Helpful Planning Tips

Every January it feels like such a magical time of hope and promise (and okay, after these last few years maybe a bit of cautious optimism). Even though New Year's Resolutions have gotten a bad rap, I still love the idea of being reflective and looking for ways to become a better version of yourself, or to make changes that make life a bit easier and more streamlined. Not surprisingly, it's a great time to start using a planner to help you accomplish those changes. 

I am often asked how to plan and/or what the "secret" is to planning.

My advice might surprise you. People make assumptions that I'm a very Type-A person who is an obsessive planner (not a crazy assumption given that I own a planner company), but I'm much more relaxed about planning than all that. Planning should be a fun, helpful way to make life a little easier -- not stressful and complicated! 

First off, there is no secret to planning. A planner is not a magic bullet. It's not going to make your life more organized or make you crush all your goals, and anyone that tells you a planner WILL do that is lying to you. 

If you want to be successful you need to put in the work. Not surprisingly, like most everything else in life, this is about consistency. A planner can be a great tool to help you navigate life and goals when used consistently. It's as simple and as complicated as that. However! I do have a few helpful tips I've learned over the years that can help you use this tool more effectively. 

I find that one of the biggest struggles people have with using a planner is just getting into the rhythm of actually writing in it. It can take weeks or even months in order for you to be able to form the habit of using a planner if you haven't used one before. So my first helpful tip is to keep your planner visible. The old adage "out of sight, out of mind" is really true. Until you're used to reaching for your planner, keep it out on the counter, on your desk, or on your bedside table. Eventually it will become second nature to grab it. 

My second helpful tip is one that surprise people. Don't be afraid to use technology as a companion to your planner. I will often look at my planner in the morning or at the beginning of the week and set phone alarms to help me with meeting reminders, appointments, etc. There's no doubt that using a paper planner has some pretty big advantages (which I will get into in a bit), but a planner is a tool and your phone is a tool -- make the most of both and use them together when it makes sense. A quick word of caution. If you're a person who is easily distracted when you pick up your phone, and that's not a behavior that you want to encourage then using phone alarms might not be a good fit for you. Know yourself and do what best aligns with your needs and goals. 

Okay, taking a little sidebar here to tell you why paper planners are great. There's been research done that found that when we write something down on paper, we are much more likely to remember it than when we type the very same thing into our phones or into a digital calendar. Even if you never look at the phone or the planner again, just the simple act of writing it out means you're better able to remember it. Simply put: our brains are wired for paper planners. 

If you're a person who has dipped your pinky toe into the online planner community, you might see planner pages beautifully adorned with stickers and washi tape, and other fun elements. While I love the look of stickers in a planner, it's not necessary in order to use your planner effectively. My third helpful tip is to keep it simple -- or, better yet, keep it simple if simple is what you need. Do not feel the need to turn your planner into something that doesn't suit you. If the thought of decorating stresses you out, by all means do not decorate! If what works for you is using a regular #2 pencil and not color-coded pens and coordinating highlighters, use a #2 pencil. Your planner. Your rules. 

Finally, my last helpful tip is to try to keep it all together. If you're trying to accomplish multiple goals or tasks, consider using your planner to track as many of those things as possible. We sell lots of add-ons in addition to just the basic weekly or monthly planner. Having one "go-to" place for everything makes things easier. Instead of keeping track of grocery lists in one place, bills due in another, and notes in yet another, your planner can be home to all of that. 

If you've gotten to the end of this post and you're excited to jump in to your planner, great! If you don't yet have a planner and want to get one, please try out all of our printable test pages from our website. You can view them right here.

At the end of the day, the best and most effective planner is the one you use. This is at the heart of why we sell so many different sizes of planners and why we have so many different layouts and add-ons and covers. We want you to find a planner that fits your life so you use it. We wholeheartedly believe that a planner is an amazing tool to help you untangle some of life's complications and get things in order.