How to create your own custom planner

Published: December 2, 2019. Last updated: January 19, 2024.

Life can often seem like a whirlwind of appointments, responsibilities, and tasks, and keeping track of it all can be a challenge. That’s where a personalized planner comes into play. A custom planner tailored to your specific needs can be a game changer. It is more than just a calendar—it’s a productivity tool, an organization system, and a creative outlet rolled into one.

In this digital age, there are countless digital planner creation tools available, allowing you to design and build a planner that accurately reflects your lifestyle and needs. You can add tasks, set reminders, and even integrate other apps that you use daily. But there’s something uniquely satisfying about creating your own custom planner from scratch using traditional methods.

Physical planners allow you to slow down and mindfully write down your tasks, goals, and thoughts in a way that digital tools cannot replicate. You can add personal touches, like stickers, photos, and colorful pens, making your planner a creative, visual representation of your life. Plus, unlike digital tools, you’re not going to get distracted by a pesky pop-up notification when you’re working in your printed planner.

Creating your own custom planner puts you in control, making organization and productivity attainable and enjoyable. This is your comprehensive guide on how to make your own printed planner. Let’s get you systematized—and have fun creatively while doing it!

Choosing your custom planner format

When it comes to creating your custom planner, you have two primary physical format options: homemade or print-on-demand. We’ll go into the pros and cons of each, but know there’s no wrong choice here.

Whether you opt for a homemade planner or a print-on-demand planner, the important thing is that it suits your style, meets your needs, and fuels your productivity. After all, the goal of building your own planner is to create a tool that helps you manage your life better!

Homemade planners

The first option is the good old-fashioned homemade planner. This format gives you the freedom to let your creativity run wild. You can choose your notebook or binder, design your page layouts, and decorate until your heart’s content. This is the perfect choice for those who love crafting and have a flair for design. A homemade planner is also great for those on a tight budget, as you can often use materials you already have at home.

The major advantage of this format is its high level of customizability. You have the power to decide everything, from the size of the planner to the layout of each page. However, this level of customization can also be overwhelming for some. If you’re someone who struggles with decision-making or perfectionism, this may not be the best option for you.

Print-on-demand custom planners

The second option is a print-on-demand planner. This option is ideal for those who want a professional-looking planner without the hassle of designing each page from scratch. There are many online platforms that offer print-on-demand services. You simply choose your preferred design, customize the inside pages, and order it—voila, your planner is delivered to your doorstep.

The primary advantage of this format is convenience and consistency. You get a professionally bound planner with less effort, and you can easily reorder the same design year after year. Note that this format can be limiting in terms of customization. While you can choose the design and layout, depending upon the service you choose, you may not have complete control over every aspect of your planner like size, paper type, cover, and more.

Custom planner at home with someone writing a to-do list and looking at a calendar.

How to create a custom planner at home

Creating your own DIY planner can seem like a daunting task, but with some basic materials and a dash of creativity, you can create a planner that perfectly suits your needs. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started.

1: Decide your size and format

The first step in creating your custom planner is deciding on the size and format. Do you want a pocket-sized planner that you can easily carry with you, a classic A5 size to make it easy with the material you have available, or would you prefer a larger, desk-based planner with more room for notes and tasks? 

Next, decide how you want to bind your pages—three-ring binder, disc-bound, or spiral-bound (at a print shop) systems are all popular options for custom planners. Consider the type of paper you’ll be using too; will it be lined, dotted, plain, or mixed? These decisions may seem small, but they can make a big difference in the functionality and feel of your planner.

Also, think about whether you prefer a daily, weekly, or monthly format. This largely depends on how detailed you like your planning to be—but this level of detail needed can inform the size and format of your book. Remember, the goal is to create a planner that best suits your needs, so choose a format that aligns with your lifestyle and planning habits.

2: Gather your materials

Once you’ve decided on the size and format, the next step is to gather your materials. Here’s a list of things you might need. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything on this list—this is just a starting point to give you an idea of what you might need.

