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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Guest post: How Christine uses her Uncalendar planner

I was very interested to see how Christine uses her Uncalendar planner! Many thanks to Christine for this detailed guest post!!

How I Use my Uncalendar and a Spiral Notebook to Stay Organized!

By Christine Cortese

Like so many of you, I have tried many planner formats searching for just the right format. There have been successes now and then but none that lasted an entire year. Most of my vital information has been lost in the chaos of chronic planner fail. Because of this, I have learned to value bound books as even my partially complete bound books have proven very useful to me.

This year in particular I reached a nadir.  I have spent a totally embarrassing amount of money on planning tools with virtually nothing to show for it and feel like an addict who needs more and more just to function. Maybe this one will work! Maybe that one!  When I overdosed on the gold ringed Erin Condren, I hit bottom. I’ve read all the excellent posts about how planner fail starts within, and I felt the pain of abject defeat, but the fact remained that, at bottom, I was just having trouble finding places to write things down so I could find them again!  And beating myself up about it! But still, nothing was working, and I had no more money to spend on planners. So I picked up an old Uncalendar (www.uncalendar.com) I’d had laying around since 2011 and a spiral bound notebook, and decided to live within my means no matter what.

Well, surprise.

Suddenly I had room to write everything I needed to record. And I knew right where to look for the information after I’d written it.   

There are excellent reviews of the Uncalendar on Plannerisms (click here and scroll down to see them all) so I won’t go into detail on this post. I’ll stick to a basic overview and how I use it.

Please forgive the dreadful attempts at planner decoration. Obviously this is not my forte. The Uncalendar is basically a spiral bound notebook, with floppy covers (that I stiffened with laminate and PlannerPad’s Insta-Pockets). All the undated weeks are together at the front, behind the “Day/Week” tab. Then the undated months (on 2 pages) follow behind the ‘Month/Goals” tab. There are enough undated weeks and months for a full year. Then, behind “Notes/Tech”, there are 12 pages for notes that I am now using as monthly planning pages.  

I clip those sections together at their dividers and just flip between them to my current week and month and month goals.      

On the week page, I finally have enough room to keep everything important in front of me. There’s a highly visible space to write my most important tasks for the week, a space for tasks that need to be done but aren’t so vital, space for tasks for my job, a list of what I am reading/watching/listening to, and my tracking grid to see how regularly I exercise, meditate, drink water and take my medicine.  I also use the blank notes space to record what I order online, phone numbers, and quick observations. And of course there’s the time schedule in the vertical weekly columns, for activities that must happen on that day.  
I want to point out something about the tracking grid. I use the top three lines to track my exercise, meditation and whether or not I’ve remembered to take my meds. Those are just checked off by day (yes, I know, I’m lousy at meditating). Then there’s 7 lines beneath that where I track my water consumption by listing the days of the week and checking off how many glasses I’ve drank that day. So you can use this grid to track 3 things weekly and 7 things daily! Or however you want to mix it up.

On the month pages, there is a column to the left of the grid to write recurring tasks for the week. Paydays, birthdays and major bill due dates can be tracked on the calendar grid, along with doctor appointments and work schedules.   I like to fill in all 12 months first and use them as primary planning for the year (along with the monthly goals page); I only fill in the weekly pages 6 weeks ahead.

I began by using the Notes pages to keep track of projects, but they work better (for me) as a monthly goals page and a quick log of significant events for the month.

I also use the annual grid on the last page for graphing my weight loss. The graph seems to work better for motivating me than a string of numbers.

There are goal pages and contact pages in the Uncalendar that I’m not using. And I have to say I do not like the bright colors and the lack of vertical column space for weekends.  But I’ll live with these drawbacks because everything else works so well.

The second thing I really need with me every day is a place to write down my thoughts, my expanded daily list (particularly on week-ends), the weather, quotes, phone calls, measurements and diagrams. I don’t want a formal day per page planner because some days I write for 5 pages. Some days I only write a paragraph. 

The beauty of this is that the Uncalendar serves as a kind of index to the notebook. I know the quotes from a book will have been written during the week I was reading it, for example.

My husband and I were discussing making an international trip next year, and I had an extra Uncalendar in my files, so I pulled it out, filled in the months and the local school and bank holidays, and we were able to plan our trip. So I have next year’s calendar in hand already.

The Uncalendar and spiral notebook go with me every day, fitting easily into my large purse or my laptop bag. They are light and easy to carry which is important because with bound books, you end up carrying double at transition times. They also attract zero attention when I’m out, which I like.

There are two adjunct ring-bound systems that complete this arrangement. I use an FC classic sized binder (a black Aurora) for all my long-term plans, with a section for annual goals, housework schedules, checklists, routines and project plans. This stays on my desk all of the time. And I use an FC compact binder as my wallet (also a black Aurora) and to keep shopping information – lists, model numbers, etc.   

The main thing that makes this system work is that nothing is replicated. My annual plan is in the classic sized binder, the monthly/weekly breakdown of that plan is in the Uncalendar and the daily details are in the notebook.  The Uncalendar and notebook are my bound reference books.  And my ring binders are used to hold information I really don’t care about archiving by year, as well as permanent reference pages that don’t need to be archived.

So there is my accidental system that is actually working for me!  It has performed beautifully under the intense pressure of the past 4 months.

Some day I might want to try a new planner. I’m a planner junkie after all. But this is a system to which I can always return if a new planner doesn’t work out. I’ll always keep an Uncalendar at the ready.

I wish you happy plannering!


  1. Thank you! It's great to see how you use these two together, always helps to see a planner filled in!

  2. Love the idea, and the planner reminds me of a Far Side Desk Diary that was available for a few years and was my absolute nadir of planning perfection with a reporters notebook as a scratchpad/jotter
    I'm trying to work something now with a pad and an academic diary now since I value my Teal Pocket Finchley too much to get it knocked around in daily life actually planning in the 'real world'

  3. I wish I could do something like that because I love the freedom of writing in a notebook. But I have to have everything in one place or I get overwhelmed and confused about where things are. But it looks like it's working great for you. Good job and congrats.

    1. You could get a FiveStar Flex Hybrid notebook (the notebook that has flexible rings through it like a 3 ring binder) and order the looseleaf pages of the uncalendar refill for the binder version. Then you could put the planner pages into the Flex notebook/binder and have the notebook paper in there with it.

  4. *yanking out my partially used Uncalendar* O.O
    ;) Thank you!!

  5. Where did you order your weekly spread pages from? I looked at Uncalendar.com, and could not find the pages in your pictures.

    1. Sandy the planner Christine is using is here: http://www.uncalendar.com/unc?action=display&orderCode=ULF-00001

      It is also available in looseleaf: http://www.uncalendar.com/overview.jsp?index=1

  6. Thank you for this. I've loved uncalendar for years but couldn't quite make it work as a teacher. I need something bigger than what all the cutesy binder kids are selling Thank you again, and don't beat yourself up. You did well. You showed all of us something we can use.


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