Planners are a key component of success when it comes to productivity. Planning ahead will help you stay accountable for your time and maximize your schedule, getting the most done in the least time.
A successful planner system will implement great time management into your daily routine and help you juggle everything. But how exactly do you set up your planner for success?
In this post, I’ll be teaching you how I set up my planner for maximum productivity; I’ll go through the entire process, from choosing the right materials to habits I rely on. If you’re ready to get planning, let’s get into the post.
You could go completely paperless and use a digital planner (in which case you’ll likely just need an iPad), or use a traditional paper planner. I like to use a physical planner for my daily planner and use my digital calendar for time-blocking.
Below, I’ve listed 5 of my essential planning supplies, in order of importance:
- A planner (I’ll later go over a few of my favorites!)
- Muji 0.38 black pen
- Pilot G2 0.5 black pen
- Mildliner highlighters
If you’d like to go minimalistic and only use the bare essentials, then all you need is a planner and a black pen; I listed both Muji and Pilot G2 pens in different thicknesses, but they’re both great and are interchangeable.
A highlighter is great to add some pop to your planner and decorate or color-code your plans. Mildliners have a cool, pale palette so that your eyes never strain when you use them.
Now that you’ve got the basic supplies down, let’s take a look at which planner to use.
Planners, journals, binders, or notebooks?
First things first, you need to decide what kind of planning you’d like to do. Traditional planners are well-structured and organized, allowing you to simply mark important dates and write to-do lists for each day and week.
Bullet journals are completely blank and thus allow you to be creative with your monthly and weekly spreads. You can also add any type of pages you want, like a page for Goals, Memories, Birthdays, and more.
Recently, 6-ring binders have become increasingly popular. Just like normal binders, you can take out and insert pages, which means a certain extent of freedom journals and planners don’t have. And just like a bullet journal, you can be super creative on the pages.
A traditional notebook– just like the spiral notebooks you use for school– is relatively plain but allows less freedom than bullet journals. However, they’re similar to traditional planners, and you can make all sorts of to-do lists.
Now, let me offer a few of the most popular, high-quality, and reliable planners from Amazon. You can check them out and try some of them!
- Muji monthly/weekly planner
- Nondated personal daily planner
- Leuchtturm1917 bullet journal
- Transparent cover 6-ring binder (refills are sold separately)
- Undated planning notebook
Lastly, if you’d prefer a downloadable and printable planner, you can check out the Ultimate 3-in-1 Student Planner. Just as the name suggests, it contains spreads and templates made just for students, in different categories like academics, wellness, and personal life. Check it out!
YOU’LL LOVE THIS POST: 10 New Habits To Build This School Semester
Create a planning system
One of the most important parts of building habits and routines (yes, you should be building a habit of planning) is to create a system. Once you build a system that works for you, it’ll be easy to follow it and subsequently crush your routine.
As you create your planning system, write down all of the details you can think of. As you get used to it, you’ll no longer have to actively think of all the details; for now, keep a list handy.
In your list, you should include the following things:
- A key of shorthand notes, like a symbol for a task vs an event, completed vs canceled…
- A color-coding system for different types of tasks and events
- Long-term goals you’re going to work towards
- Habits you’re looking to build
- How structured/strict you want your system to be
- Whether you’re going to use daily to-do lists, time-blocked calendars…
- How often you’re going to check in with yourself on your plans
Once you’ve figured these out, try integrating them into your planner. For example, start using the shorthands you’ve established, and create tasks that are based on the goals and habits you want to reach and build.
Every day (or based on how often you want to check in with yourself), review everything you completed and didn’t complete, then plan the following day accordingly. This is how your system starts working!
One mistake a lot of people make when they’re just starting to use a planner is that they focus too much on the aesthetics. Your planner does not have to look beautiful for it to work. Start simple, and start with the intention of writing your plans down. Once you’ve mastered that, you can start exploring different aesthetics.
Unfortunately, your planning system cannot maintain itself. You have to be super consistent with your planning and check in regularly. Especially if you know that you struggle with consistency and building habits that stick, you must force yourself to do so.
Even if you’re a major procrastinator, remind yourself to plan for the next day before you go to sleep. Planning ahead will save you a lot of time and anxiety the next day, as you’ll have a structure to follow that ensures maximum productivity.
Therefore, build this habit (customize it to your own planning system and needs):
- Every night before bed, I will spend 10-20 minutes planning out the next day and possibly the next few days. I will make a to-do list that covers my homework and projects, as well as long-term check-in tasks and other miscellaneous tasks.
Now, if you’re struggling in the actual habit-building process, I’ve got something for you. The Complete Guide to Habit-Building is made by me, for you. It’s a workbook that teaches you how to build habits (there’s a foolproof, 8-step process), as well as provides you with templates to track your progress.
You can buy it now and never struggle to build habits again. Planning – and doing so effectively and consistently – is definitely a habit you need to build, and this workbook will help you along the process.
I hope this post was helpful for you! Effective planning is a crucial step to becoming productive, and setting up your planner is one of the first steps to effective planning! Leave a comment below with your favorite planning trick!
If you’re looking for more posts from me, check out my recent posts:
- The Complete College Prep Guide For High School Upperclassmen
- The Complete College Prep Guide For High School Underclassmen
- 8 Daily Habits Of Highly Successful Students