With back to school in full swing this week where I live outside of Philadelphia, a post about planners seemed all too appropriate. While there are many things I don’t miss, the number one thing I miss about going back to school is purchasing new school supplies. Everything coordinated from my notebooks to my binders. And I also always debated between using pencils or pens. So, I allow myself to buy just one item each year in August: a new planner.
This might make you think that I used my planner a ton in past years, but think again. I would start out strong by writing down appointments, important dates, and to-dos I wanted to cross off. Inevitably, though, I would resort to jotting things into my calendar on my iPhone…and remembering the rest.
Until this year. This year, I upped the ante and purchased a bigger planner – the kind that is the actual size of a piece of paper with more space to write down specifics for each day. I was determined to stop resorting to my memory alone and actually write things down. With a bit of diligence, it’s safe to say it’s a complete game changer. I’m a month in to actually using a planner (much different than having it next to me…closed and nearly empty), so I thought I would share a few tips to effectively use (really use) your planner:
1. Find a planner you love: I adore the planners from May Designs, I’ve heard rave reviews about Whitney English’s Day Designer, and you can’t go wrong with Poppin. Even though I have serious admiration for these pieces, I made a split second decision and purchased my planner at Target. It’s pink (shocking!), has a grey font in a fun design, and the key feature: there’s tons of space for me to write things down. Because I love it, I want to use it.
2. Mark down to-do’s in accomplishable groupings: Aside from actually using my planner, this is the top point that I’ve found most helpful. As temping as it is to write down 25 things that I want to accomplish in a day, I usually only write down 3-5. This makes every project feel much more manageable, and I don’t feel stressed because I’ve accurately scheduled my time by making sure I’m not overloading one day and leaving a ton of time free the next.
3. Take time to map out your week: Sometimes Sundays feel overwhelming when I only think about the long list of everything that needs to be completed by the following weekend. But then I sit down for 15 minutes and completely map out my week on Sunday nights, and I always realize that what I want to accomplish is, in fact, possible. I check in with deadlines I’ve already established and work backward to fill in the time for each day. I usually attempt to start one larger project, maintain another, and send off another with a quick email.
4. Be flexible: Each day has a way of sometimes making a quick change, and that may mean not being able to complete or even start a task. But the awesome thing about using a planner is you can easily cross things off and move them to another day. Please remember to be kind to yourself. Moving to-do’s and adapting to each day is what will allow you to work in a smart manner. You have not failed, and you are still doing enough.
5. Be present: Choose a day to map out your week, remember to be flexible, and try not to look too far ahead. For me, this means only focusing on the day that’s in front of me. I know I’ve scheduled my time with due dates in mind, so I focus on completing that day’s tasks and that’s it. The only time I will look ahead is if I find that I have additional time and want to work ahead with the idea of taking time to regroup later in the week when I’m more likely to be tired.
Those are the top five practices I’ve put into place so far. How do you use your planner? Let me know in the comments!
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