When you learn how to use a planner effectively, you are setting yourself up for success. A planner helps you to formulate your goals, define what you want from life and track your progress. Your planner setup can be the key to maximizing your productivity and increasing your overall satisfaction with life.
A paper planner may seem like an out-of-date approach in an era in which using a planner on a smartphone or another device is far more common. However, there are advantages to physically writing down goals, aspirations, and plans. With these planner tips, you’ll be setting yourself up for a course of self-improvement and greater fulfillment.
Make Your Planner Part of Your Routine
No planner can make a difference in your life if you don’t use it. This means that you have to make it a regular part of your daily, or at least weekly, routine. Doing this allows you the opportunity to set goals for yourself and to focus on your priorities. You can also track your journey so that you can more easily see how far you’ve come.
Through trial and error, you will figure out how to use a daily planner and make it a part of your schedule. Spending some time with a planner each Sunday afternoon or evening is a wonderful way to put the week ahead into focus. It will provide a useful reminder about meetings, events, and appointments so that you don’t get taken by surprise.
It also may make sense to review your planner each weeknight evening or first thing in the morning. An evening review gives you an excellent opportunity to do a brain dump, catching up on all the things that you did today and that you would like to accomplish tomorrow. Many people find that making lists and memoranda in the evening actually helps them to fall asleep better at night because their mind isn’t struggling to remember everything that’s supposed to happen the next day.
A first thing in the morning review may be appropriate for other people. Some individuals have found success by combining time with their planner with meditation or journaling. This helps them to set their expectations and outlook for the day, making them feel calm, centered, and in control.
Whether you choose to do a deep review of your planner once a week or once a day is entirely your choice. There is no one best way to use a daily planner. There is just the way that works for you.
When it comes to how to use a daily planner, one of the most vital tips is that your entries must be specific. A notation that gives you times, people, location, and contact information is far more helpful than a single-word entry.
For instance, if you know that you need to call a client about their bill, it is far more helpful to write down “Call Amy about invoice question,” than it is to write simply “Amy,” or “Call Amy.” Better yet, set a time for when you’d like to make the call and jot down the phone number. Once the call has been made, cross off the entry or place a checkmark by it so that you know it’s done. If the call led to further questions or an action item that you’ll have to take care of later, note this in the planner as well.
The more specific you can be, the better organized you will feel. You’ll have all of the pertinent information at your fingertips, and when you look back a few months or a year or more from that day, you’ll have a far clearer picture of what you were doing and why. This can prove to be valuable for any number of reasons.
Being specific is especially important when you’re making notes about your work toward a goal. You’ll be pleased to see how far you’ve come when you review the last few weeks and months.
Make Time for You
Many people are not particularly receptive when it comes to the idea of using a planner. They already feel rushed and as if there are not enough hours in the day. They wonder how they can possibly squeeze one more thing into their packed schedule.
The magic of using a daily planner is that you become better organized and improve your time management skills. When you interact with your planner on a regular, daily basis, you’ll be able to more clearly see where you are wasting time. You may even identify inefficiencies and find ways to tighten up your schedule.
Look for tasks in your planner that happen with predictable frequency, and then seek ways to either delegate or automate these tasks. This won’t work for everything, but chances are good that you’ll find something that would be better accomplished by someone else or by taking a more hands-off approach. Suddenly, you’ll have a small open space in your schedule.
Think of your time with your planner as an opportunity for self-care. Unless you are focusing on things that are good for you, give your life meaning and take you in a positive direction, there is no payoff for all of your hard work.
As the old saying goes, you can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself first. Keeping a daily planner is an excellent method of taking care of yourself.
Events to Consider Including in Your Planner
What should you include in your planner? It’s really up to you. If you need to keep track of as many work deadlines and events as you do personal ones, then it makes sense to use one planner to stay on top of it all. Consider using a color-coding system for work events versus personal ones. For instance, you could use red ink for professional deadlines and blue ink for personal events.
For your work, you might consider including meetings, teleconferences, and keeping track of which projects you worked on throughout the day. If you are required to bill for the hours that you spend on a certain client, this will be a useful record. Also, write down any paid time off that you use so that you can ensure that your recollections match any records that your employer may keep.
Note down holidays and birthdays as well as any trips and vacations. Use reminders for these events if you don’t want to forget to make reservations or pick up a gift. If you are a member of a club, then make certain to make entries regarding meetings and anything that you may need to do to prepare for events.
Track all of your appointments in your planner too. Dentist, doctor, stylist, or spa, you’ll want to remember when you’re scheduled to arrive for each appointment. Social events and volunteer activities can be written down too. Don’t forget to include details regarding anything that you need to bring with you.
It also may be helpful to keep track of your family’s schedule in your planner too. Write down your children’s school schedule as far as holidays and early releases and late starts are concerned. Similarly, remind yourself of their after-school and extra-curricular schedules with notes in your planner
Another excellent thing to include in your planner is the steps that you take toward improving your health and fitness. Schedule your workouts just as you would any other appointment. If you’re working toward specific fitness goals, then your planner is the perfect place to make notes regarding your progress.
Gratitude and Self-Awareness
We all enjoy many blessings in our lives, but we are often too busy to truly notice or appreciate them. Some of the best planners prompt you to reflect on the good things in life, both large and small.
For example, a planner may provide a prompt that says “I am grateful for …,” and then it’s up to you to brainstorm a list of all of the wonderful things in your life.