  • Printer: If you’re printing your planner, make sure you have a printer and plenty of paper.
  • Paper: Pick from lined, dotted, plain, or mixed. And consider using thicker paper for a more sturdy feel.
  • Hole punch: If you’re using a binder or disc-bound system, you’ll need a hole punch to fit your binding needs. If you’re doing a spiral-bound option, we’d suggest just going to your local print shop and letting them do the heavy lifting.
  • Binder or discs: Depending on your binding choice, you’ll need a binder or discs to keep your pages in place. Binders are those things you use in school to keep loose paper tidy. And disc-binding relies on round discs with a little lip on the edge to hold the pages together.
  • Dividers: If you want to separate sections of your planner, dividers can help keep everything organized.
  • Scissors and glue: For trimming, cutting out, and gluing in any extra pages or designs.
  • Ruler: You’ll want a ruler for drawing lines and keeping things neat.
  • Pens and markers: Get creative with different colors and styles. Color coding can be a great way to organize your custom planner. Don’t forget about highlighters, too!
  • Stickers, washi tape, decorative items: These are great for adding fun and color to your planner. Decorative items like photos, magazine clippings, and Post-its can add a personal touch, too.

3: Design your layouts

The next step in creating your custom planner is designing your layouts. If you’re artistically inclined, draw your layouts by hand. Spend a lot of time here, as this is the fun part!

And if you’re not confident in your drawing skills, don’t worry—there are plenty of free printable templates available online. You can also use design software like Canva to create custom layouts.

When designing your layouts, keep in mind the purpose of each page. Do you want a weekly spread for appointments and tasks, or would you prefer a monthly overview for big-picture planning? You can also add pages for goal setting, habit trackers, and journaling. Consider your planning needs and customize the layouts accordingly.

4: Assemble your planner

Once you’ve printed or drawn your layouts, it’s time to assemble your custom planner. If you’re using a binder, simply punch holes in your pages and add them to your binder.  If you’re using a disc-bound system, use the hole punch to fit your chosen discs. And, if you’ve opted for a spiral-bound option, take your pages to the print shop and let them handle the binding process.

Assemble your planner in sections, starting with the cover and then adding each section accordingly. Use dividers to keep everything organized. Remember to leave some blank pages at the end for any notes or ideas that may come up while using your planner.

5: Personalize your planner

The final step in creating your custom planner is personalizing it. This is where you can really let your creativity shine. Decorate your planner with stickers, add tabs for easy navigation, or even include a pocket for important documents. Remember, this planner should be a reflection of you and your lifestyle, so don’t be afraid to make it your own!

Person using BookWright and templates to create a custom notebook.

How to create a print-on-demand planner with BookWright

If the DIY route seems like too much work, or if you’re after that professional touch, consider building your custom planner using a print-on-demand service. Since that’s what Blurb is all about, we’ll explore how to create one in BookWright. This easy-to-use bookmaking software has everything you need to create a custom planner that is incredibly polished.

1: Download BookWright and select a project

First, head to Blurb and download BookWright for free. Install it on your computer following the prompts.

Once you’ve installed BookWright, launch the application and select Create. Then choose Notebooks* as your project type. This format is perfect for creating planners due to its flexible sizing and affordable printing options. Select your preferred size, then hit Next. Now you are able to choose your paper style (with options like lined, grid, and more) and cover type (hardcover or softcover).

Finally, name your project, save it somewhere you’ll be able to find it, and hit Start a New Project.

*Psst. If you’re planning to sell your planner on Amazon via Blurb, you’ll need to choose Photo Book.

2: Customize your pages

Once you’ve started your project, you can start customizing your pages. Use the toolbar above your page layouts to add text boxes, images, shapes, and more. Here are a few ideas on how to use BookWright’s features.

  • Background color: Use the paint can icon in the upper right of BookWright to experiment with the background color feature and brighten up your book design.
  • Photos and text boxes: Add text boxes and images to create spaces for featuring images and headlines.
  • Images and designs: Simply drag and drop your photos, images, and doodles into the photo boxes you created.
  • Custom fonts: Try special lettering and fonts—especially great when adding inspirational quotes to keep you motivated year-round.
  • Shapes: Use the shapes tool to add squares, circles, and triangles. They not only add visual interest, but they can also call attention to special notes and reminders.
  • Page numbers: Don’t forget to add page numbers to keep your planner organized. Using page numbers plus an index equals a very orderly year ahead!

