We all wear multiple hats and sometimes juggling them all can become overwhelming and hard to handle. The best way to keep on top of things is to create a system that holds all our to-do’s, notes and reminders in one organized place – like a planner!
How to use a planner for life, work & play? Follow these 5 steps!
1. Find the right planner for you
The goal of using a planner is to make your life easier, more organized and as streamlined as possible. This can only be achieved by using the right planner for you.
The first thing you’ll want to consider is wether you want a digital planner or paper planner. I love the feeling of a paper planner and flipping through the pages. On the other hand, a digital on the go life planner is great if you’re on the move a lot.
If you opt for a paper planner you’ll have to choose between a notebook style planner which gives you that luxury feel or an insert planner which allows for a lot more flexibility and customization with planer printables and inset templates. If you opt for a digital planner you’ll have have to choose wether you want it in the form of a pdf on your device or you prefer to have your life planner online in the form of an app.
Next you’ll want to decide on what kind of planner layout works best for you – daily, weekly or monthly. Monthly planners are great for quick overviews of your month and have just enough space to jot down the key appointments and tasks along with some monthly goals. Weekly planners give you a lot more freedom and space to get into more detailed planning. And lastly day planners are perfect if your days tend to get busy and you need enough space to plan all your tasks and write down all your notes & ideas.
2. Set clear goals and know your why
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself in a staring competition with my planner before. I’ve been looking at what’s supposed to be my daily schedule, planned to the minute, color coded and all … and all I could think of was, why the heck would I wanna put myself through that?!
It’s in cases like this that you need to remember your why and your goals.
Defining a clear direction before you start planning your days, weeks, months or even years is paramount. This will make it possible for you to identify the most important tasks that will help you move closer to achieving those goals and weed through busy work and fluff that you shouldn’t be doing.
Before you put anything into your day planner make sure this is something that either moves you closer to your goals, or at least brings you joy.
Then, when the full pages of the life planner come starring back at you, you’ll have an answer ready. You’ll know your why.
If you’re struggling to define your why or your major goal, a life goal planner is perfect for you. With the help of the exercises you’ll be able to define the most important goals in your life and the planner will keep you on track to achieving those goals.
3. Write everything down
Once you pick the right planner for you don’t get stuck by overthinking how to start a planner journey the right way. It’s all too common for people to get overwhelmed by this beautiful brand new planner and completely paralized because they don’t want to ‘ruin it’ by writing the wrong things in.
Just start writing and dumping your brain onto the empty pages and don’t worry about the esthetics too much. The messier the planner, the clearer your mind!
Writing everything, and I mean everything, down is the key to effectively using a planner.
Your planner should be the one place where you plan out all your to-dos, your meals, your exercises, where you track your habits, finances and so much more. And most importantly, your planner shouldn’t be all about work, errands and goals. It is incredibly important to leave some space (and time) for play, so I really encourage you to write down the fun stuff too.
If you’re anything like me you probably have a million things going on in your life, all at the same time. If that’s the case, your brain dump area can get quite messy, that’s why I like to color code and group my notes by project or area of life.
I also like to have a brain dump area in my planner where I can write down anything that’s on my mind – from to-do’s to project ideas or just doodle while I’m on a call.
4. Create a life action plan
Now that you’ve found the right planner for you, identified your why, and dumped down all your to-do’s and ideas, it’s time to create a winner life action plan. When doing so it’s important to keep the balance between moving closer to your goals, being a functional adult (yes, bills do need to get paid) and also having fun and taking care of yourself.
Break down your big goals into manageable milestones
Do you like to dream big? Me too! But sometimes those big goals seem so terrifying when you have no idea how to achieve them. Try to break down your big goals into smaller more manageable milestones and create actionable next steps with clear deadlines.
Depending how big your goals are you might consider breaking them down into weekly, monthly or quarterly milestones.
Schedule your ideal day or week
Think about everything you absolutely have to do in a day or week, like going to work/school, eating and sleeping, and all the things that you want to do, like hanging out with friends and working on your passion project. Don’t forget to also schedule some quiet time to recharge and take care of yourself.
Then create a what you’d consider the optimal schedule with the right balance for you. By doing so you’ll get a better feeling of how you want your time used and you can refer back to this schedule in all your future planning sessions.
If you’re a multipassionate like me and find it hard to stay on top of the many hats you’re wearing try rotating themed days and weeks for optimal productivity.
Month at a glance – how to use a monthly planner
This is where you write down all the appointments, important dates like birthdays and anniversaries as well as any deadlines. Refer back to your goal milestones and your brain dump so you don’t forget anything.
Week overview – how to use a weekly planner
From the monthly calendar funnel down to the weekly overview and add any tasks you need to perform in order to hit those deadlines or prepare for those appointments. Also schedule your planning sessions in as well as some time for yourself.
Daily schedule – how to use a day planner
A daily schedule won’t work for everyone but I do think everyone should at least try and learn how to use a daily planner effectively before they discard the idea.
Putting a time limit to your tasks can be an incredible boost for your productivity and ensure you’re on time to your appointments. It also ensures you don’t overcommit by planning too much into your day and helps you carve out time for the simple pleasures in life.
5. Use your planner daily
Dumping your brain into your planner and forgetting all about it won’t do much good. Referring back to your life planner regularly is the biggest part of how to effectively use a planner.
It’s important to create a habit of checking your planner on a daily basis. When it comes to planner tips and tricks, making sure you have your planner in reach at all times is certainly the most powerful one.
I usually have it open on my desk all day long and thick off tasks as I go through them.
At the end of my day I’ll scan through it once again and either complete or reschedule anything I haven’t come around to doing, as well as reflect back on my wins and track my wellbeing.
Then I’ll look at what needs to happen next and plan out tomorrow. I always plan my days the night before so I know exactly what to do in the morning.
I also like to do a weekly planning session where I review everything I’ve done or failed to do in the previous week and roughly plan the week ahead. When using a weekly planner it’s a good idea to plan and schedule those planning sessions in.
How to use a planner effectively?
Before you head off, here are some of my top tips on using a planner to stay organized.
- Always filter all your to-do’s before scheduling them in. Do they need to be done? Do they need to be done by you? Do they need to be done now?
- Schedule the fun stuff and down-time too!
- Batch similar tasks together to minimize distractions and stay in the flow.
- Use color coding to group similar tasks or projects together and create a quick overview.
- Decorate with washi tape and use planner stickers. Or keep as minimal as possible. It’s up to you!
Off to you
By now you should know how to effectively use a planner for life, work & play but I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or additional tips you’d like to share! Let me know in the comments below.