7 Ways the Most Organized People Use Their Planners to Drive Productivity

woman using a planner

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June 13, 2024 at 6:4PM UTC
It’s easy to feel like your life is a tangled mess, and arguably much harder to tame that mess. Yet returning to good old pencil (or pen or marker) and paper to use a planner can be a great way to put a little organization into your life. 
Don’t worry about creating the prettiest planning sections or the nicest to-do lists; planners are what you make of them, and should be personalized to fit the way you want to direct your life. Check out the following steps on how to use one to maximum effectiveness.

How to use a planner.

1. Have an initial planning session.

You can’t start achieving your plans without preparing. Take a few minutes before beginning your planner to understand your larger goals and everyday commitments. What do you want to include in your planner? What do you have trouble keeping up with, and how can the planner help you? Reflecting before you start will give you focus and direction, helping you organize before you even get to planning.

2. Choose a planner you love.

Once you’ve decided how and when you want to use your planner, choose a planner that fits your needs and style (planner options below). There are so many different types of planners out there with different temporal, color, size, and organization options, so do your research before buying whatever seems more visually appealing. If you’re unsatisfied with any pre-designed planners and willing to put in a little work, choose a blank planner and organize the pages as you please.

3. Utilize the different time schemes.

Once you’ve got an idea of how you want to use your planner, consider how your goals and commitments fit into time increments. There are some actions you’ll do daily and some one-off projects that might be due every month. Your long-term goals might not be accomplishable in a short period of time, but rather need a half-year. Use your planners’ different sections to separate these to-dos into their proper time structure, or create your own if you’re using a blank planner.

4. Set specific goals.

It’s more difficult to achieve your goals if you don’t have a clear image of what you’re setting out to do. The more specific and concrete your goals are, the better. For example, if you want to make more plans for the week, don’t just write “make more plans”; instead, write out exactly what you’ll need to schedule. To-dos like “schedule doctors appointment” or “call Mom about lunch plans” will outline exactly what you’ll need to accomplish.

5. Make a tracking system.

If you’re using your planner to its highest potential, you’ll hopefully be completing tasks left and right. However, sometimes life gets in the way and you’ll need to move goals around, reschedule, or even cancel something you no longer need to do. The best way to stay on top of your remaining commitments is to create your own personal tracking system. 
Do you like to check off things you’ve done? Or strike them out? How do you want to note that you’ve canceled a task or moved it to next week? Choose symbols that make sense to you and keep them consistent.

6. Keep your planner near you.

While you might not be able to keep your planner in your pocket like you might your phone, having your planner readily available will make it easier when there’s a last-minute task or necessary rescheduling. It’s also helpful in non-urgent situations when you want to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and see what’s left for your day, week, or month.

7. Reflect on your planning.

Every so often — whether it’s at the end of the day or the week — look back at your planner to see how much you’ve accomplished. This is a great way to motivate yourself by reflecting on your progress. By re-examining what you’ve done, you can also properly adjust your goals for the next day, week, or month. This reflection period offers a focused time for adding tasks or rescheduling any commitments.

Benefits of using a planner.

Using a planner will not only help you achieve your goals, but also give you a focus and organization that benefits all areas of your life.
  • Your time management will improve.
  • You’ll be technology free when organizing your goals.
  • You’ll have more free time.
  • You’ll learn to prioritize commitments.
  • You’ll lower your stress.
  • You’ll get into a routine that will aid your productivity and efficiency.
  • You’ll have a place that records your life’s accomplishments and goals.
  • You’ll complete your tasks faster and on time.

5 great planners

1. The Panda Planner

Credit: Panda Planner
Credit: Panda Planner

The Panda Planner is a great option for those looking for a holistic approach to planning. Founded on research in positive psychology and neuroscience, the Panda Planner works to make you not only more productive, but also happier. There are daily, weekly, and monthly sections, as well as room for reflection on what you’re grateful and thankful for.

2. The Passion Planner

Credit: Passion Planner
Credit: Passion Planner
Looking more at big goals and overarching accomplishments? The Passion Planner offers a tool to “plan your future, reflect on the past but most importantly, act on the present.” The planner’s style offers a variety of ways to organize and think about your goals, whether it’s a roadmap, big-picture monthly plan, or a weekly layout.

3. Bullet Journal

Credit: Leuchtturn1917
Credit: Leuchtturn1917
While it may have the title “journal,” bullet journals are all the rage with task-oriented planning. If you’re interested in using a bullet journal method for planning, getting the right notebook is crucial for its stylized way of organizing tasks. Notebooks with dots, grids or lines are especially helpful with this.

4. Live Life Beautifully Planner

Credit: Amazon
Credit: Amazon
If you’re looking for motivation and encouragement, Good Housekeeping’s Live Life Beautifully Planner offers inspiration and tips for every day of your planning life. You’ll not only stay on track with your commitments, but also get advice and encouragement about everything from living room design to best kitchen recipes.

5. LifePlannerTM

Credit: Eric Condren
Credit: Eric Condren
If you’re looking big picture with style, LifePlannerTM has you covered with literally any cover style you could dream of. This planner is not only proved to increase productivity and time management, but also encourages customization and personality in appearance. Choose from many interchangeable cover designs and start to decorate with stickers. You also get to decide between three weekly layouts: vertical boxes for blocking time, horizontal for descriptive to-dos, or hourly increments.
Using a planner is a great way to get on track and start organizing your life in a way that’s best for you. While universal reflective and focused methods will keep you on task, the options are endless when it comes to making a planner that’s optimized for your productivity, efficiency, and wellbeing.

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Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoëkaplan.com.

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