Last, but not least, don’t forget to try templates. You’ll find plenty of professionally made layout options for planners, indexes, quotes, tables of contexts, and more in BookWright.

3: Design your cover

Now that your pages are designed and customized, it’s time to create the cover. Remember that you’ll be looking at it all year round, so make sure it’s something you adore.

Use the toolbar above your cover layout to add images, text, or even a background color. Try using an eye-catching font for your planner title and add a personal touch with an image or doodle that represents you. And don’t forget your spine, which you can customize so it stands out on your bookshelf.

4: Preview and order

On to the finishing touch—previewing and ordering your planner. BookWright offers a preview option that allows you to review your entire book, page by page. This is where you can catch any typos or design errors before sending it off for printing.

Once you’re satisfied with your planner, hit the Upload icon in the upper right corner of BookWright, and Blurb will print your custom planner and deliver it right to your doorstep. Easy peasy.

5: Personalize your printed planner

Planners are made to be used. Just like with a custom planner, you should make yours even more your own by adding notes, doodles, and stickers throughout the year. Grab some markers or watercolor to add artwork to blank pages, hand letter important dates, or even create a vision board for your goals.

Don’t forget sticky notes, washi tape, and other stationery to really make it pop. The possibilities are endless! And when the year is over, you’ll have a customized planner filled with memories and milestones that you can look back on.

6: Selling your planner

You’ve spent a lot of time perfecting your planner, why not share it with the world? Selling your work can be a great way to share your creativity and design skills, and maybe even make some money. It’s pretty easy via Blurb.

  • Blurb Bookstore: When you upload your project, you will have the option to add it to the online bookstore. Set a price that includes the profit you’d like to make on each sale, and then share it with friends, family, and social media followers through a direct link.
  • Amazon: Once your project is uploaded, Blurb offers an option to distribute your planner on Amazon as well. Note that Amazon will take a chunk of your sales, and you’ll need to print your planner as a photo book, so consider this when setting your price and choosing your format.
  • Physical bookstores: If you dream of seeing your planner on the shelves of physical bookstores, do it via Ingram. When you choose to distribute your planner through Ingram, it will be included in Ingram’s catalog, making it available to over 39,000 retailers and libraries—both online and physically around the world. There are also fees associated with Ingram, and you can only make your planner a trade book or notebook, so pay attention to your price and format.

Each of these options has its own advantages and requirements, so consider which one might be the best fit for you and your planner. Whichever you choose, remember that marketing your planner—through social media, blogging, or other channels—is key to generating sales.

Person writing in a custom planner in an orange sweater.

Using your planner effectively

Now that you have your custom planner in hand, how do you make the most of it? Here are some tips to ensure that your DIY planner becomes a valuable tool in organizing your life.

Add functional features

A custom planner can be more than just a calendar and to-do list—it can be a comprehensive tool to manage all aspects of your life. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the features we’ve tried over the years.

  • Goal-setting pages: With goal-setting pages, you can clearly articulate your ambitions and track your progress throughout the year. Break down large goals into manageable steps, and celebrate your victories, big or small.
  • Budget trackers: Oversee your income and expenditures at a glance. It helps foster financial responsibility, aids in saving for future goals, and could help prevent unnecessary spending.
  • Meal-planning sections: These can help you plan nutritious meals ahead, save time on grocery shopping, and reduce food waste. Plus, it’s a great way to discover and record new recipes.
  • Fitness trackers: A dedicated section to track your workouts, steps, or overall physical activities can help encourage a healthier lifestyle. They can even provide a visual representation of your efforts and improve your commitment to regular exercise.
  • Gratitude log: Science has proven there are tons of benefits to practicing gratitude. Make it easier with a special place for your daily log.
  • Reading or movie lists: For the avid reader or moviegoer, a section like this can be extremely handy. It’s a place to jot down recommendations, note progress, and write down your reviews.
  • Mood trackers: By marking your daily moods, you can spot patterns, understand triggers, and work towards emotional balance. A mood tracker is also beneficial for mental health check-ins.

Plus, we mentioned adding pockets above, and we’ll mention them again! Adding places where you can store loose pages or paste in polaroids or other memorabilia is a great way to keep your custom planner feeling exciting to use. You can DIY your pockets or purchase some online to stick onto the interior of your covers.

