Project Binder Creation

A while back long time ago, a reader asked how I set up my project binders.  (You can check out some of my project binders here.)  It has taken me this long to write this post because I haven’t set up a project-specific binder in a while.  I have lots of ideas for special binders, but the reality of actually creating them, well, that’s a different story—I don’t seem to have as much time to do that these days.  (Oh, how I remember the days when I worked on nothing but setting up binders and section tabs and reorganizing my system  Sometimes I miss those little projects, but being happy with my system is more important and allows me to devote my time to so many other things.)  Project binders—at least most—are one of those things that I have let go of, for the time being.


I recently had the opportunity and need to set up another specific project binder.  So I took some pictures during the process, and here I will explain that process.  (I’m sorry to say that at this point, I cannot show you all of the details of this binder.  However, it should give you enough of an understanding of my process for creating project binders and how I set it up.)

1.  Start with an idea.

More often than not, I start with an idea for a project binder.  Some examples are knitting information, a car care binder, a recipe book, or travel information, anything really!  It can be something that grows organically, as in the need arises on its own or from some other source.  Perhaps I see something that will trigger the thought, This would make a great project that can be housed in a binder, or, as was the case this time, something comes up on its own and I find that I need a way to organize my information. 

You could start with the idea and purchase a binder for it, or you could start with a binder and rack your brain for a use for it.  This particular binder was a little bit of both—I had the binder at the ready (it was a Christmas gift and I have been waiting for a use for it), and finally, I had a need for it.

2.  Choose your binder according to its use.

Depending on your intended use, one size might be better than another.  For most of my projects, I find that personal is the best size because it’s compact enough to carry and/or store, but big enough to write comfortably.  If I’m using Word templates for my content, personal is fine.  However, if I’m going to be taking a lot of notes, an A5 might be better.  If this binder will be used in a professional setting, I might want to stick with a basic color—black or brown or maybe something with a little color but not too loud or flashy.  If it’s for my own use, then I can pick just about anything I want.  If there is a binder style that coordinates with its use, have at it.  An example of this would be the Filofax Petal binder to use as a gardening binder.

For this project (again, I cannot share the name of this project), I knew I wanted an A5 because of the amount and kind of information that I’d be storing here.  Two Christmases ago, my husband bought me a Filofax A5 Monochrome Original.  I had mentioned that I liked it, specifically for a more professional use. 

Since receiving it, I have been looking for a use for it, so when this opportunity came up, it was the first binder I went to.

3.  Brainstorm section/content ideas.

Before you can set up your project binder, you need to know what kind of information you want to keep in it, as well as how you might organize that information.  For this, I created a list in my daily planner in my “Projects” section.

I already had in mind what I wanted to include, so I started with section ideas.  But, if you don’t know what sections to use, start with a list of things you want to include.  Then look at the list of ideas, group like with like, and a section titles should arise from that.  It can be as vague or as specific as you need it to be.  You could also have sub-section within a tabbed section.  It’s all about what works for you and the binder you’re creating.

Of course, these lists can be kept anywhere.  The idea, though, is to keep the list(s) in a place that you can easily add ideas to it as they arise.  Just start brainstorming about possible ideas for information and/or sections.  Give yourself a few days to think about the list you created to see if any other ideas pop up.  (This list may change, too, as you work on your binder.)  Once you’re pretty certain you’ve got it the way you want it, you can number your list according to how you want the sections to appear in your binder.

You can see that I started with my section ideas (in the middle of the page), then numbered them (top of the page) according to how many tabs I had (six).  I used the tabs that came with the binder, but of course you could create your own dividers and tabs—whatever works for you. 

My to do list (bottom of the page) came about when I was sorting through my information and setting up my binder, ideas of the specifics of what should be included.  For example, as I came across an article that I wanted to print, I made a note of that and where to find it when I was ready so that I wouldn’t forget to include it once my binder was ready to go.

4.  Create your sections.

Once I had my section titles decided on and in what order I wanted them to appear, I created my sections.  As I mentioned above, I used the tabbed dividers that came with this binder.  I used my label maker to create the actual labels for these sections.

However, you could create your own from scratch or use a second set, allowing for more sections if that’s what you need.

5.  Add your content.

Once my binder was set up and ready to go, it was time to add my materials.  For this, I referred to that to do list above.  I crossed off my items as I added them to my binder.

While working on this, other ideas of what I wanted to include popped up.  So I started a second to do list, which I referred to only once the first list was completed (so as not to confuse myself).

This typically included articles and lists to print that I had previously saved to Evernote.  Since most articles and photos are not created in an A5 format, I had to adjust them to that size in order for them to fit into my binder.  So I created new Word files using the A5 template I created for myself a long time ago.  (The template consists of a US-regular 8 ½ x 11 size with a text box the size of an A5 sheet.  I figured out the margins based on how much room I wanted between the punched holes and my text.)

Once the information was saved into my template, I printed it and cut it down to size using my paper cutter.

Then, I punched the paper with my Filofax hole punch.

(Side note: this is a personal size hole punch.  A long time ago, I made a pencil mark on the hole punch indicating where I need to align the A5 template in order to punch correctly for this size.)

6.  Use your binder and update as needed.

Once your binder is all set up, there’s nothing left to do but use it.  

Depending on the use, you might only need it for reference purposes.  However, in some cases, you might want to add to or change its contents.  Update it is often as needed to keep it current and relevant to its use; if that means taking it apart and redoing some of it, that’s fine.  Life is ever changing, which means your binders will be, too.

I hope that answers the question of how I create my project binders.  Please post any questions in the comments below.

Happy planning!


  1. Thank you for sharing your process. It helps to see how others tackle this. My process seems to never get past the "I need/want" stage.

    1. Thanks, Carla. Some of my ideas are still in the "I need/want" stage and may there stay there forever. Limited time for this kind of thing makes me have to choose between what I want and what I *need*. When I need it, I make sure it happens. It does take me several days/weeks to finish a project binder, mostly because I get only snippets of time to work on it, always a work in progress. :)


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