6 Methods on How to Use a Planner After You’ve Given Up and Thrown Away the One You Had

Get a planner is the organizers’ anthem on how to stay organized.

But somehow this simple solution did not work for you.

You picked one that looked good to you or you got one as a gift. And you really committed to getting your act together with it.

Try as you may, it only became another piece of clutter in your house and, next thing you know, you’re basically over it.

You put a few alarms and calendar events in your phone and decided that you will just muddle through your other chaos as usual.

This does not have to be your life. You can learn how to plan effectively and how to use a planner effectively. But the key is to learn instead of picking up a random planner and believing it will work like magic for you.

Throw away that planner that never worked anyway. And read these tips on how to use a planner when starting fresh:

#1 DECIDE: What parts of your life require documented organization?

A planner specifically is a tool structured for documentation.

In order to be an effective tool, your planner must serve you well to document the parts of your life that are unorganized and that you want to make organized.

If your planner does not solve this fundamental problem, you likely will not use it, or at least not well.

A common planner will include a calendar and space for monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

This structure can be applied to almost anything, from your broad daily life to a specific subject, such as your formal studies, extra-curricular activities, or travel.

Alternatively, you may choose to select a planner for a specific project or subject.

how to use a planner

Planners exist for things like weddings, event planning, childcare and entertainment, or work.  

These types of specialty planners may include special lists and prompts to trigger more extensive thought on the subject(s).   

Because of their customized structure, specialty planners can be of particular help because they are perfectly suited for the task at hand with minimal need for adjustments.

No matter what planner you choose, decide first on what your ultimate goal is for its use. 

This should occur well before purchase, download, or installation.

Or you likely will have one more piece of clutter lending to your disorganization.

Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now

alan lakein

#2 CHOOSE: What planner style is your style?

You may think that it is a minor point, but a planner that matches your style compliments you more than just in its look.

The most common issue people have when starting to plan is that they do not use their planner.  That said, any additional incentive that you can use to keep your planner in mind is worth consideration.

Planners come in all types of materials, colors, and sizes. 

Even the weight of a planner will have an impact on whether or not you will carry it with you everywhere you go or only use it when sitting at your desk. 

Consider that style will affect whether or not you:

  • Use it at work due to its formality or lack of formality
  • Carry it with you because of its size
  • Open it or store things in it regularly because of its durability
  • Use pen, pencil, or marker in it because of its pages, and more

It may seem like a lot of detail to put into a planner selection. 

But in reality, any and all of these components can lead to a planner being ineffective or simply unused.

Before committing to a particular planner, it is worth considering your style and the planner that will match it.

Strategic planning is worthless – unless there is first a strategic vision


#3 COMMIT: Do you have a plan on how to use a planner regularly?

Another consideration in your planner selection and process is when you will use your planner. 

No matter if your planner is meant for daily use or regular use on special occasion, you want to ensure that you use it every time it is needed.

Your planner should be stationed wherever you have any other materials related to your organization of the subject.

how to use a planner for beginners

If your planner is for daily use, then you may want to have it at your desk, in your workbag or purse, or on your nightstand.

For infrequent but specialty use, your planner storage may simply be a special drawer or shelf in your home or office.

The critical point is that the location lends to remembering the planner’s presence and encourages its use.  And most importantly you are committed to both remembering and using it when you need to so that you stay organized.

A good rule of thumb is to keep a regular schedule related to using your planner, reviewing its contents, and updating its content. 

Same times and same places tend to get the routine engrained in your life well.

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort

paul j. meyer

#4 SET-UP: Do you have a place to plan?

In addition to storing your planner for use, you should also create a space conducive to planning.

Yes, it actually matters. 

Planning in a space that is full of chaos, clutter, and distraction will likely lead to a poor process of creating order. 

This does not mean that your space needs to be flawless, but it should be organized enough so that your mind is not pulled from your task of planning.

To use a planner effectively, you want to attempt to record as much detail as is valuable on the subject you intend to keep organized. 

Distractions that lead to interrupted thought and inconsistent documenting will likely lead to an ineffective planning process.

Location, location, location is everything for a reason and it even applies to creating an effective planning process.

Plan for what it is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small

sun tzu

#5 DOCUMENT: Are your top priorities going into your planner?

To feel in better control of your life, you may be drawn to the idea of documenting every little detail in your planner.

If you have time to do this and it serves you well, then document, document, document.

However, more often than not, the practice of over-documenting leads to a labor-intensive process. 

This then leads to an inconsistent practice in what you record or a total lack of use of your planner altogether.

It may sound fun to use every piece and part of what your planner has to offer. 

Or you may be called to utilize every suggestion you have heard regarding planning. 

In reality, less is more. 

Choose the most critical priorities and the most frequently missed details and ensure you have a plan around keeping on top of them. 

You can then decide if you have time or room for anything else.

Be a selective sifter of all the data you take in every day and try not to clutter the very tool that is meant to keep you organized.

If you are putting anything more in your planner than what you had planned to record when you bought it, then you should seriously consider if it really needs to be documented at all.

The more time you spend contemplating what you should have done… you lose valuable time planning what you can and will do

lil wayne

#6 EVALUATE: Before you throw out another one, do you know how to use a planner effectively?

A planner is effective when you say it is.  No other input is more valuable than your own.

It is important to be honest with yourself. however, and determine if the planner is faulty or if it is user error. 

Did you purchase the right planner for your needs?

Are you using the planner regularly?

Evaluate the tips in this post and see if you may need to reassess your effective planning strategy. 

You may need to pick another tool or method to master your planning.

Also, consider if a planner is really the best method to solve your organization problems. 

While planners are a common solution suggested by many, they do not work for everyone.

Bottomline, do not force the process. 

If you have set yourself up well, selected well, and put an honest effort into regular use of your planner and still do not see results, it may be time for a totally new solution.

But if the planner has helped even in small ways, you may want to adjust for improvement where you can and keep moving forward.

Effective planning is definitely a circumstance where practice can make perfection in a planning process meaningful to you.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail

benjamin franklin


Not everyone knows exactly how to use a planner even when they already have one.

The process may not be as simple as it looks. Before you decide that a planner will solve all of your organizing needs, take time to consider what specific needs you have.

Commit to the right planner, the right space, and even the right times to use your planner. And then embark on the journey to see if your decisions actually worked. With the right success plan in place, you may find that using a planner is a whole lot more effective than you originally thought.

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And if you have any suggestions for using a planner effectively, please share them in the Comments section below.

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