Stay organized

We’ve all started a new planner with high hopes, only to abandon it a few weeks in. But the key to staying on track with your planner is getting organized and staying that way.

  • Prioritize and categorize: Begin by jotting down all the tasks you need to accomplish and categorizing them based on their urgency and importance. This will help you prioritize and assign deadlines to your tasks. Use color codes or symbols to differentiate between your personal, professional, and social life tasks.
  • Get consistent: Make it a habit to check your planner first thing in the morning and last thing before you wind down for the day. Consistency ensures you’re always aware of your upcoming tasks and deadlines, and can help you sleep better knowing you’re prepared for the next day.
  • Mind dump: Sometimes, our minds are so cluttered with thoughts that it can feel overwhelming to even start planning. Take a few minutes each day to write down every thought, task, or idea that comes to mind—allowing you to clear your head and prioritize tasks for the day.
  • Review and reflect: Take time at the end of each week or month to review your planner. Reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how you can improve your planning strategy.
  • Reward yourself: Don’t forget to reward yourself for completing tasks or reaching goals! This will help motivate you and keep you excited about using your planner.
  • Be flexible: Life happens, and plans change. Don’t be afraid to adjust your planner accordingly. Be flexible and open-minded, and your planner will become a helpful tool for adapting to any situation.

Remember, the goal of your custom planner is to simplify your life, not complicate it. So, if something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to adjust and adapt your planner to better suit your needs.

Pair productivity methods with your planner

Productivity can be a loaded term. It can be a useful way to manage your time or a negative loop that makes you feel you aren’t doing enough. Use productivity methods that work for you and your lifestyle, make you feel more spacious and free, and pair them with your planner to help you stay on track.

Here are a few popular methods that you can actually add to your custom planner and track throughout your day or month! You can also mix and match these methods to create a unique planning strategy that works for you.

  • Pomodoro Technique: This method breaks your workday into 25-minute chunks with five-minute breaks in between. After four “pomodoros,” take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. The Pomodoro technique helps improve focus, reduce burnout, and encourage regular breaks.
  • Time blocking: This method involves dividing your day into blocks of time for specific tasks or activities. It helps improve time management skills and prevent multitasking, leading to better focus and productivity.
  • Bullet journaling: A popular method of planner organization, bullet journaling is a creative way to track tasks, goals, habits, and ideas. It involves using a system of bullet points, symbols, and lists to organize your planner in a way that works for you.
  • Kanban boards: A visual method of tracking tasks and progress, Kanban boards use cards or sticky notes to represent tasks moving through stages (like To-do, In Progress, Completed). They help improve workflow management and provide a clear overview of tasks and progress.

There are many other productivity methods out there, but the key is to find one (or a combination) that works for you. Incorporate these methods into building your planner to make it more efficient and personalized. If you’re not sure where to start, this productivity method quiz can be a great beginning.

Wrapping it up

Creating your own custom planner, whether through a DIY process or using a print-on-demand service provides a tangible tool that is tailored to your individual needs and lifestyle. As we navigate the fast-paced digital world, the value of a physical planner cannot be overstated. It offers a tactile experience that fosters connection, focus, and mindfulness.

Unlike digital tools, a physical planner is free of distractions. It allows you to step away from the screen, engage with your thoughts, and focus on your plans in a peaceful and concentrated manner. The act of physically writing helps to reinforce memory, promoting a better recall of tasks and commitments.

Furthermore, a personal planner, with its customized sections and features, can be a direct reflection of you as a unique individual, resonating with your creative spirit. So, embrace the process of creating your custom planner—it’s not just about staying organized, it’s about expressing yourself and taking control of your life in a way digital tools can’t replicate.


Blurb is a self-publishing platform that empowers you to create, publish, share, and sell high-quality photo books, trade books, and magazines in both print and digital formats. With intuitive design tools and flexible options, Blurb is perfect for DIY enthusiasts who wish to bring their custom planner ideas to life. Whether you are making a planner for personal use or even to sell to your fans, Blurb gives you the tools to make a planner that is functional, beautiful, and uniquely yours.

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