A Daily Planner — What Works for Me

posted by Andrea | 10/12/2010

It’s no secret that my planner is one of my top ten favorite organizing tools; I take it with me where ever I go.

Honestly, I don’t know what I would do if I lost my planner — let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty!

And about this time every year, I come to the page in my planner that reminds me it’s time to purchase another calendar insert for the upcoming year…which is {for some odd reason} extremely exciting for me!

I just love rummaging through all the different types of planners, calendars, organizers, etc. — there are so many great options to choose from. It’s an organizer’s dream!! Unfortunately, if you are not a naturally organized person {or not crazy obsessed with day-planners} all the options can be overwhelming.

When it comes to planners, I’ve been around the block a time or two and I’ve tried out nearly every variety imaginable. I have even used 2 or 3 at a time to see which ones I liked the most {yup, I’m obsessed!} And even though I’m not brand-loyal to a specific planner, I have come up with a few guidelines that seem to work well for me.

So as you embark on your “planner-purchasing journey” here are a few things to think about…

1. Size Matters:

If you want to keep your planner with you at all times {which I highly recommend} you’ll want to choose a size that will fit in your purse, briefcase, bag, car, etc.  My planner is only 8″ x 4.5″ … it fits perfectly in my purse.

2. Function over Form:

I love the look of cute patterns and fun designs — but for the past few years, my practical nature has opted for a more functional {plain black leather} planner with refillable inserts. {See picture above — isn’t it pretty!?}

I purchased my current planner 3 years ago for $10 from Target, and now all I have to do is purchase the refill pages {$3.99} each year.

The other advantage of using refill pages is that any other information can stay put. I have a bunch of notes in the “NOTE” section {imaging that!} along with a few key addresses, passwords, etc. and it would be a big pain to transfer all that information each year.

3. Daily or Monthly:

Do you meticulously record every detail of each day? Or are you more of a big picture person who likes to see an entire week or month at at time?

I like to see a full week at a time so my inserts have one box for every day. This gives me enough room to write down all my major daily events and still look ahead at the rest of the week. I also make a separate Top 5 List every day…which is a more detailed list of everything I need to do on a given day — I usually put it on a sticky note in my planner.

4. Additional Needs:

Will you need your planner to function as more than just a planner? If so, you’ll want to search until you find one that fits your specific needs — I guarantee it’s out there somewhere.

My planner has a few slots in the front for business cards and a clear zippered pouch in the back which I use for address labels, stamps, and sticky notes {for my Top 5 Lists!} I’ve also seen planners with coupon organizers, wallets, pen holders, pads of paper, cell phone compartments, and even built-in calculators.

Decide what you want your planner to provide and ask around until you find it.

5. Usability:

Maybe this should have been #1 — but I think it goes without saying that the planner you buy should be simple and easy to use. As you can see from the pictures above, my planner is used and abused week after week. It serves as my second brain — and it’s much more efficient than my actual brain because it never forgets!

Make sure your planner is convenient for you to open {once I got one with a zipper that didn’t work}. Make sure it’s easy to write in and that the lines aren’t too close together or too far apart. Make sure the dates are formated the best way for you and that there’s a tab to help you quickly navigate to the current week. These are all little things, but they can make or brake your planner experience — and I REALLY want  you to love your planner as much as I do!
Also, as you search for your perfect day-planner, try not to spend more than $20.00. Then if you’re anything like me and frequently change your mind, you won’t feel as bad when you donate your not-so-perfect planner and try something new!

What type of planner to you use?

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11 comments

  1. Suzanne

    10/12/2010

    Great blog! Looking forward to taking a longer look at it. I like to see that someone else, like me, still likes to use an organizer. There is something about writing down things I need to remember that helps me remember, and not have to access my computer calendar when it is not with me. I currently use an organizer for paper 8 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ or so and find it too big to take with me all the time. I’m going to have to check out the size you use. Thanks for the reminder to try to keep it inexpensive!

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  2. niki

    10/13/2010

    Great planner! I love that it is something you can use for years and years.

