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How to Get the Most Out of Your Planner and Have the Most Organized Year



how to use a planner

If you’re anything like me, you have a busy life and an overwhelmed and forgetful mind. Between managing work, sports and/or hobbies, maybe you’re still in school as well, perhaps you have children and a family, and let’s not forget about your often overridden attempt at a social life, you probably find yourself misplacing lists and items and forgetting tasks often. As long as you haven’t forgotten to pick up the kids yet, I’d say you’re doing pretty well at managing your day-to-day routine so far. However, it’s time to admit, a little organizational help couldn’t hurt.

You’ve got pages of emails to get through, piles of notes and lists, a grocery list for later today somewhere on your desk, and there was definitely something else you were supposed to remember to do later today. Wait…what time was that conference call scheduled for? The only thing more important than an organized workspace is an organized mind; the best way to achieve an organized mind is to utilize a planner to organize it for you.

I hear and see questions all the time like, “How do you stay on task while working from home?” or “How do you keep yourself motivated?” and “How do you manage to get everything done without feeling stressed and overwhelmed?” To be honest, I do feel stressed and overwhelmed on occasion. But, my answer is always the same, I use a planner; and I actually check it multiple times a day.

So, here are a few tips, suggestions, and things to remember for utilizing your planner for everything it has to offer and living your most organized and well-planned year:

Setting Up Your Planner

Before the new year even begins, you will have the task of choosing and setting up your planner. Personally, I lean towards the planners with all the extra bells and whistles. For example, numerous “notes” sections, stickers, a yearly view (monthly and weekly views are a necessity for your planner, not an accessory), a section to add lists, to-do’s, or goals, bullet journal pages, and so on. If you don’t believe these supplementary items and pages are essential for you or you don’t think you’ll use them, go with a more simplistic or minimalist design.

After you’ve chosen your planner, the first thing you’ll want to to is flip through each month and add in birthdays, holidays, planned trips and vacations, and of course, your yearly goals. Write down your goals as a reminder. If they’re written down they’ll be more difficult to ignore.

“Productivity is never an accident. It’s the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning & focused effort.” – Paul Meyer

This “set-up process” is the perfect opportunity to add things into your accessory sections as well. Be creative and make these sections whatever you’d like. I use my notes section in the back of my planner for important usernames and passwords as well as notes like my frequent flyer and Hilton Honors number.

I have another section of twelve blank boxes which I use to write down my to-do list or goals for each month. I haven’t put anything on the bullet journal pages yet, however, I love this section because you’re free to be extremely creative and make this whatever you want. Track your budget, manage your routine, draw a map and mark places you’ve travelled to; your options are endless.

As You Go

As the days, weeks, and months go on this year, continue adding everything into your planner.

  • Goals and to-do’s for the month
  • Appointments and meetings
  • Reminders
  • Daily tasks and to-do’s (These can be household chores such as grocery shopping, cleaning, or kids’ athletic events and activities, work, or school related.)

WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN! This is the most important responsibility on your part and the sole purpose for your planner. No matter how minute a reminder or task seems, your planner can’t do its job if you don’t do yours. If you want to receive each benefit your organizer has to offer, utilize every aspect of it.

Side note: There’s nothing more motivating than checking off items on your to-do list or completing goals.

“If you have a goal, write it down. If you do not write it down, you do not have a goal, you have a wish.” – Steve Maraboli

Tips, suggestions, and other ideas to help you get the most out of your planner:

  • Color-code. Travel and vacation can be one color, personal appointments another, kids’ activities another, and social events, parties, and dinners can have a designated color. Color-code in a way that is clear and easy for you to follow and comprehend.
  • Add stickers, different fonts, highlight, add pictures, or drawings to emphasize certain notes and plans.
  • Be very detailed. Like I mentioned before, write everything down and be extremely clear. You never know what you might remember and what might slip your mind. So, make sure you write a clear reminder of what you’re expecting from yourself.
  • Utilize every section of your planner in any way that you need and will work best for you.
  • Have regular (daily or weekly) planning sessions where you can write down your to-do lists, tasks, and/or goals for the day or week.
  • Use a single planner for everything! Don’t try to bounce between multiple planners for school, work, etc.
  • Have a routine for checking your planner and setting your planning sessions. I keep my planner next to me at my desk and refer back to it multiple times a day. I also plan my schedule for the following week every Friday.

There you have it, my secret to staying on task, productive, and motivated while successfully managing my busy schedule. You now have all the tools you need for your most productive, organized, and well-planned year. Conveniently and efficiently manage your tasks, goals, and schedule all in one place.

Do you use a planner? How has it helped you? Comment below!

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After graduating from Coastal Carolina University in 2017, Taylor Landis began writing the blog content for Skutchi Designs, a national office cubicle manufacturer. Her topics vary from office design to organizational tips and tricks to architectural trends and the occasional how-to guides. Check out her recent posts at

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