Whether you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, an entrepreneur or an employee, weekdays are probably crazy-busy for you. While your days may seem productive, maybe you go to bed at times feeling unaccomplished, not to mention exhausted.
If your days are jam-packed with activities that you enjoy, why are you feeling so overwhelmed with responsibilities and deadlines? Why are you having a tough time focusing on the tasks at hand? Furthermore, why are you struggling to complete everything in a timely fashion?
If this is you, maybe you’ve realized that your take charge and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method of getting stuff done doesn’t cut it. Waking up and “seeing where the day takes you,” more often than not, can leave you feeling frenzied and unsteady.
You need to slow down and figure out a more mindful approach to each day. In other words, you need a plan and you need it to stick.
A simple strategy
The strategy here is simple: list and categorize tasks, create and follow daily to-do lists, and keep track of everyday notes and ideas. Suddenly, you’ll feel your brain fog lifted and replaced by clarity! The best part is that you will likely feel a deep satisfaction by the day’s end.
You’re not just a woman with a plan; now you’re a woman with a planner.
A paper planner, in brief, is a convenient organizer. The beauty of it (besides just about everything) is that it can be tailored specifically to your needs and to your aesthetic, too.
What’s more, you don’t need a Ph.D. to use one. All you need is a desire to put things in order so you can get through each day to the very best of your ability. Keep reading for our simple tips on how to use a planner.
OK, we’ve explained why you should buy a planner, so now it’s time to explain how to choose one.
The first thing to do is to consider your favorite planner or any planner you may have used in the past. Did you prefer daily planners or monthly ones? Are you looking for a paper or a digital planner? Do you want to incorporate bullet journaling?
Were there features that you especially liked or disliked in your previous models? Did you wish it had something extra? Did you feel a sense of happiness or dread when you held the planner in your hand?
When imagining your dream planner, there are several things to consider before you start getting organized.
A planner can have a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly format. Some planners will have a combination of daily pages and weekly and monthly sections. You can choose the format based on how detailed you want your lists, notes, and comments to be and how you’re most comfortable planning your time.
Do you want a traditional leather bound planner or something more modern looking? How about a spiral binding? Do you want it to have a classic or artistic vibe?
Do you like the cover – not just how it looks, but how it feels? (If you aren’t proud to pull out your planner in public, you won’t use it like you should!)
If you want to carry your planner with you, make sure it’s a size that fits in your bag. If you plan to leave it on your desk, you may want to choose a larger format.
Keep in mind that a more expensive planner is not necessarily the better planner. What matters is that the design and style work for you. If you take the time to check out the many options, no doubt you’ll find the perfect match.
This is a deciding factor for many people. The paper needs to feel good against our hand or else we won’t want to write on it. So, consider the weight and texture of the paper, the color(s), whether there are graph pages, or extra blank pages etc.
Would it be useful to have pockets or dividers? How about tabs or an attached bookmark? What do you think of using stickers or special markers to highlight entries? Would you use a calendar that lists national holidays or a map of the world? Is it eco-friendly? Do you want a special section with space for a habit tracker or grocery lists?
The set up
Unfortunately, you won’t become magically organized now that you have a planner for life in hand. There’s a bit of prep work that you have to do first, but don’t worry! You should enjoy getting to know your planner!
Keep in mind that by setting up your planner to stay organized you are setting up yourself for success.
Meet your planner
Take some time to flip through the pages of your planner. Write your name on it, put your favorite stickers on it, decorate it in washi tape, spritz it with your perfume… whatever it takes to personalize it. Remember, you’ll be spending a lot of time together, your planner and you!
The first thing you should do is write in any appointments that you have scheduled in the near future (now is the time to confirm appointments and double check that you have copied the info correctly).
Next, go through each month and write in any birthdays and holidays (some holidays may already be noted on the page). If you have kids, pull out your kids’ school calendars and copy down all of the notable events for the entire year, and add any due dates for projects for work or school.
Dress it up
If you want to jazz things up, choose different colored markers or planner pens for appointments, holidays, birthdays, and school events. Or use a highlighter to emphasize particular dates. Add sticky notes and use color coding strategies. You make the rules!
Don’t hesitate to write notes to yourself in the margins! For example, plaster birthday entries with stickers, words of encouragement, and silly doodles.
One of the best parts of a planner is the to-do lists. This will allow you to see what’s on tap in terms of weekly appointments and events and, at the same time, you can decide what task to tackle next.
