buy at Wal-mart for 15 dollars.” Then by all means, quit reading, do you! Do it your way, I am a very specific type of person. I am super visual, I teach art, I make art, and I have a lot of really strong opinions on color, specific brands of markers, glue, paint, and brushesIf that’s not you, please go watch another episode of whatever you are binge watching on Netflix with no judgement from me, but, on the other hand, if this sounds like the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon, then I am here to be your planner making guru, with clear steps, directions and photos to help you be the very artsy-est plannery-est person you can possibly be.


(Have to Have) Materials List

Thick paper 9 by 12, at least 13 sheets, or a spiral bound 9 by 12 watercolor sketchbook

Skinny permanent marker


Letter Stamps

Permanent Ink Pad


The internet

2. (May Want ) Materials List




Other fun rubber stamps

Multiple color ink pads


Steps for Making Your Planner

Step 1: Decide on the perfect paper type for what you are doing.

Step 2: Draw out your grids

Step 3: Alphabet stamp your month names on

Step 4: Number your months

Step 5: Add family birthdays

Step 6: Draw in your favorite writers, artists, musicians, theorists birthdays

Step 7: Draw in local festivals and events

Step 8: Add holidays you participate in

Step 9: Find your school system’s calendar and add all of their info

Step 10: Add any travel you will be doing

Step 11: Invent outings and events and add them

Step 12: Color

Step 13: Bind it all together


Step 1: Decide on the perfect paper type for what you are doing.


For me, the cheaper end of 9 by 12 watercolor paper was perfect. I probably could have used card stock, but I prefer water color paper and I wanted to be sure I could paint in it. You are going to need 13 sheets, but I messed up at least twice so lets err on the side of caution and get 15-20 depending on how many mistakes you imagine you will make. I got a sketchbook of 30 sheets for $7.

Step 2: Draw out your grids


Now math is not my strong suit (except tipping, I am quite good at that)

These pages are 2 sided, and the sides will be different. You will need each side A to have a back that is side B. Page 1 will be different.

Side A: You will need 5 rows, and 4 columns with space at the top for days of the week names. I made a template that was roughly 2 ¼ inches and traced it starting from my bottom edge 5 times, and then again from left to right 4 times.

Side B: This time use your template on the far right all the way up past where you put in your days of the week names. Then put your template at the bottom, and trace it from left to right in rows that stop at the line on the far right. Finally draw in your other perpendicular lines and end them at the top horizontal line.

When your done you should have thirteen sheets that go like this:

  1. Front: Title Page (My Kick Booty 2017-2018 Planner!) Back: Side A
  2. Front: B Back: A
  3. Front: B Back: A
  4. Front: B Back: A
  5. Front: B Back: A
  6. Front: B Back: A
  7. Front: B Back: A
  8. Front: B Back: A
  9. Front: B Back: A
  10. Front: B Back: A
  11. Front: B Back: A
  12. Front: B Back: A
  13. Front B Back: Either blank, or write something cute: i.e the end, or copy write: me

Step 3: Alphabet stamp your month names on


If you are anything like me, you already have at least 4 sets of alphabet stamps (some complete, some missing the letter K or M), but if you are not like me, go to your local craft store and buy yourself a set. Small ones can be as cheap as a dollar, and larger ones can be from 10-20 depending on the style and size. I find no end of uses for mine in my life, from stamping into clay to labeling holiday cards. You won’t regret this purchase. Alternatively you could hand letter your months, but I found that the stamps created a really uniform look to what was going to be a schmorgasboard of color and drawing so I say stamp it up (alternatively and if you like murder mysteries, you could collage different letters from magazines and newspapers to make your month title, a la ransom notes in the movies.)


The ink is very important. While you can buy all kinds of other fun inks, you want to make sure that you select one for your calendar that is permanent. If you don’t, as soon as you try and color on top of your letters they will smear and bleed and ruin your markers (“Roooweeen” as my mother would say, as in “Julie you have “Roooweeeened this antique photo of your grandmother by cutting it and putting it in this collage). They will be roooweeeened because the black ink from your stamps will get all up in the tips of all your light colors making your future yellow sunshine drawings dark and ominous, and there is nothing worse than a dark and ominous sun when you were shooting for cheerful and whimsical.

Stamp your month names on going vertical on the far right side of each month. I begin my planner each year with July and end with June, but you could start with September or January, whatever you like.


Once your stamped month names have dried, you can add a splash of color to each letter with marker or watercolor or colored pencil. I wouldn’t throw color everywhere at this point, because we are not done getting fancy, and you may regret an all fuchsia background, but make yourself happy friend, Cain’t nobody tell you what to do.

I told you I had very strong opinions about certain things, and here is one I will share with you. Crayola markers are perfect, and I mean perfect for elementary students. However, if you are an adult, and an artist (which if you have read this far, you are) you need nicer markers than Crayola. You need more colors, you need subtler colors, you need your markers to last and to be a joy to use. I am not a marker snob, there are several brands that do a good job, but I think there are kid markers and adult ones. Here are two brands I like for adults (although there are many good ones): Pentel, Prismacolor

Step 4: Number your months


You would think that you could go ahead and use your stamps for the numbers, but unless you have two sets where one has little tiny numbers, I would hand number them. I tried the stamp way, and it took up too much of my 2 ¼ inch square. I double check that I know the correct numbers for each month by using the calendar on my iphone, but the internet has this info as well.