Self-awareness is another characteristic that is critical to cultivating in a meaningful and intentional life. Planners that bring questions like “What am I passionate about?” into the forefront are useful tools that help you identify the main sources of joy in your life.
When it comes to how to use a planner, it’s helpful to also have room to keep track of skills to learn and good habits that you want to acquire as well as affirmations that help you make it through the day and conquer obstacles in your path.
Vision boarding is popular with many goal-oriented people, and with the right planner, you have a built-in space for creating a dream board that you can take with you wherever you go.
A couple of blank pages are all that you need to get started. Actually, it helps if you have some dreams, too. Cut out images and words from magazines, use doodles or simply write down some thoughts about where you want to go in life. There aren’t many rules, so let your imagination run wild.
Setting Goals for the Year
It isn’t always easy to define goals. Sometimes they begin with just a vague feeling that there’s something you could do better.
If you want to set goals for the next year, spend some time searching for the answers to a few questions.
- What kind of traits or characteristics do you want to acquire?
- What do you want to get done?
- What kind of relationships do you want with your family?
- Are you seeking a promotion at work?
- Is this the year that you’ll finally get your dream job?
- What steps can you take to become a homeowner? How can you get out of debt?
- How can you complete your first 10k race?
- What kinds of changes do you need to make to experience more joy or peace?
Whether your goal is making meditation a regular part of your life or paying off your student loans, it is planning that will get you there.
Here is what goal-setting sheets may look like in a planner:
If you feel like you’re always setting goals and never achieving them, then it’s time to work on your skills with the S.M.A.R.T. technique.
Here’s a breakdown:
Good goals are specific. They aren’t “lose weight” or “get fit.” Instead, they “lose 10 pounds in three months” or “run a mile in fewer than 10 minutes within two months.”
Because these goals are specific, they’re measurable. A scale measures your progress toward your healthy-weight goal, and a stopwatch determines whether or not you’re running a 10-minute mile.
The best goals also are achievable. This means that you’re not setting yourself an impossible task. Instead, you’re looking at whether or not your goal is realistic. If it’s not, then what needs to change? Do you need more time or should you adjust your outcome?
A relevant goal is one that adds meaning and purpose to your life. It gives you direction and fires your passion. Achieving your goal means living a more authentic life.
Time is a critical consideration for any goal. You could drift along for weeks or months without a deadline. Use a deadline like the date of the race you want to run.
Write down your yearly goals in the space provided in your planner. When it comes to how to organize a planner, consider writing out the specific steps that you’ll take to achieve that goal. Make notations in the monthly spreads that will help you track your progress.
Here’s another view of what goal-setting pages in a planner may look like:
Have you ever felt like your priorities were all out of whack? These planner tips can help you to get them back in line. List all of the priorities in your life, and then spend some time reflecting on which ones are most important to you.
Family and friends usually come out on the top of the list, but you may have a wealth of other priorities to consider. These can be deeply personal and spiritual or reflect financial security or starting a business. Your planner can help you to define what’s really vital to your happiness so that you can adjust your focus accordingly. That’s the beauty of effectively using a planner.
Most planners feature a two-page monthly spread at the beginning of each month. This is the perfect place for recording an overview of how the month is likely to go. Vacations, birthdays, holidays, and days when the kids aren’t in school can all go here. Noting down special events helps you plan for anything you may need to get done in the lead-up to the big anniversary, wedding, or reunion. Appointments and meetings may go here as well. Essentially, these pages let you see at a glance what’s happening for an entire month so that nothing takes you by surprise.
Using the weekly layout is crucial for keeping yourself focused, organized, and on track. The Clever Fox Planner boasts a particularly well-organized and thoughtful weekly layout. It provides space not only for recording what you did or what you have scheduled for each day but also a separate page for all sorts of extras like your main goal for the week, your priorities for the week, and a personal to-do list. There’s even a tracker where you can record which habits and skills you worked on for each day of the week.
At the end of each week, there are spaces where you can reflect on your wins for the week and the things that you will improve in the next week. What a wonderful way to keep yourself progressing toward your goals and truly appreciating all that you accomplished!
This is a closer look at this page:
Some planners come with pages that have a dot grid layout which is a fantastic tool for bullet journaling. If you haven’t tried bullet journaling before, now is your chance. Think of it as an organization system that helps you keep track of your busy life in the most coherent way possible. You’ll find yourself feeling more productive and fulfilled if you make bullet journaling a regular part of your routine.
Using Stickers in Your Planner
Some of the best planners come with assorted stickers that you can use to personalize your pages and make them pop. These are colorful visual reminders about what you’ve done and what you’re going to do.
Perhaps just as important, stickers provide an outstanding reminder of important events or due dates. It’s hard to miss something when it’s characterized by a big red or purple sticker. Plus, icon stickers are a no-fuss, neat way to keep your planner easy to read and accessible. They are just one more weapon in your get-organized arsenal.
Here’s an example where someone used all sorts of colorful stickers to dress up her weekly page:
Organizing a paper planner takes time, but it is definitely a worthwhile pursuit. That old-school planner may be precisely the tool you need to get organized and start working toward the goals that matter most to you.
Once you put these planner suggestions into practice, you’ll begin to see more clearly how to use a planner effectively, and that will mean enhanced productivity, greater peace, and increased happiness.
Please share this article on social media, so that more and more people would begin to realize how effective a paper planner could be!