How to use a planner may be a no-brainer for many but it wasn’t for me. In a digital world, I was encouraged to switch to my outlook calendar and in that transfer, I stopped using a planner.
Planners were “old school” and dated.
I quickly realized that digital is great for many tasks, but a planner is essential as well, especially for keeping track of goals and blogging projects. As much as I love my online calendar, I find myself to be more productive with a planner.
I reveal my favorite planner at the end of this article.
Between my full-time job as a school counselor, my blogging business, and taking care of my daughter, life can get a bit busy. I depend on my planner to keep me organized and on track.
But staying organized with my planner hasn’t always been easy.
Planners can be complicated!
There are a lot of different layouts, depending on what kind you buy. Some have highly structured pages and prompts for you to fill out, while others leave it open for you to fill out as you please. Some emphasize daily or weekly planning, while others focus on monthly or yearly planning.
But I’ve never come across one with good instructions for how to use your planner effectively, so it can be hard to know where to start.
Making a regular habit of using a planner can be difficult. If done improperly, you may find yourself spending too much time on your planner and not getting much benefit out of it.
But if done correctly, using a planner allows you to stay organized, meet your deadlines, make your appointments, and free up time and mental space to focus on more productive and fun things.
This article contains some of my best tips for how to use a planner effectively. So if you’re a blogger who wants to be more productive this year, or you just want to get your life organized, keep reading!
1. Make using your planner a daily habit
Your planner will only be helpful if you actually use it, so make planning a daily habit.
Find a time that works for you—whether that’s first thing in the morning, right before you go to bed, or any time in between. As long as you know you can regularly commit to that time every day.
Checking in at the same time every day makes it easy to go over what you’ve accomplished each day, so you never fall behind on tracking tasks or goals. It also makes it easy to go over what tomorrow or next week looks like, so you always know what’s coming up you’ll never miss an appointment or meeting again.
Don’t have much time to spare? Believe me, I get it!
Daily planning doesn’t need to take up much of your time. Believe it or not, just five or ten minutes every day should be enough to keep you organized.
2. Choose a planner you’ll actually want to carry around
Even if we’re mostly just “traveling” from our living room to our kitchen these days, you’ll want a planner that is easy to take with you so that you’ll always have it handy.
Big desk planners might seem appealing for some purposes, but they aren’t very portable or practical for most people.
Instead, look for compact or A5 size planners that will easily fit in your bag when you’re on the go or in your hand when you carry it around the house. Make carrying around your planner as second nature as taking your phone or wallet with you.
Also, choose a planner design that is appealing to you. You’re much more likely to want to use a planner that you find beautiful and fits your personality than one that’s just boring or ugly.
3. Use one planner for everything
It may seem useful at first to keep your tasks separate. Maybe a business planner and a personal planner. Or a family planner and a “me” planner.
Don’t do it!
Having to check multiple places and keep track of things across your different planners only increases the chances of making a mistake.
It also just sounds complicated and stressful to me! The idea of using a planner is to make everything as easy and efficient as possible, so just keep it all in one place.
If you need to distinguish between business, personal, and other categories, try a color coating system. Use a blue pen for business and a green pen for personal. Or if you don’t want to fuss with multiple pens, try putting a star or square in front of anything business-related.
4. Write down everything
You may tell yourself that you can remember something and don’t need to write it down at all. Or maybe you think you’ll remember to write it down later, so you don’t need to write it down right away.
The point of keeping a planner is to write everything down so that you don’t have to keep all these things in your head.
If you write everything down right away, you won’t forget anything or mix up any dates or times. Your planner will become a trustworthy partner that stores all that information for you.
You’ll also free up space in your mind to focus on tasks like reading, learning, or being present in the moment. If you’re not stressing about your meetings and to-do lists, you’ll be free to relax and think creatively.
You may find yourself more productive at work and inspired to work on your blog.
5. Write in complete thoughts
When I recommended writing everything down, I meant everything!
Don’t just write down “meeting” or “kids.” You might know what that means now but you might forget when you check back later.
Instead, be sure to write down complete thoughts in your planner with all the key details. It is more effective to write “Product planning meeting with Michelle Wednesday 1:30 pm” or “Pick up the kids from dance class at 11 am Saturday.”
That way you’ll always know exactly what you need to do, and you won’t have to spend any time thinking about what you meant when you wrote it in your planner.
6. Don’t be afraid to get messy
We’ve all seen pictures of beautiful planners on Pinterest or Instagram with flawless handwriting, straight lines, lovely color coding, and perfect extra details like washi tape, stickers, and illustrations.
If you can easily make a planner that looks like this and you enjoy adding those extra touches, then by all means, you do you!
But if these things don’t come naturally to you or they just distract you from keeping track of the important details, don’t worry about it.
A planner is not useful to you if you’re afraid to write in it. Allow yourself to make “mistakes” and write important things down, even if they “mess up” your layout.
Unless you’re planning to post pictures of your planner on Pinterest or Instagram as part of your business, it doesn’t matter. Get messy!
If you let go of any expectations that your planner has to be perfect and let yourself feel free to put whatever you want in your planner, I guarantee that you’ll have so much more fun with it. You’ll be more likely to keep the habit going, too.
So don’t stress about looking messy—just write.
7. Make use of all the yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily pages
Most planners come with some combination of yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily planning pages.
Depending on your planning style, you might lean more heavily on just one type of page layout. But I recommend that you try to use all the pages in your planner.
Even if you prefer weekly or daily pages for keeping track of all your daily to-do items and appointments, you can still use the yearly and monthly pages for things like goal setting, progress tracking, and remembering important dates like holidays and birthdays.
Don’t be afraid to be redundant either.
Need to remember when your cousin’s birthday or next vacation is coming up? It can be helpful to put these dates on multiple pages, even though it is repetitive.
The monthly page and daily pages serve different purposes. You may want to put your cousin’s birthday on the monthly page so that you can see at-a-glance at the beginning of the month that their birthday is coming up and prepare to send them a gift.
Then when the day comes, maybe you need to put a reminder on the daily page to give your cousin a call for their birthday.
It might feel tedious now to write the same thing in multiple places, but you’ll thank yourself later when your planner reminds you not to miss an important day.
With your planner, never miss a birthday or anniversary again!
Final thoughts on using a planner
I know I say this about blogging too, but the most important key to using a planner effectively is CONSISTENCY. There will be days when you feel too busy or uninspired to do your daily planner habit, but those are the days that you need to stick to using your planner the most.
It can take some time for a habit to stick, but if you get consistent about planning every day then it will eventually feel like second nature and you won’t even think about it.
Think of using your planner as an act of self-care.
Writing everything down in your planner and checking back on it regularly is an investment in yourself. Using a planner consistently will save you a ton of time in the long run.
It will help you prioritize the important stuff and will help you meet your goals quicker.
My Favorite Planner
I recently purchased this planner and love it so much! It even comes with stickers and fine line drawing pins.
The most important feature is that the layout is undated so you can start using it any time.
My favorite feature is that it comes with a section for GRATITUDE & GOALS. Perfect for increasing my productivity and accomplishing my goals while giving thanks!
If you are on the hunt for the perfect planner. Look no further! This planner is all you need and more.