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The Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Using A Planner

The Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Using A Planner

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This guide is all about the benefits of planning, how to use a planner and starting a planning habit. With FREE printable planner!

the beginners guide how to use a planner pinHi there! You’re in the right place if:

  • you have no idea why some people can get excited over a cute planner or
  • you don’t think you could follow through on using a planner or
  • your plan (pun intended 😉 ) is to start using a planner

For some people, it comes very naturally to use a planner or just being organized in general. For others, it is quite a challenge.

I believe there are certainly benefits to using a planner, especially if you’re not the most organized type.

In this post, I’ start off by telling you more about the benefits of using a planner and then guide you through some steps if you’re a beginner to using planners.

The benefits of using a planner

Benefit 1 Planning frees up brain space

It must have happened to you too: you have a list of a million things you need to do lingering around in your mind, and you try your best not to forget any of them.

Do you know what this does for you? Nothing at all, except keeping your mind busy with remembering all of those things. When you’re working on one of the tasks, your mind will keep wandering off to all the other to-do items in your head.

However, if you were to write everything down that keeps your mind occupied (I wrote about doing a braindump in a previous post) this would free up a lot of space in your brain.

Because it’s written down, you can’t forget it anymore, you have a better overview of what needs to be done and perhaps best of all: you can cross it off once it’s finished!

Besides, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them” – a quote by David Allen, author of Getting Things Done.

Benefit 2 Planning your time gives you time

coffeetable with cup of coffee and journal open on a page how to use a plannerSome people won’t use a planner because they think that keeping up with a planner costs a lot of time.

On the contrary, as you’ll be intentionally planning your activities, you will find that you get things done more efficiently. Which means that you will have time left to spend on… well, whatever you want!

Planning your tasks makes it much more likely that you will get the task done – and probably quicker than if you hadn’t planned it. That’s because if it’s specifically written down what you want to do, you will be more inclined to work on it and tick it off.

Benefit 3 You will achieve more

When you work towards a goal and write out your action steps to get there, there is a higher chance of you completing the action steps and thus achieving your goal.

Say you have a specific goal in mind, but you don’t know quite how to achieve it. This is most likely because you haven’t figured out the (smaller) action steps that will bring you there.

Think of what the action steps are and write them down. The next step does the trick: schedule in your planner when you are going to work on these steps.

Knowing what to do and when to do it, makes you much more effective than only thinking about the goal.

Benefit 4 One place with all the info

How great would it be to have an overview of appointments, to-do’s, bills to be paid, birthdays, and so on?

This is possible if you use a planner! Whether it’s a digital or paper planner, it doesn’t matter as long as you use the same one. You’ll be able to stay organized, and it helps you not to miss anything important.

Keep reading for tips on how to use your planner.

Benefit 5 Feel in control

Most people work in a ‘reactive’ way, meaning that they don’t take the lead on planning their day.

Always answering emails, opening phone notifications, or just ‘going with the flow’ in general are reactive ways, as you ‘react’ on your environment instead of shaping it yourself.

You can be the one in control by, for example:

  • intentionally blocking out time for checking and answering emails
  • allowing yourself designated phone breaks
  • scheduling your tasks in advance

So before you start your day, think of what you want to accomplish, plan it and work on it.

You are in control of your day, not your environment.

flatlay of laptop notebook phone and pen

Beginner tips for using a planner

Now you know why using a planner would be a great idea, let’s move on to some of my tips on how to start using a planner.

These tips are for those who haven’t used a planner before or have a hard time to follow through on using one.

It’s generally focused on a paper planner, although the tips can be applied to a digital calendar too! The main difference is that you, obviously, don’t have separate pages, the rest is basically the same.

Do not overwhelm yourself!

You might have read other posts about planners and saw all those fancy planners with so many options and colors and tabs and this and that and…

… you have no idea how to make the best use of it!

I keep saying it but don’t overwhelm yourself if you start something new, especially when it’s something that doesn’t come very natural to you.

It’s a waste of money to buy a fancy planner that you will end up not using.

So, first of all, you need to get in the habit of planning. Here are my tips for that.

The basics of planning

journal seen from top how to use a plannerThe basics are:

  • Daily pages
  • Weekly overviews
  • Monthly overviews
  • Annual calendar
  • Some people prefer a quarterly overview too

Because I want you to start simple, I advise you to start with daily pages.

Start with daily pages

Make a to-do list every day for a week. You could do it in a notebook, a sheet of paper, an app, in your digital calendar or whatever you prefer.

Write down the night before or in the morning what you want to complete that day. Be realistic, most likely you will not be able to finish 20 tasks in a day.

Be clear and specific about what your tasks are. ‘Do household chores’ is not giving you a specific task. Better examples would be ‘clean the toilet downstairs’ or ‘vacuum the bedrooms’.

Prioritize 3 tasks that you really want to tick off for the day and number them 1, 2, and 3. You should finish these 3 tasks first before moving on to the rest of the list.

Adding a weekly overview

After using your daily pages for a week, start the next week by making a weekly overview.

Take some time before the week starts, to think about what you want to accomplish by the end of next week. Prioritize your 3 main tasks, like the daily pages.

If it’s a slightly bigger task or project, break it down in smaller action steps.

Now you have a list of things to do for the following week, it’s time to schedule them in your weekly overview.

This means you will know in advance what you will be doing and focusing on each day of the week. You will still have your daily pages as well, to write down your (smaller) action steps.

By intentionally planning your week in advance and have a defined end goal in mind, your weeks won’t be uselessly flashing by.


Monthly overview

After a week or two, you can add the monthly overview to your planning routine.

A monthly overview gives you an idea of how your month looks like at a glance.

Don’t put too much information on your monthly calendar, but big-picture stuff such as:

  • Appointments
  • Bill due dates
  • Other due dates
  • Birthdays

Some things you can already write down at the beginning of the month, others you might add along the way.

You can also add 1-3 goals you want to reach in that month. The smaller action steps will be delegated to your weekly and daily pages.

Read here: 5 Steps to set up yourself for a new month

Annual calendar

When you feel comfortable using the monthly, weekly and daily overviews, you can add the largest of all: the annual calendar.

The annual calendar is the one that most people don’t really know how to use. However, there are ways to use it to your advantage, for example:

  • Mark any renewal subscription dates
  • Plan and mark your holidays
  • Set bigger goals throughout the year (career, fitness, health, personal, etc.)

Let’s get started to use a planner

If you have worked in the order as I described above, you will have learned to use a planner from the smallest element (a daily page) to the largest (annual calendar).

When you’re used to the planning habit, you will find yourself working from large to small:

  • Check your annual or quarterly calendar first before you fill in your monthly overview
  • Check your monthly view before you plan your weekly overview
  • Base your daily pages on what you set out to do for that week

I believe that you will pick up a planning habit best if you start small, with daily pages. Then you can move on to slowly add higher-level elements (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual).

Use my free printable planner to start your planning habit!

I want to encourage you to start implementing the above, so I have designed a free printable planner for you!

They include daily pages, weekly and monthly overviews.

They are all undated, so you can start whenever you want!

Hi, I would love to hear your thoughts on this post!

Hi, I’m Zuba. If you want to be more intentional about your time spent on social media, learn about digital minimalism and create healthy phone habits, you’ll feel right at home here.

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