Recently I saw online a question from a new planner user who wasn’t sure what exactly she should write in her planner. She said she decided to use a planner because she feels very unorganized and forgets things all the time, but she didn’t know where to start. I imagine many new planner users feel the same, so here is a guide to what to write in your planner.
The First Planner Truth is: The more you use it, the more you use it. Otherwise known as, the more you write in it, the more useful it becomes. If you are not used to writing in a planner, you may feel like you are writing in it ALL the time. That is actually good. Your planner should be the place where you capture everything you need to remember later.
Appointments: The most basic use for a planner is to write in your appointments and scheduled events. This is the bare minimum of what you should write in your planner. Be sure to pencil in tentative plans. That way you can see everything that is going on, or potentially going on, so you can make choices and prioritize your plans. Also make sure to write anything you need to bring along with you to any appointments or events like payment, gear, papers etc.
Preparations: This is the next step beyond just writing appointments. This step makes the difference between someone who just shows up, and someone who is prepared. Say for example you are going to a dinner where you are expected to bring a dish. A few days before, write “Buy ingredients for dish” in your planner. The day before or morning of the dinner, write “Cook dish.” Alternatively, say you have a report due. Back-count the days to see exactly how much time you have before the due date. Also look at what else you have going on during that time. This will give you an idea of how much actual time you have to do your report. Several weeks before the due date, write “Research report” in your planner. Write in all the steps ahead of time: “Write outline,” “Write rough draft” “Add images” “Write final report,” “Submit report!” These reminders will keep you on track so there’s no last-minute panic.
Reminders: Instead of losing sticky notes all over the place, write reminders in your planner to do those little things like that thing you meant to look up or that person you were going to call back.
Tasks: Write your to-do list directly in your planner so you can see what you need to do and when you have time to do it.
Recurring events: Write into your planner all the birthdays and anniversaries throughout the year. Also write in things like renewing your insurance, when you are due to go to the doctor or dentist, when your pet is due for vaccines, etc.
Some people use their planners to track things like exercise, diet, medicine, household routines, etc. Some of these may be useful to you, some of them will be irrelevant to you. Don’t get bogged down looking at other people’s planners online. Do only what you need!
The Second Planner Truth is: You have to keep writing in it. You don’t just write everything in and expect the planner to keep you organized all year. You have to keep writing in new plans, new appointments, new tasks. Plans change; be sure to update your planner. Take it with you everywhere so you are always prepared when plans change or are updated.
If you have any other questions about how to use a planner or any suggestions for topics for this New Planner Users series, let me know!