Tip: You might not always finish everything on your daily lists. Whatever you haven’t checked off can carry over to the next day. Try to follow up in the morning with a cup of coffee!
Extra tip: You may find it helpful to prioritize your to-do lists. You can highlight the things you want to get done ASAP and jot little numbers next to the items or draw stars or use stickers to emphasize the items that you should focus on first.
Short-term goal setting
If you don’t write down your personal and professional goals, you’re probably not going to reach them. There’s something about spelling out your ambitions that makes you feel more accountable and more motivated.
You might write out your monthly goals at the beginning of every month, and it will be easy to flip back to this page to jog your memory or give yourself a mental nudge to keep your goals in sight.
Tip: When it comes to your list of monthly goals, jot down any quotes or advice you come across that you find especially motivating or provocative. And, like the to-do lists, make a habit carrying over any unattained goals to the next month.
Extra tip: For the ultimate incentive, use action words when you write your lists. For example, you may be tempted to scrawl, “Latin test” on your to-do list, but try penning, “Study for Latin test” instead. This may seem like a small difference, but psychologically, you’re urging yourself to actively engage in something rather than passively reminding yourself that it exists.
Long-term goal setting
The concept of long-term goal setting is not to be taken lightly; we’re not suggesting you treat it like just another mundane item to cross off a list. That said, a planner is a perfect tool to help you conquer certain long-term goals, like the ones that have to do with health and wellness.
Let’s say you want to amp up your workouts from two times a week to four times a week. Not only can you write this down on the “monthly goal” list, but you can take it one step further. Go ahead and treat each workout session like an appointment and schedule it on your daily calendar (if you’re using color coding, write it in the same color as your important meetings). Once you’ve allotted time for something and gone so far as to give it a spot on your calendar, you’re more likely to see it through.
Also see our Exercise Meal Planner Inserts to further jazz up your planner!
Tip: In general, it’s a good practice to treat moments of “self-care” like essential appointments. Whether it’s taking the time for a massage, a haircut, or even a long soak in the tub, schedule it takes on new significance when you write it on your planner!
Now that you know how to use the main sections of your planner, let’s take a look at those extras. The supplementary pages will vary depending on the type of planner you’ve chosen.
Are you always forgetting birthdays and running around at the last minute looking for the perfect gifts? Some planners have a section dedicated to birthdays where there’s space to write a name and date and even brainstorm for gift ideas. Even if your planner doesn’t have a designated space for this, you can make one to help you plan ahead.
If you have any notes pages blank or lined pieces of paper at the back of your planner, you can keep a running list of just about anything. These are perfect for brain dumps. For example, you can use these to keep a running list of TV shows/movies you want to see and books you want to read.
Finally, if you have a built-in pocket on the inside cover of my planner, make use of it. Here you can stash receipts to file later on or keep school permission slips that need to be signed ASAP. You can also carry around your business cards in there, just in case.
Plan for improvement
Using a paper planner may seem like an old-school practice, but it’s one that you shouldn’t give up any time soon. Once you wholeheartedly welcome your planner into your life, you will see noticeable improvements.
An increase in productivity: You won’t be wasting time searching for your list of things to do or calling the office to find out if a meeting is scheduled for today or tomorrow. With everything written down in one place, you can devote your energy to actually doing things rather than worrying about them. Additionally, you can use your planner to set up a time blocking strategy that allows you to tackle all of your projects in a more organized way.
- Better time management: When you glance at your calendar, you will immediately get a sense of how much you have to do on any given day. In turn, you can calculate how much time you have to get from one place to another and you can stop making excuses for running late!
- Better stress management: So now the only thing that should really stress you out is if you forget to bring your planner with you!
- Offers a creative outlet: When you highlight your to-do lists, doodle in the margins, or color in blank spaces just for kicks, your planner feels more personal and like an extension of yourself. In many ways it’s a chronicle of your year, a recording of your moods, a look at your interests and what you have achieved over the past months.
Your planner, your friend
You may have thought that being organized was a super-power and something beyond your human abilities. But if you’re so disorganized that you’re thinking about hiring a personal assistant just to help you with scheduling, buying a planner is a much better, and more economical, solution to your problems.
Using planners effectively to organize your life is a skill that takes practice.
But if you’ve got high expectations and lofty goals, now’s a good time to start searching for your new best friend: a paper planner of your own.