I really can’t believe it’s almost 2023. This year has had it’s ups and downs. There has been growth and setbacks, illness and healthy changes, and lots of fun and memories with family and friends.
I know that the beginning of a new year is really just another day but it does feel good, in the deep darkness of winter, to feel like you are getting a fresh start. And my fresh starts always start with a planner.
Have you ever used a planner? What are the benefits of using a daily planner? Why should you start using a planner to stay organized this year and what should you plan?
11+ Things To Start Using a Planner For:
- Work schedule
- Chores & errands
- Meal planning
- Income tracking
- No-spend days
- Celebrations (Anniversaries etc.)
- Fun stuff (parties, trips, etc.)
- Habit tracking
- Goal setting
Why Should You Start Using a Planner
Before we start talking about what you should plan let’s talk about why you should start using a planner to stay organized.
Simply put, when you use a planner it’s like having a road map you can look at before you start the month, the week, and the day.
Sure the roads and signs are always there and you can find your way to most places without a map. But if you have a map you can see the over-all route. You can see other ways you might like to go. Maybe you can even see where other stops you need to make will fit into your route.
Using that map can save you a lot of time, energy, frustration, and gas money!
In the same way, you may feel like you don’t need a planner. You might feel like you can just use your phone for appointments.
But I guarantee, using a daily planner will help you lay out your life in a way that makes sense and makes room for fun along the way. Using a planner to stay organized will help you save yourself a lot of time, frustration, and even money.
If you use a planner it will even help you reach your goals!
Using a Planner Changed My Life
Now that you know why you should use a planner let me tell you how using a planner changed my life.
First let me explain that I have a flexible schedule with lots of moving parts including a mobile teaching work I do at people’s homes, my cleaning business at other people’s homes, and then my online work, and all the normal appointments and errands that everyone has.
I probably don’t have to tell you that before I started using a planner I was often forgetting appointments, phone calls I should have made, and deadlines I needed to meet. I was particularly embarrassed one day when I drove past a billboard for a dental office and remembered that I’d completely forgotten my cleaning appointment a month before!
Anyway, one day I saw my good friend and fellow teacher using a daily planner in between appointments and I knew that is just what I needed.
I had tried keeping everything on my phone but it was just too easy to shut off and alarm and proceed to forget what I needed to do anyway.
Since I started using a planner I have not only remembered dental appointments, dog shots, quarterly taxes and my friends’ anniversaries. I have also been able to start some really great habits like writing every day, learning Spanish, and practicing my fiddle again.
My planner also helps me keep track of my income, my spending, meals, and more. It has literally revolutionized my life to simply use a planner.
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What Kind of Planner Should You Use?
Now that you are absolutely convinced that you cannot start another year without a planner you are heading to Amazon or Google. Stop! I’m warning you. It can get pretty overwhelming in the planner world!
If you are into stickers and scrapbooking and want your planning to become an art project a Happy Planner might be just right for you! My best friend got me one and during the Pandemic (when I had extra time on my hands) I loved playing with it! Sooo many cute stickers!
There are also inspirational goal planners, bullet journals, financial planners, digital planners and more. It can get really detailed and involve a lot of stuff.
But I am a minimalist and I have found that a simple Monthly/Weekly planner is just right for me. I have been using the Day Designer by Blue Sky for the 7 years since I started planning. It’s just what I need and I love that it’s a nice size with ring to clip a pen in.
Ok, now you that you have a beautiful EMPTY planner what should you plan?
Plan Every-Day Stuff
The first thing you can put in your planner is your normal schedule. Do this at the beginning of each week. Write out everything you will need to do on each day.
Yes, go ahead and write work on your work days. Write things you need to do at work as well. I’ve found that helps me have the right materials, the right clothes, and be mentally prepared.
Write laundry on the day you want to do that, cleaning on the day you want to do that, and other incidental errands you want to get done too.
It may seem like those things don’t need written down. Don’t think this way. This is your road map. You are writing down all the things you have to do so that you can see your route. It also helps you stay motivated, stay on top of things, and see where you can add things you actually want to do!
Using a Planner for Meals
Now that you have your basic week lined up it’s time to start using your planner for meal planning. Look at each day of the week and add a meal that fits your schedule and circumstances for each day.
For example, if I have a super busy day I make a crock-pot or super quick one-pot meal. If I have more time I might try a new recipe from Pinterest or make a slightly more involved meal that my family loves! Another great hack for those super busy times is to make double and plan on left-overs one night.
Go ahead and write your meals on each day. If you end up having to switch them around noone has to know but at least when you look at your planner in the morning you will know what you need to pull out to thaw!
