How to Use a Planner: 9 Easy Steps to Making the Most of Your Paper Planner
Using a planner for the first time can be intimidating. Whether you’re using the Passion Planner or another paper planner, we simplify the process of how to use a planner with these easy to follow tips.
How to Choose a Planner
Before talking about how to use a planner effectively, we need to make sure that the one you choose aligns with your lifestyle. There’s a myth floating around in the planner community that you need to spend hours decorating your pages. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Every kind of person can learn how to keep a planner. It’s all a matter of knowing which structure will best suit your needs.
There are many different options out there, so we narrowed it down to the four most common formats.
An annual planner covers an entire calendar year, running from January 1st to December 31st. It is also the most popular structure of all listed. This type of planner is best suited for busybodies who have full schedules year round, and folks who relish in the promise of a new calendar year. This includes but is not limited to full-time professionals, parents, business executives, and most general goal-getters.
Where annual planners run on calendar years, academic planners operate around the school year. They begin in the late summer in August and end the following year in July. Most people who purchase this format are students and teachers, however many people also enjoy this structure for its mid-year start. After all, why wait until the New Year to kickstart a new beginning?
If time is not of the essence for you, an undated planner is what you’re looking for. This format has no dates included so you have complete control over which days you’d like to schedule. Depending on your preference, you also have the choice of a weekly or daily setup. Undated planners are popular among freelancers and entrepreneurs who have more unpredictable schedules. Because there is less pressure to write things down every day, this is also a great first option for those who are learning how to become a better planner.
How to Use a Planner
Now comes the fun part: using your planner! We’ll begin with the basics and then provide suggestions to enhance your planning routine. One important thing to remember is that the key to being a consistent planner is being realistic with your expectations of yourself. Many of the paper planner ideas we see online are folks who have been in the game for a long a while. Be patient with yourself, and enjoy the process!
1. Make your goals.
Beginning with your goals sets the tone for being more intentional with your time: What do you want to accomplish? Who is the person you’d like to be by the last page of your planner? Write them down somewhere you’ll see them often. Give our free Passion Roadmap PDF download a whirl if you’re looking for more guidance. It breaks down your goals into four categories: 3 months, 1 year, 3 years, and lifetime.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself for this! You can always revisit or let go of goals down the line if you need to make a change.
2. Break down your goals.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed after goal-setting, we recommend that you choose one to focus on. Choose the one that is going to make the most positive impact on your life right now. This is called your GameChanger goal. Once you have it, set micro goals that will help you achieve the larger outcome.
(You’re welcome to use the mind map provided in your free Passion Roadmap PDF!)
3. Pencil your goals into your schedule.
We often begin planning by writing down our obligations, appointments, and other responsibilities. As Passion Planner, we’re all about putting your aspirations first. Now that you have your micro goals, pencil them into your schedule. You can include them on your To-Do List or on the agenda itself—whatever your preference! This ensures you’re prioritizing what matters to you most.
It is our belief that when we show up for ourselves before all else, we are able to be more present in other parts of our lives .
These days, planning doesn’t have to be as simple as penciling down an appointment. (Though it certainly can be if that’s what you want!) What makes paper planners special is their ability to challenge and motivate us to be better than the day. We do this through the practice of reflection.
Your reflection practice can be journaling, memory planning, or answering reflection questions. Our free Weekly and Monthly Reflection PDFs are great options to add some reflection into your schedule.
More Paper Planner Tips
5. Remember the good things that happened.
Often when we’re busy, it can be difficult to take a moment and recall the good things that happened in our day. Whether it’s through adding photos or jotting down your favorite memory of the week, dedicate a place in your planner for positivity.
6. Color code.
We dedicated an entire article to color coding your planner, but this is one surefire way to up your organizing game. Dedicate colors to different areas of your life, including work, social outings, and appointments.
7. Build healthy habits.
Your planner can also be a record of keeping up with habit building. Practice the Seinfeld method on the monthly pages or use our free Habit Tracker download to record your progress.
Although finance apps are all the rage these days, there’s something about writing things down that reinforces being intentional with how we manage our money. Budget your income, expenses, and other money goals with our free Finance Tracker download.
9. Track your mood.
No matter how far ahead we plan, not everyday will be perfect. Lean into all your feels by creating a Year in Pixels spread, or downloading our free PDF version.
At Passion Planner, we believe that your plans don’t have to be perfect—they just have to start. Whether you’re picking up a planner for the first time or coming back after a little while, you have the power to create a life you can be proud of.
Start your planner journey today with any one of our Passion Planners. (All formats are also available in free full PDF downloads to try before you buy!)
Are you a first time planner user? Let us know in the comments!
Paula Votendahl is a copywriter with Passion Planner. She’s been a proud paper planner owner for almost 5 years, and is passionate about helping people create productivity systems that work for them.