Say Hello to Ugly Efficiency

Yeah that's right, you won't find any colourful, elaborate beautiful spreads in this post. And don't let the door hit you on your fancy washi tape covered ass on the way out.

Just kidding. I certainly don’t hate ‘fancy layouts’ quite the opposite. I think they are often inspiring and as someone who likes art and to draw, I quite enjoy looking through the imaginative and creative setups shown by many of you. I gathered some examples of this from instagram in a previous post… (Inspiring Calendex Spreads from the community). I just don’t use them myself but hopefully, you’ll find some hidden gems of your own from my simple, no-frills, ugly setup.

For me to get the best out of my notebook I have a particular setup which might seem bare to most paper planners as I don’t use weekly/monthly spreads, stickers, washi tape or fancy writing. In fact, my notebook is fugly! But that’s what makes it beautiful. Beautifully efficient. By keeping it simple I can get it to work for me and not the other way around. And like anything the right tools are very important so here’s what I’m currently using…



(Usually mechanical because they’re awesome) There’s 2 I like: my cheap and cheerful Pilot super grip 0.5 and Pentel Graphgear 1000. They both have retractable nibs so are perfect for all situations.

I do a wooden pencil too and have many in my pencil pot currently housed on my desk which include favourites such as Blackwings and Archer pencils but the ones I Use most are certainly unloved online by a lot of pencil folk, they’re cheap, slim-line, look great and I can fit an old pen cap on the end to protect the point. It’s the Dixon Ticonderoga. I also like how they write and how light the actual pencil is to hold. They’re pretty damn good.
Buy Pilot super grip 0.5 | Buy Pentel Graphgear 1000 | Buy Dixon Ticonderoga


It’s rare I use pens in my notebook. Being a lefty is a big factor for obvious smudging reasons but the one I carry is a Uniball Jetstream.
Buy Uniball Jetstream.


Leuchtturm 1917. Since trying these a few years back they have become my go-to notebook. Nothing has managed to topple it from the top spot with its mixture of quality, function and availability.
Buy Leuchtturm 1917

Post-it notes

I like to add these inside my notebook because you never know when you need them. I’ll go into this more below.
(Buy Post-its)

That’s literally it. If you use a ton of equipment, you know washi-tape, stencils, highlighters different coloured pens/pencils, rulers, stickers then you need a way of carrying it all.

So on to the setup, for me, simplicity is best as long as it can fit in my pocket and is a quick way to capture things then it’s a yes from me! Here’s how I set up my notebook…

Projects page 1

I like to use page one as a placeholder for my projects. They all obviously have a name and usually, have a deadline. A couple of examples could be something like ‘Finish web design for client A – 24’ or ‘Finish back garden’.

By having all my projects in one page (possibly 2 if you need the extra space) I can see what projects still need my attention. If a project has a deadline or due date I add it to the Calendex.

6-month Calendex pages 2-3

A pocket notebook tends not to last me a whole year but a 6-month Calendex gives me plenty of room to plan for a substantial amount of time but gives me more space than you might think. Depending on how much you use them and how much of your hard earned cash you’re willing to spend you could have a pocket notebook per quarter. Again… whatever best suits you.

If you are wondering how I get it to fit into a Pocket Notebook here is a previous post going through exactly how… Setting Up a Calendex in a Pocket Notebook.

Post-it note section

One of my most favourite and simple hacks.
On the inside of the back cover, I always grab a bunch of post-it notes and stick them in there. I know the Leuchtturm has a few (8) perforated pages at the back once they are gone, they are indeed gone. Post-it notes are a great alternative to wasting those lovely pages and you can add as many as you like, of course, don’t go nuts and stick a full pack in. That would look ridiculous and writing in the notebook would be severely hindered. I have 17 (at the time of the photo) which is more than enough, probably a bit too much to be honest as I never use that many but it still provides a flat enough surface to write on if writing in the notebook itself. Not to mention they’re great to have if you need to pacify a bored child!

Is that it? No weekly or monthly spreads?

Pretty much. What I do is in the evening before I go to bed. I will turn to my next availabe page and write tomorrows date and the 3 main things I’d like to get done as well as any notes I may need. This will, of course, mean checking my calendex for any deadlines looming and planning accordingly. I did post about it on social media recently and thought it may be handy for someone to see how I plan for the day. Here’s a pic…

And that block you see in the top right corner… is something I call ‘The Square of Done’. I include it on every single page and is a massive component in my overall analog productivity. You can read more about it here… The Square of Done

Like I said I don’t add much structure or give much time to fancy layouts as long as I get the things written down in a quick understandable way. As well as providing insight into how I use my notebook hopefully it will act as a reminder to anyone who is put off by elaborate artsy layouts that your notebook doesn’t need to be. It can be whatever you want it to be as long as it works for you.

Have any questions? Pop them in the comments below, follow me on social media or join the Calendex Community over on Facebook.

In the meantime, Happy Planning


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An unashamed lover of analog who loves helping people plan and organise better productivity systems. Founder and creator of the Calendex, stationery addict, biscuit fan.

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