How do you use a planner, it doesn’t matter if it’s paper or electronic, it’s about finding your balance using a tool that has been around for a long time and adapting it to meet your needs. I want to help you learn how to use a planner, so you can manage your time better and get more done.
I love to plan and organize my time, I’ve used electronic and paper planners, there isn’t one planner that is going to be perfect, it’s about finding and using the best one for you at this moment in time.
It’s easy to declare that you are going to start using a planner to organize your life, but in reality, it can take some time and understanding of the process to make using a planner successful in your everyday life.
You need to learn how to use a planner to stay organized and on time, it’s not something that happens when you buy your first planner.
How To Start Using A Planner To Stay Organized
The most important step to learn when using a planner is simple, you actually have to use it, this may seem obvious but so many people leave them on their desks, never opening them and declaring that planners don’t work for them.
For a planner to work you have to write appointments and commitments into your planner, they have to be there in black and white and you have to work these into your day.
You also need to open your planner and read what’s there every day too.
Without this step, you will quickly find that you will start complaining that your planner doesn’t work.
Related article: Picking The Best Productivity Planner For You
Top tips for using your planner:
- Refer to your planner every day
- Treat it like your best friend
- Write everything down
- Refer to it often, you don’t want to double-book yourself
- Take it wherever you go
It will depend if you are a one-planner person or if you break your home and work planners into two, as I work from home I have just one planner and I keep everything in my planner including my cleaning schedule, work plans, and any family appointments too.
Related article: Why Is The Planner Pad So Good?
Resources For Using A Planner
- Planner Pad is my favorite planner, you can read why I love it in this article: Why The Planner Pad Is So Good
- Another favorite is the Daily Goal Setting Planner
- Ruth Soukup has a really beautiful planner
- You can also just use a notebook and create your own style, similar to Bullet Journaling
Related article: Why Is The Planner Pad So Good?
How To Stay Organized With Your Planner
It’s your planner and the final choice is yours, it has to work for you, and as you are an individual that means that you have to find the best system that works for your brain this might be different from mine and that’s OK.
I like to add appointments to my day, these are often made in advance and I always add a note or two if there are tasks to be done before the appointment and make sure I schedule these in advance.
I always schedule travel time in my planner if I have to go somewhere for an appointment as soon as the appointment is made, this gives me time to get to the appointment. The same after the appointment, I need to get home afterward.
You need to decide how you are going to organize the rest of your day.
Are you going to block out time in your day for certain tasks or just run with a to-do list that you must get done each day?
I don’t like the structure of time blocking my whole day in advance, I like more wiggle room in my day so I’m not feeling under pressure.
I write a list of the most important tasks I need to do that day, no more than 3 or 4 and that is what I focus on, if I have time I will tackle something that isn’t as urgent but I won’t put more into my planner until the most important tasks for that day are done.
Related article: The Ultimate Guide To Using A Day Planner
How To Work Out What To Do
You have to write things down, you have to know what is expected of you and when it’s due.
Those due dates are the 2nd most important tasks in your planner, you need to get things done and you need to do them right.
That means you need to ensure that you have broken the task down and tackled it to the best ability before the due date.
To do this correctly you need to spend time with your planner and the tasks you need to do. These planning sessions are key to getting bigger tasks completed and on time, if not before.
But you have to be honest with yourself and the time you have available and not get sidetracked on tasks or topics that don’t move the needle in the right direction.
If you aren’t truthful with your time and commitments it can’t help you take control, however, if you tell it everything you need it to do, it will help you achieve your deepest dreams and desires.
Spending just five minutes in the morning or the night before and looking at your plans for the day, it helps to work out what you intend to accomplish in the time frame.
Related article: Tackle The To-Do List
How I Organize My Planner
I’ve never found a planner that fits me perfectly, there are always bits that I like and bits I don’t which means I do try different planners a lot and that’s good for you as it allows me to show you the different options out there.
My favorite planner has to be the Planner Pad, it’s the one that fits me the best but because I live in the UK the cost to import one is just as expensive as the planner itself.
I love bullet journalling but I don’t follow the rules as such, check out what bullet journalling means,
I like a monthly overview, the bigger picture of the month with any important deadlines or appointments marked. This highlights when I need to do something for a meeting or to purchase something for a gift.
