If you’re anything like me there’s a good chance at some point in your life you’ve decided you need to get things in order and bought a planner to get yourself organised. If you’re anything like me you’ve probably also realised that just buying a planner doesn’t help you get organised.
Planners are a fantastic tool which can help you organise your life and get things done. But they need a little work. No matter if you use a paper planner or some other digital system, they need a little input to work at their best.
Today I’m going to share some tips on how to set up and organise your planner so you can get the most out of it. I’m hoping this should be useful no matter if you’re a lifelong planner user or just getting started.
How To Use A Planner To Stay Organised
The first thing you need to remember about any planner is that it’s a tool. It’s not going to organise your life for you. The planner will help but you have to do the work.
It can be helpful to think about why you need a planner. Is there a specific aspect of your life that you need to plan and organise? Maybe for a business, or education. This can help you decide on the right planning system for you. Maybe a digital calendar will work, or maybe there is a specific type of planner which could help you get organised.
You might even choose to have multiple planners if one isn’t enough. Or you could combine everything into one system. You have to remember that what works for someone else might not work for you. Bullet journals are great but they might not work best for your needs. Ultimately you have to remember that any planner system suggests ways for you to use it, but you don’t have to use it traditionally. Your planning system is almost certainly going to look different to any other because it will be set up to help you and your specific needs.
Decide On The Right Planning System For You
Finding the right planning system is an essential part of this process. If you need a planner to stay organised you have to find a planner which you’re going to use. This could be a traditional paper planner, but you could also use a digital planning system. I’m a fan of bullet journals but I know this because I’ve spent years trying out different types of planners.
So the first thing you need to decide is if you’re going with a physical or traditional planning system. I’m biased when I say paper planners are great, but digital planners also have their advantages. You might in time work out a system where you combine the two. As much as I love my bullet journal I admit it’s not the best for future planning.
The most important part, no matter what you buy, you need to be sure you’re going to use it. Paper planners expire, if you think there’s a chance you might move away after a while you could buy an undated planner instead. Bullet journals are customisable but you need to do more set-up work.
Set Aside Time For Planning
Now that you’ve chosen the right planner, you need to set aside time to use it. The point is to not spend a lot of time organising your planner. You can make it look fancy with colour and stickers. But the important part is it helps you do what you need to do.
Set up a routine where you update your planner regularly, this could be monthly for longer-term plans, weekly to figure out shorter-term plans and daily to figure out what you’re doing on that specific day. If you get a routine in place ideally you shouldn’t be spending a lot of time working in your planner daily.
I’m now in a position where so long as I know what needs to be done each week. I can be flexible with what I do daily. So long as those weekly tasks are completed. Sometimes I’ll go back in each day and add tasks to my weekly plan. But often it’s not necessary.
Write It Down
This might be a slightly obvious, but write everything down. If you can’t trust yourself to remember important events get in a habit of writing them down. If you’re working from home or an office and have a planner on you start using your planner as a place to write quick notes. If you’re out and about and have a brain wave you can always use a notes app on your phone, or even message yourself on WhatsApp or Facebook to remember important events.
We tend to think of planners as being a tool which is only used for forward planning. But this isn’t how planners started. For a long time almanacs, the precursor to the planner was used retrospectively. Where the user would write down things which had already happened. You can do this as well with your planner. If something good happened, write it down. In time your planner will become a resource you can look back on to find important information and memories.
So, you’re using a planner to stay organised. But writing down the tasks you need to do might not be enough. When you’re planning your day, decide on the tasks, but also decide how much time you want to spend working on those tasks. If you’ve got the whole day to work on something it’s going to take the whole day. But if you decide you’re going to finish a task and it will only take an hour that’s how long it should take.
How you time block will depend on the type of planner you’ve chosen. Some planners come in an hourly format so it’s easy to block out time. But some planners don’t have this so you may need to set out times each day. If this sounds like too much work you could always use a digital calendar to help you with time blocking.
I started using my Google calendar to time block this year when I started taking on more calligraphy work. I’ve come to like working in this method because I can set up multiple calendars, meaning I can organise and colour code specific times during the day. It also means I can quickly see how much time I spend on a project (very important for freelancers) and how I’m dividing up my time between personal and client work.
You could potentially use multiple planners to stay organised, but it’s not always necessary. It can be helpful the categorise the different tasks and events you might be working on. There are many ways to do this. In my bullet journal, I organise my monthly overview into sections based on personal and client work.
You can do something similar in a planner using colour or stickers. You could use specific colours for each category, that way it’s easier to see colour than the specific task. Colour can also be used to highlight the most important tasks in your calendar.
If you use a digital calendar you can still use colour coding to help you organise your events. As I said before, I have multiple calendars in my Google Calendar, all of which are colour coded so I can easily see an overview of my time. Google has some pre-chosen colours for you to pick from. However, if you don’t like these colours (they are a bit garish) you can use an extension called More Colours for Calendar! From the Chrome store to customise your calendars.
Break It Down
This is more of a general life tip, rather than something specifically you can do in a planner to stay organised. But breaking down your tasks into smaller manageable goals can be massively helpful. When you’re doing your longer-term planning, there will probably be projects made up of lots of smaller tasks. It can help at this stage to break those projects down into those smaller chunks. That way, when it comes to weekly and daily planning, it doesn’t seem like you have so much work to do.
Large projects can be overwhelming. For example, opening an Etsy store is a huge project which will take a lot of time and work to complete. If you just write open Etsy store in your planner how are you going to know how to get started? Instead what you do is break that project down into smaller chunks and set deadlines for each stage. Write those monthly and weekly deadlines in your planner. Along with the daily tasks you need to do to meet those deadlines. This way it doesn’t seem like such an overwhelming project.
If you take away anything from this post, it should be that the planner is a tool. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that buying a planner will help you stay organised. Because it won’t. The advantage of the planner is that you get to decide how you use it. If it’s not working for you change it up. The actual planner system is just a suggestion, you can use your planner however you want.
My final tip is this, your planner will be unique to you and how you work. These tips might help you stay organised, but they also might not. The best way of using a planner to stay organised is to figure out what works best for you. Maybe some of the tips I’ve mentioned will help, and maybe you’ll come up with something entirely new.