Yes, I call it Binder Theory, because to me, it’s more than just a book of stuff about my life. It affects how I live, in a more organized and useful way. And because I declared it Binder System Month, I am going to show you how my binder system works.
I don’t flatter myself that you’ll take it whole hog and implement it, but I hope that you can take a few ideas and structure them for your needs. After all, my binder system is an amalgamation of various tips and tricks used by other productivity specialists and successful dysfunctional people.
The basic structure of a binder system involves (obviously) a binder. I use a 1″ but you can obviously go with whatever size you need. I actually may need to upgrade to a 1.5″ or possibly 2″ because it’s so full right now.
It’s not important what the binder looks like, so long as you are happy with it. A word of warning, though: I had a cutesy binder with floral print and it was lovely, but it broke after only a few months of use.
I now use a basic color binder with reinforced seams. It has a cover pocket that I can customize however I choose. Right now I have a quote from Anais Nin, “Good things come to those who hustle.” It’s a good motivational push when I am not feeling it.
Disclaimer: I do not own the specific artwork on my binder cover. I printed it for personal use, and do not sell it or include it anywhere for download on my site. You can find the original artwork here (on a nifty notebook).
So, once you have you preferred binder, what do you need inside it to turn it into a “system”?
For me, all you really need to make a good binder system is:
- Eight-tab sectional dividers
- Protective page sleeves
- Reinforced looseleaf grid paper (available at Target)
- Access to a printer/paper
- A three-hole punch
My Binder’s Structure
It’s important that you do what feels natural to you. My system grew and expanded naturally, which meant it became a part of my lifestyle organically. I didn’t force all of it to work at once.
I’m going to go through this section by section, so you can get a rough idea of what the setup is. I am going to (hopefully remember to) backlink all my upcoming posts on the different sections, so you can read more about these things.
Section I: Scheduling and Agenda
This is the section I spend the most time in. It has all of my to-dos and paper scheduling tools. I will be expanding this section in more depth, but here’s a basic rundown of what’s in this section.
- Monthly themes: I theme my month so I know what I am focusing on.
- Admin lists: Admin tasks are tasks that I deem administrative in nature, usually things a normal person can do without lists. For example, on my daily list, I have a reminder to take a shower and take my medications.
- Master appointments list: These are all the appointments until the end of the year, divided by month.
- Action Item Catcher: This beautiful work of art is the product of Productive Flourishing, who has a lot of awesome free planning printables. (Scroll down on their page to find the AIC.)
- Theming dailies: The current day, and several blank ones too. I am going to be doing a post about these, so look for it soon.
- Weekly Momentum Planner: Another beautiful work of art from Productive Flourishing. I am gradually transitioning this out for my own Theming Weeklies, which I will be sharing with you.
- Passion Planner for the month ahead: I love Passion Planner. Being able to see my week visually has been amazing. People with ADHD can’t see time the way normal people can, so stuff gets jumbled for me. And you can get their planners as free downloads by sharing on social media or subscribing to their newsletter!
Section II: Personal Growth and Development
I need to spend more time in this section, honestly. It’s been a bit stagnant, but it has some important stuff, such as physical copies of my current affirmations in here. (I also keep them in Evernote, so I can access them on my phone.)
A few months ago, I heard from the crowd that compulsively Instagrams their BuJo spreads about this new concept called “Level 10 Life”. It seems like a really corny, hokey thing and I was incredibly skeptical of it, but it’s actually useful for a broad life assessment. I use a similar concept called the Wheel of Life (explained in the PDF).
I do it monthly, and after I’ve selected what areas need work, I really dig into myself and figure out why I am dissatisfied in that aspect. Then I make a plan of actual concrete things I can do to improve.
Also, I take a monthly executive skills assessment. This allows me to see if I am making improvements in managing aspects of my ADHD and pick one or two executive skills to focus on improving. Copies of these assessments end up in the back of this section for future review.
Section III: Medical
I have an In Case of Emergency medical sheet in the very front of my binder, before any of the sections. (I am going to go over what that entails later this month.) But this section has a bunch of medical information for my own reference.
- Relevant static information (stuff that is less likely to change): It has my insurance information, phone numbers for insurance, medications list, and diagnoses. On the back, I have my pharmacy’s information, my PCP’s information, and information of the specialists I see regularly. (This is the information that is useful to me. The separate emergency sheet is the information that would be useful if I went to the ER.)
- Relevant non-static information (stuff like referral info, etc.): For example, I only needed an oral surgeon for my wisdom teeth, so he isn’t going to take up precious space on my regulars list. I also add in new regular specialists here then transfer them over when I next review/update my static reference. If I need to get a referral or fight with my insurance about something, it gets recorded here.
- Upcoming medical appointments: This is a very basic series of tables made in MS Word. It’s divided up by specialist, so I only need to write in the date, time, and reason for the appointment.
- Refill tracking: I can now count the number of prescription meds I take on two hands, so I have a chart where I track all the medication I am on, when I refilled it, and when I should expect to refill it. I’m going to make it available as a printable in the near future.
Section IV: Grocery Shopping and Errands
A squirrel’s work is never done…
- Hannaford aisles listing: See my posts about Hannaford adventures.
- Customized Ultimatest Grocery List: Available here, in handy-dandy PDF formats. I custom-made mine to follow the layout of Hannaford, so I’d be less stressed and confused (I refer you to Item #1 of this section).
- Errands Tracking: When you have to go to multiple places and get multiple things, I have an errands tracker to help me figure out where to go so I can plot my path most efficiently. I’m going to post it as a printable later this month.
Section V: Stuff Related to Phil
I am currently involved in a super secret squirrelly project for an important upcoming milestone. (He actually reads my blog, so I can’t discuss it here until after the date.) I keep all my project management stuff in this section so I stay on track.
We also do weekly and monthly check-ins, so I have information related to that in there. I have actually a monthly questionnaire that we each fill out to assess where we are at, and I keep a list of weekly focus questions in a sleeve for easy access.
Section VI: Blogwork/Webwork
I have a variety of tools that I use to help me plan out my life as an internet citizen. For the actual blogwork side, I use:
- The Blog Post Planner/Calendar: Yet another beautiful thing from Productive Flourishing. I use this for planning out the month. The planner helps me separate out my posts by category, which is helpful so I don’t go crazy in one category and totally neglect the others.
- Weekly Post Planner: I snagged this and the Social Media Planner below from Designer Blogs, which lets you download a massive blog planning kit for joining their newsletter. I didn’t use the whole kit, just a few parts of it, but it’s incredibly worthwhile to have.
- Social Media Planner: Oh my god this beautiful thing. If you have any kind of curated social media presence, you need this. You just do. Even if you aren’t a blogger. Get it. Seriously.
Sections VII-VIII: Schoolwork (when applicable)
During the semester, I keep course syllabi, assignment lists, and any other things I need back here. I will delve into this section in the fall, when I actually have courses to stay on top of.
Putting It All Together
So, that’s what my binder system looks like. But how does it actually work? Over the next few weeks, I’ll be putting up a lot of content detailing just that. Keep an eye out for a bunch of printables and a bunch of explanations.