Do you go through your day feeling like you jump from one thing to another with no sense of direction? Do you get halfway through your day and wonder what you did with your time?
In this post, we will look at how to use a planner effectively in your life and work. If you feel your life is disorganized and scattered, you’ll be surprised how much difference a planner can make.
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Why Do You Need a Planner?
If you don’t use a planner (or don’t use your current planner effectively), I’ll bet you will be surprised how a good planner helps you stay organized by helping you keep track of your daily activities, appointments, deadlines, projects, etc. Using your planner effectively will also help you plan routine tasks like cleaning and meal planning.
A planner also allows you to see where we are on any given project or task so you know when it’s due and you can allocate your time better.
A well-planned schedule keeps you focused on the things that matter most. You don’t have to worry about forgetting something important because we’ve already planned out everything else.
Let’s face it planning ahead helps you stay organized and reduces daily stress. If you’re anything like me, I’m always running behind. With a planner, I know my priorities for the day and my deadlines. By staying on top priorities, I can reduce my stress and not feel like I’m jumping from one thing to another with no plan.
Paper vs. Digital Planners
We all have different reasons as to why we choose to keep track of everything in a planner. We also have different preferences for paper or digital planners. If you use your phone and tablet as an organizer now, you will probably prefer a digital planner.
If you like a digital planner (or want to try one), I recommend Cozi. It’s free. You can download the Cozi app on your phone or use it on your computer and add family schedules, appointments, shopping lists, meal planning, and more. You can even create your own favorite recipes collection to make meal planning faster.
As much as I use my phone, I still prefer paper planners. I like seeing everything written out in front of me. I choose paper planners.
What is a planner?
A planner can be print or digital. A planner will help you plan your daily, weekly, and monthly activities. Planning styles vary greatly from horizontal layouts or vertical layouts and daily, weekly or monthly designs.
What do planners do?
Planners are a personal tool to help you manage your time, define and focus on goals, plan projects, and organize routine tasks like appointments, meal planning, and cleaning.
People who use planners can see the progress they are making on goals, create tasks lists and daily to-do’s, and let you see the picture for your whole life.
Planners also help you remember tasks, appointments, and meetings. When I forget to write important days/times in my planner or tasks in my planner, I often forget them or remember them too late.
In this way, a good planner helps reduce my stress. I have too many things going on in my life to remember everything at the right time. Who can remember a doctor’s appointment you scheduled 6 months ago without writing it down? When everything is in your planner, you have less stress because you aren’t forgetting appointments and to-dos.
Using a planner to organize your life and work
Here are some easy tips to use a planner to organize your life and work.
Organizing your Life
Start by choosing one day a week to update your planner for the week. Many people like to do this on Saturday or Sunday.
Start by reviewing the previous week and seeing how much you finished and anything you need to note for this week’s schedule.
Next, review this week’s appointments and plans. When I schedule a future appointment, I try to add it to my planner right away so I don’t forget. This is the time to get a big picture for the week.
Don’t forget to add school activities, appointments, early pick-ups, music/sports practice, and anything extra your kids are involved in.
After you finish the weekly overview, add any new appointments/meetings and to-dos for this week.
Then take a few minutes to create a meal plan and cleaning plan. I always do cleaning on Thursday. If you have a set cleaning day, add it to your planner. If you break up cleaning through the week, add each day’s cleaning in your planner.
Throughout the week as new activities or appointments are scheduled (think appointments you scheduled months in advance), add them to your planner so you aren’t surprised. If you keep 2 planners (like me), be sure to add personal appointments scheduled during your workday to your work planner so you can block the time and not be double booked.
Organizing your Work with a Planner
Similar to the steps for organizing your life with a planner, you can do the same steps with your work.
I usually keep 2 planners. One for work and one for personal life/activities. Some people like to have just one planner. It’s up to you. I prefer to keep work separate from personal activities.
Start with a weekly review, I usually do this on Friday at the end of the day. I move forward any tasks I didn’t complete or I’m still working on.
Then I add new tasks and projects for the current week noting any details or important reminders. I also try to spread tasks throughout the week. I know I will not finish everything on Monday, so I don’t add it to Monday’s plan.
Urgent tasks are first, then other tasks are added by day based on due dates.
As you go through the week, add new appointments and meetings to your planner. I still use a written planner even though most of my meetings are teleconferences or in my Outlook planner (for call-in numbers or links).
Remember to give yourself some margin time. Some tasks will take longer than expected and you will always get unexpected tasks added to your day.
Finalize your workweek by reviewing everything completed and prepare for next week.
How to Choose the Perfect Planner
Choosing a planner is a very personal choice. If you have purchased planners before and didn’t use them, it’s likely you didn’t like some part of the format. I tried many planners before I realized a few things I need in a planner.
For example, I prefer weekly planner layouts where I can see the whole week on 2 pages vs. daily planners. If you are very detailed, then you might prefer a daily planner to detail all your to-dos and appointments.
The other important choice with planners is the horizontal or vertical layout. In almost all cases, I prefer vertical layouts. I like to segment appointments, tasks, or segments of the day.
Size/weight is another important consideration. Do you want a purse-sized planner or a larger planner or maybe a pocket planner?
For myself, I have found if one of these things (size, vertical/horizontal layout, and weekly/daily layout) isn’t right, I usually don’t use the planner effectively (if at all).
What are the best daily, weekly, and monthly planners?
Best Daily Planner
A daily planner is perfect for you if you want a focused and detailed plan for your day. Many daily planners will have a plan by the hour for tasks or appointments. Daily planners usually also have meal planning space, gratitude, and top daily priorities.
My favorite daily planners are:
Day Designer – I love this beautiful planner with one page per day layouts that include hourly planning, meal planning, daily gratitude, daily to-do’s.
Daily Greatness Planner & Journal – a planner with a positive focus on being your best self every day. Each page asks you what you are grateful for, actions you would love to do today (daily to-do list), hourly day planning, 30-day goal planning, and more.
Best Planner Ever – Highly focused planner for detail-oriented people. Start your planning with a focus wheel and vision and goals pages. The daily layouts include hourly planning, a daily inspiring quote (I love these!), a daily to-do list, nutrition tracking, and more.
Best Weekly Planner
The weekly planner is a hybrid of the daily and monthly. Weekly planners let you see plans for your week on a two-page spread but are not usually as detailed as the daily planner. Sometimes you can find a weekly planner with hourly appointment tracking.
Top Weekly Planners:
Erin Condren LifePlanner – is perfect for busy moms on the go. Keep all your plans, appointments, and to-dos in one place. The Erin Condren LifePlanner also has extra note pages for reminders and things to remember, and monthly goal setting.
Living Well Planner – a unique undated weekly planner that focuses on goal setting, to-do’s and balancing your home and work life.
Clever Fox – is a popular planner because it allows you deep planning with vision boards, goal setting, and gratitude. This weekly planner allows you to focus on daily goals/tasks and with a weekly to-do list, priorities, notes, habit tracking, and weekly review.
MomAgenda – easily plan your week with this minimalist planner. Great for planning your day and it has separate sections you can designate for kids, meal planning, and more.
Best Monthly Planner
Monthly planners usually have a 2-page spread for each month with larger boxes for daily plans, but not much room for detail. These would be mostly quick reminders and big-picture planning. Some of them include additional notebook pages and journaling that allow you to detail your thoughts for the month or they make a great monthly journal.
My favorite monthly planner:
Erin Condren monthly planner – I love this monthly planner for big-picture planning and project planning. It’s also a great budget planner and short daily journaling.
Let me know in the comments how you use your planner daily and which planner style you like best or tell me your favorite planner.