Step 5: Add family birthdays/ fathers day mothers day etc

 I have about 500 facebook friends, and if I tried to remember all of their birthdays every year I would quit birthday-ing altogether, but I do think it’s a good idea to include all of the birthdays of immediate family and very close friends. If you end up writing down more than 20 people, you are over thinking it. Don’t write down every student’s birthday, or your co-workers’ anniversaries. When was the last time these people brought you balloons? I like to curve these people’s names right up against the number like a little sun in one color for all of them so I know what to look for.

Include important dates like Mothers day and fathers day at this point, they don’t need to be big but don’t forget them.

Step 6: Draw in your favorite writers, artists,

musicians, and theorists birthdays


We are who we are because of our parents and our friends, but the friends you meet through reading, or experience them in the museum, or get to know through their music, they are special to us too, and I personally believe in celebrating them.

You can google anyone’s birthday and spice up your life by celebrating it. I like to eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich on Elvis’ birthday, to cook some Mexican on Frida’s birthday, and to do a little writing on Freire’s birthday. Why not? We love these people, lets make a day of it.

I like to do a little cartoon drawing of the person in a birthday hat on their day, but you could also glue in a photo.

Step 7: Draw in local festivals and events

There are multiple reasons for this. 1: is to make sure you remain a member of your own city culture, but also because as teachers (and me as an art teacher) we are somewhat responsible for creating a culture and cultural events for our school and students. You don’t want to end up planning the fall festival the same weekend as the folk festival, nobody will show up!

In RVA we are very lucky to have as many festivals and events as we do. You could go to a festival practically every weekend and never leave the city, but there are a few that I never like to miss: the folk festival, the Brunswick stew festival, and even though I am Wiccan, the Christmas parade since the storm troopers show up. Most cities have a list of festivals on their tourism website if you are not sure where to start. You don’t have to actually go just because its on your planner page, but you definitely will miss it if isn’t there.


Write the name of the event on the weekend or day it is on, and then illustrate around it. Color it in, dream your favorite part of it, make it beautiful. Magic is simply manifesting dreams into reality, and drawing is a great way to do that. Please don’t worry if your drawings look simple or silly, this is not going to hang in the louvre, this is for your benefit only and each day is a pretty small space, so you kind of have to keep it simple.

Step 8: Add holidays you participate in

Here is where it gets tricky. My family is Catholic, so I choose to celebrate those holidays with them. I am Wiccan so I include all of the sabbots on my calendar as well. My December page looks pretty full. I also include all of the phases of the moon. I used Llewelleyn’s as a source for that but you can also find that information online.


Step 9: Find your school system’s calendar and add all of their info

My school system keeps their new calendar online from late May forward for the next year. It includes all work holidays, professional development days, and spring break. I put all of these things in next. I try to use one color to indicate them just as I did for birthdays, so I know what to look for.


Step 10: Add any travel you will be doing

I usually go to the NAEA and VAEA conferences each year, sometimes I travel to other countries, its good to know these dates way ahead of time and to put them in and illustrate them with some sweet cartoons.

Step 11: Invent outings and events and add them

Now this can be as simple as: Decorate for Halloween day, with a drawing of a pumpkin on it, or trips to the gym, to completely invented holidays like: Go looks for mermaids at the river day, and draw your river on that day with little mermaids jumping out of it.


I drew in mine a lot but I also have these cool sort of 50’s looking stamps I used for some things.


Step 12: Color

You are going to have a lot of blank spots right now of course, because as your year progresses you will need to add boring and trivial stuff, like go downtown to pay a weird bill, Dr’s appointments, and and surprise visits from long lost relatives, You don’t have to color all of these kind of stuff, but everything you put in ahead of time should be beautiful and bright and make you want to do it. What was the point of doing all of this work otherwise? We want it bright, we want it splashy. We want it clear and informative but when I open my planner, I want to see not just today where I am picking up dry cleaning, but next weekend where I am going to the draw Llamas in the mountains!


Make it awesome. Be unapologetically creative. You will thank you later (Thank you, me! No thank you, me!)

Step 13: Bind it all together

Maybe I should have done this the efficient way and used a spiral bound sketchbook so that I didn’t have to bind everything together, and you certainly can. I however, did not. Luckily, there are multiple places that will bind it for you and add a clear plastic cover to protect your marvel from weather and dogs. I am going that route.


bound planner

I bound the whole thing together at FedEx for $5.60, ya’ll. To me, that is amazing. The spiral is a little shorter than my 9 by 12, so if that bothers you stick with an 8 1/2 by 11, but it really doesn’t bother me. They cut clear plastic for the front of it and black for the back, in that price. I say its a winner winner chicken dinner.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s