    I recently bought myself the Busy Mom’s Planner and love it! It has sides for jotting grocery store lists and to-do lists weekly that tear off. Genius!

    I enjoy your blog a whole lot! I hope you’ll stop over and visit sometime over at Free 2 Be Frugal.

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  3. Kristia@FamilyBalanceSheet

    10/13/2010

    I use a spiral weekly/monthly planner. I like to see a month at a glance, but each week I use the weekly section to write out my to-do’s for each day. This system seems to work for me, however I do have to enter my events into my husband’s google calendar. I can’t seem to give up my paper.

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  4. The List Lady

    10/21/2010

    I found your website a month or two ago and really like what I find here! I wondered if you would mention planners sometime .=) I actually designed one in 2008 and am selling them as a small in-home business. Check it out sometime at http://www.wellkeptlife.com!

    Keep up the good posts – I love how you keep things simple and organized.

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  5. Jen @ BigBinder

    12/06/2010

    I still use an old-school Franklin planner. I change it up every few years but always go back to the day at a time. When I do the week at a time I don’t have enough space to write notes (I guess I take a lot of notes).

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  6. Autumn

    03/23/2011

    I love my planner!! I found my planner at target on sale for around $4!!! I was so excited. My planner is my lifeline. I have every bit of information in it that I could possibly need on a day to day basis. My families schedules are in it, the days we have my step daughter, what times my hubby has to work, what times we have class, what times I have to work, our appointments, practice times, and social events that we have been invited to, phone numbers, addresses, party planning information, and lots more!! I have sections for a few pens(everything in my planner is color coordinated), pictures, credit cards, and alse a little folder to stick in a bill that needs to be paid, an invitation or something I need to keep handy. My planner is also one that has exchangable pages so I will only need to by more pages instead of buying a new planner every year. I love it, and I honestly don’t know how i’d live without it!! :)

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  7. Patty Gardner

    09/18/2011

    I didn’t know there were still people out there who use a paper planner! All my friends use electronic or none. I have ADHD and when I don’t use a planner . . . well, let’s just say that bad things happen.

    I also use the compact franklin covey, 2 pages per day. But sometimes I switch to pages I created that really match my lifestyle better than the preprinted pages. But I LOVE the look of the preprinted pages over the homemade. Silly, I know.

    I really love the idea of the top 5 list and am going to incorporate that into my planning. I am also going to play around with the sheet you made up. It’s always fun to see how others organize their time.

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    sara fitcg Reply:

    I’m am a stay-at-home mom of a 5 month old and a 5 year old and I Have ADD. It got very bad when I stopped training horses to rise my children. I did great at work but can’t seam to get it together at home. My life is crazy and my house is so disorganized. I need help!!! I can’t find any away to make a cleaning routine or any kind of paper planner to help me!! I DO NOT KNOW WERE TO START !!!! PLEASE HELP!! I’M DROWNING IN MY OWN CLUTTER AND DISORDER!!!!!
    CAN ANY ONE HELP ME !!!!

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    Lisa the Farm Lady Reply:

    Did anyone ever reply to your post here? My life was extremely messy & disorganized till I discovered this wonderful blog. Andrea has some great posts about starting one little thing at a time and going from there…I found those helpful. Also her posts on time management are a marvel. Although I no longer have small kids, I found going from an office environment to being at home with a farm business was difficult (like what you mention with your horse training job and then staying home with your kids).
    I find it works well for me to find one of Andrea’s posts that answers the question I have at that time, turning off the screensaver, and re-reading the post several times till I can implement what she says.
    Good luck!

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  8. sarah s

    09/13/2012

    Andrea, After reading this post I purchased a planner. Would you please tell how you incorporate the paper planner with your phone/computer calendar? I really feel like I need a paper planner for daily checklists, but I’m wondering now, do I need to record everything in two places? on my phone’s calendar and in my paper planner? how do you manage this?
    Thanks, really love your blog!

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  9. L.

    03/13/2013

    where do u purchase refill pages from? do u use ur daily to-do list printable in ur planner?

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