Then comes the list of things I need to get done, want to get done, and some tasks that if I get time I will do too.
Each day I pick the most important tasks I need to complete for that day and write them down no more than 3, I know if I have time I can tackle another task but if I don’t get to it that’s fine too.
The idea of breaking tasks into these categories help me a lot:
- The rocks are the appointments and the non-negotiable tasks
- Pebbles are the things I need to do to reach my goals
- The sand is all those other tasks that you need to do each day that moves each day forward but aren’t goal related
Finally, I have my daily schedule, for some people, it could look like a military operation or it can just be a list of the 3 tasks you intend to complete.
As I said before, time blocking drives me crazy so I like to feel that I have more freedom when in reality I still get the same tasks completed.
How Can A Planner Help You?
A planner is a tool, one that has been used for a long time, and there are lots of different versions, but it’s all part of the same principle.
You have to use the tool to make it work, if you expect it to work for you then it will fail.
It will tell you when things are due and where you are supposed to be, but it won’t tell you these items unless you have recorded the information first and then opened your planner to check the information inside.
You then have to tackle the tasks you planned, they won’t get done if you ignore them or just keep moving them to another day, you have to do the work it’s telling you to do.
This is the one thing you have to commit to when getting organized with a planning system.
Related article: Why Time Management Is An Important Aspect Of Planning
Time Management Is More Than Just Planning Your Time
There are so many time management books and planning books that it can look confusing and really difficult to manage, however, the basic principles are all the same.
Plan what you need to do and execute them before they are due.
But when it comes to how to do this there are so many different variations that you might get overwhelmed and not achieve anything.
So let’s break it down into the basics and see if we can build it up to a system that you understand and can use.
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Creating An Effective Plan For You
If you need guidance on planning your day check out this list below, it will help you look at your to-do list and your planner and get stuff done.
- The first place to start is always adding in appointments and any travel time you need to go to or from the appointment
- Deadlines come next, you need these so you have a time frame to work with
- Work backward from your deadline and see what time you have and the tasks you need to do before the deadline
- Look at the tasks and see what needs to happen 1st, 2nd, etc
- Create mini-deadlines for these tasks and write these into your planner
- Look at the daily tasks that you need to do and see where these can fit into your day
- Do you have enough time to get it all done?
- If there is too much you might need to delegate or drop the non-essential items from your daily plan
The amount of control you give your planner is up to you, if you want it to micro-manage your day you can assign a time of the day to do the task or you can just go with the flow but you still have to do the work.
How To Use A Planner For Life
If you are looking at using a planner and hoping that it will change your life it’s so important that you use it and you listen to what it tells you to do.
Most planners that I have used don’t come with its own helper who writes down my appointments or tells me that I need to leave to go to a meeting, but it is possible to use technology to help you in this area but it can take more time to set up.
It can be tough adding things to your planner, checking it throughout the day, but it will do so much for your time management and getting stuff done, you will wonder how you ever managed before.
I just love my D30 label maker it’s small and compact and I create the labels on my phone on an app that is simple and easy to use. There is no ink required so it’s just black but you can get so many fun stickers to make your designs.
Planner Hints And Tips
I think the most important thing to do is to find a system that works for you.
There are loads of different planners out there because there isn’t one system that fits all.
You have to find the right system for you, the one that makes the most sense to you and you feel comfortable using it.
But you must give it time, a system isn’t going to feel natural to you if you’ve never done any sort of planning before, you must give a system a few months to see if it’s right for you or if you can see where you need to change something.
- Find something you like
- Remember to use the planner
- Write everything down
- Take it with you wherever you go
Resources For Helping You Plan Better
Your planner is an amazing tool, it can help you get organized, but only if you use it.
A planner allows you to plan your time and the tasks that you need to do on any given day.
But it won’t do them for you, you have to work the system for a planner to actually work, if you don’t do what it’s telling you to do then you are going to feel low and not move closer to being organized.
You have options as to what your planner does, you can go into detail or you can have a basic plan, it depends on how you work as to what your planner is capable of doing.
Your planner can be the most amazing tool in your possession if you use it to help you get organized, look after it, and love it, tell it everything it needs to know, and it will help you organize your life.