If you’re relatively new to the wonderful-world-of-planning, the Internet can be a scary place. Facebook? A nightmare. Twitter? Night-terror fodder.

Instagram? Forget it.

Our planner/planning community can be a magical place, but I liken it to being a kid in a candy store. At first, everything looks great. And then, you know you need to hone in on something, but you can’t pick just one.  …And then…the sensory overload starts to take over, and before you know it you’re sitting on the floor and crying your eyes out.

Okay, maybe not – but you get my point! Looking for “planner inspiration” on Instagram or Pinterest can be a combination of inspirational and overwhelming, which can be either good, or bad. So many ladies – and even some gentlemen! – have achieved what many of us like to call “planner zen.” They know what works for them and run with it - and then some - often filling pages of their planners in sticker after sticker, after sticker – or stamps, colored in with colored pencils or Copic markers, and handwriting that looks like it’s straight out of a calligraphy text book. It all looks incredible – until you realize that you have yet to even put pencil to paper in your planner, and you suddenly are overwhelmed all over again, and self-conscious.

Your handwriting isn’t that neat. You don’t know how to hand-letter. You have a small stack of planner stickers you’ve borrowed from friends and your three standard colors of pen are Bic blue, Bic red and Bic green. 

What even is a fine-point gel pen that erases from the heat of the eraser?! Those exist?! 

And washi tape?!  Is that… like masking tape? Duct tape?  Is it a fancy word for tape that cleans? (Sorry. Bad, terrible pun..)

It’s easy to get lost in the wide-world of planning, and freeze right up. It can become too much, all at once… And sometimes, it seems like it’s easier to abandon it, than stick with it and figure out what works for you.  

See this? Definitely not the place to start. Too much, all at once. Just don’t do it.

So you’re a newbie – where should you start to ensure you stick with it? First, focus on the essential tools of the trade – and don’t go crazy. This is coming from me, someone who lives a life surrounded by every color of pen, pencil, marker and Sharpie around – even I had to start somewhere! 

The Essentials ~

  • A piece of paper
  • A sharp pencil
  • A ruler
  • Some functional stickers (If you have any – they really aren’t necessary)
  • A few pens of different colors. Just use whatever pens you like- there’ll be plenty of time to experiment with pen brands later!

The Process ~

Step One: Before you can use any of your pretty colors, or stickers, you have to decide what kind of planning layout works for you. That’s the key to ‘simplifying’ planner zen. It’s also a whole separate issue, so in light of keeping this ‘simple’ – see what I did there? I’m going to show you a couple different layouts. You can also check out fellow teammate Victoria's recent post on choosing a layout. You have to decide which ones you like! 

Step Two:  Make a list of what and who you need to plan for. Are you single? Or are you a mom with a family of six? That makes a big difference!  Using your sheet of paper – or notes page from your planner – make your list of everything you want/need to include in your plans. I usually do this in pencil, which you’ll see below!

Step Three?: Color code! I know it seems a little ‘planner crazy’ to have so many colors, but color coding is a magical thing. You can keep a key of your chosen colors somewhere in your planner and reference it each time you sit down to plan.  Make color your visual best friend. Choose a color for each person, place, and thing you intend to plan for and mark it on your sheet. (You can fix this up nice later for a ‘final’ copy.)


Step Four: Get down to planning! Right about here is where I rely heavily on that sharp pencil and my monthly spread. I’m a ‘weekly spread’ decorator, but there’s not a single color that touches my monthly. Everything goes in pencil, in case it changes, or is canceled. I reference my monthly each week when I sit to do my monthly spread! When you’re ready to plan in your weekly spread, just do what feels right. If your son’s soccer games are supposed to be in red, fill them in where it seems appropriate.

Here are some examples of ‘simple’ layouts. No frills, no crazy decorations – just functional stickers that serve one purpose: to be functional. Is it pay day? Mark it. Is there a bill due? Mark it. Do you need to be reminded of something when you go to your planning happy place at 9:37 am Thursday morning? Mark it. Just make it work for you!


Don’t worry about how it ‘looks’ or if it’s ‘pretty’ – planning is your relaxing time. Not someone else’s joy; going out of your way for Instagram <3’s might not always bring you peace. Remember that! Once you figure out what works for you, you can go back to Instagram for inspiration and start to experiment with stickers, colors, etc.

But, for now? Take it slow and think about you. You’re most important, and your happiness is why you plan. The rest will come.


This blog post was written by Keri Thivierge for the Limelife Planners Media & Creative Team. For more information about Keri visit her on Instagram @steviedplans. Please share and repost this blog entry with your friends! All we ask is that you give credit to Limelife Planners and the post author.