PS: Once you have written out your meal plan it will be super easy to add needed items to your grocery list and then you can use grocery pickup to save even more time!
Meal planning is definitely one of the best ways to start using a planner to stay organized!
Using a Planner for Money
Another big way that using a planner to stay organized has helped me is when it comes to finances. It’s a great place to keep track of some of your basic numbers.
I run my own businesses (cleaning, blog, jewelry) and so I like to write my earnings on the day I receive them on the monthly part of my calendar. This helps me stay on top of taxes because I can look back and know exactly what I did. If you don’t run your own business you could still write down each paycheck in your planner. It’s a good way to know what’s coming in.
Next you can keep track of your output. I like to write how much I spend on groceries each time I grocery-shop, any major bills like car repairs, and gas. It helps me stick to a budget. Again I generally write these details on the monthly calendar page.
Last but not least you can use a planner to help you save money. Try a no spend challenge where you try not to spend any money at all 10 days a month. Put a star (sticker or hand-drawn) on the days you spent no money. It’s amazing how refraining from little daily purchases can add up!
Plan Appointments and Celebrations
Another one of the more obvious ways to use a planner is to keep track of appointments and celebrations. It may seem obvious but it can really help your life run more smoothly!
Remember that dentist appointment I missed and didn’t even remember for a month? Well naturally I was so embarrassed I had no choice but to avoid them for another 6 months. I was so mortified and guilty that I dreaded going back. Thankfully they didn’t mention it. And thankfully that doesn’t happen anymore because when I start a new planner I write a reminder on the months I need to make my dentist appointment, eye appointment, vet appointment for my dog and so on.
I also include events like anniversaries in my planner. Every time I get a new planner I go through my old planner and write the anniversaries and celebrations onto the right day on the monthly calendar page. It makes me feel great and impresses my friends when I send them a little card on their special day.
I’ve discovered a new app called CardSnacks where you can cool little e-cards. You can even include music, voice recordings and gift cards.
When you get a new planner make sure and write down all these appointments and celebrations first thing. It will put you ahead of the curve so you can prepare for all of it! Don’t forget to include reminders for oil changes, house maitainence, taxes, and more. Creating systems with your planner will help you stay on top of so much.
Plan Habits and Goals
One of the best things about using a planner is how it can help you fit in the things you have been wishing you could do for years. Once you have scheduled your daily life, errands, meals, appointments, and celebrations you will see that you have tons of little pockets of time that you could use better.
For example, I noticed that while I drank coffee in the morning I was spending too much time death-scrolling Instagram. I decided that I would learn Spanish with Duolingo in that time frame instead. I also noticed that in the afternoon I would try to take a nap or just a rest and then I would want to look at my computer for awhile. That’s when I added in my daily writing habit.
When you want to build a new habit, look for something you already do every day and stack your new habit up against it. Plan to only do the new activity for a very short time to get started. Have everything ready for it so it’s easy, and last but not least put it in your planner. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve muscled through laziness just so I could put a star next to the habit in my planner.
Another great way to start using a daily planner is to set goals. You can figure out one big step towards your goal per week or month and write that on top of your weekly or monthly pages. This splits things up so you can move towards your goal in a way that is productive while keeping you motivated.
Plan Self-Care, Rest, and Fun!
Now that you have filled out your planner with all the things you have to do and all your goals and habits you will be able to look at your road map and see where you can take breaks.
This is very important. Self-care is something we all need so that we don’t burn out. Because we tend to want to be productive all the time and there things to do for our family we tend to ignore the time we need for rest and rejuvenation.
Take time to look at your planner and see small gaps where you can insert a short nap, a little bit of reading time, a coffee date with a friend, a date night, or time to do just do nothing. Schedule time for those things to make sure you get it.
I also love my planner for writing down fun things we have done. It becomes a journal of sorts when you write down the game night you had with friends, the poolside BBQ you went to, the weekend trip. When you look back you can see all those beautiful memories and enjoy them.
Start Using a Planner and See Your Life Change!
Now that you know why you want to use a planner, what planner you might want to buy, and what you want to plan there is nothing left but to start using a planner.
When you do poor time management will be a thing of the past!
Using a planner to stay organized may sound like it will make your life rigid and your schedule overly packed but that couldn’t be farther than the truth! Before I started using a daily planner I felt like I was always rushing around like a chicken with it’s head cut off.
Only once I started using a planner did I start finding pockets of time to rest and pockets of time to work toward my big dreams and make them a reality.
Using a planner will open up your schedule, help you work smarter not harder, and help you live a happy simple life. Give it a try! I know you will love it!