How to Effectively Use a Paper Planner

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Image by Kaboompics of a woman holding a pen and a planner, and the phrase, How to Effectively Use a Paper Planner Do you use a paper planner to keep track of your appointments and meetings?

Are you looking for some tips to help you keep things in order?

In this post, I offer some key pointers to help you effectively use a planner in your day-to-day routines.


Regularly use your planner.

Okay, this might sound like a silly thing to say, but a planner that goes unused will be…a planner that goes unused.

If you’ve purchased a planner, but haven’t yet started using it, now is the time to act!

Remember, the whole idea of using a planner is to use it so you can plan your days, work, and activities.

It won’t be of much use to you if it’s sitting on your desk under a stack of files, or wedged between books in a bookcase.

So, pull it out, dust it off, and start using it, every single day.

Keep it in a conspicuous and easy-to-access place such as on your desk, a countertop, or credenza.

Can’t stand the pattern, design, or layout of a brand-new planner you’ve just bought?

Return it to the store, give it to a friend, or donate it to a charity organization.

Go ahead and buy yourself a planner you’ll absolutely love to use, day-in and day-out. You’re worth it.

Enter information directly into the planner.

While sticky notes and the like are great for reminders and quick lists, they can get a bit unwieldy in a planner.

Instead of dealing with all those stickies and bits of paper, physically transfer meeting information, names, numbers, ideas, and other information into the planner itself.

You can make little notes near your appointments, enter in relevant data near specific calendar dates, or create a section of general notes for easy reference.

You won’t have to worry about keeping track of or losing all those bits of information; they’ll be contained in one single place, as they should be in your planner.

Create your own systems.

One of the great benefits of using a paper planner is that you can create your very own systems. Not only that, but you can make them as simple or complex as you like. It’s all about how you enter and retrieve information in a way that is quick, easy, and efficient for you.

What type of systems could you create? The sky really is the limit. It all depends on what goes into your planner, and how you interact with that information. For example, you could create systems for:

  • Entering personal appointments: “Coffee with Jill, 3PM, Billy’s Coffeeshop on Main Street.”
  • Marking business meetings: “Marketing planning session, 10AM, Alpha Conference Room at the office.”
  • Recording birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, tests/exams, social events: “Jackie’s B-Day,” or “Mom and Dad’s Anniversary,” or “Biology Midterm.”   

You can even get creative when it comes to how you enter in the information in your planner:   

  • You could create a key of geometric shapes to represent different activities such as; circle = meeting, square = appointment, triangle = errand, and so on…
  • Use different colored pencils, pens, highlighters, and markers to make items stand out
  • Divide planner entries into different quadrants and enter in information in a particular area

Print your own planner at home with our new collection of calendar printables! 

Review your planner with a broad to narrow focus.

Instead of reviewing the information in your planner on a day-by-day basis, try this neat trick: start first by reviewing the calendar month, then the week, then the calendar day.

Now, this may sound simple, and it is, but this method will give you a bird’s eye view of your life, responsibilities, and engagements.

You’ll not only stay abreast of what’s going on in your daily and weekly schedule, but you’ll have a better idea of where you are in relation to the rest of the months in the calendar, and the year itself.

Keep a writing implement handy.

It should go without saying that a writing implement is an indispensable tool when it comes to using a paper planner.

Keep a pen or pencil (or two) handy in your purses, bags, or briefcase.

You could also wear, tie, or affix a pen lanyard to your planner so you’ll always have a writing tool at a moment’s notice.

How about you? Do you like using paper planners? Why? Which of these tips do you think you’ll try out in your planner? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!

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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.
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