Strategies for Making Your Planner Work Well For You!

planner closed

I have a planner.  I admit it.  I’ve actually had a planner forever.  I can’t function without it and my family will testify to that fact.  When I’ve gone through brief periods of rebellion against using a planner, my life falls apart.

If you have a planner but it isn’t working for you, or you’ve had a planner but gave up on it, maybe it’s time to try again.  To make my planner work for my life, I’ve adopted some very important strategies.  Here are a few:

1.       A planner will not work if it’s in your purse or briefcase or closed on your desk.  The planner has to be open and available at all times.  My planner is always open and sitting on the kitchen counter or my desk, depending on where I’m working.  You have to be able to see it and it has to be easy to use.  If you have to go get it, open it and find the right page, you won’t do it.

My Planner on the kitchen counter

2.       This is just my personal preference, but I only use pens that have a click top.  If you have to pull the pen out of the loop, take off the cap, put the cap on the pen, and then write, it’s too much trouble.  I like it to be easy.  I want to hold my planner in one hand, pull out the pen with the other hand, click the pen and start writing.  Easier is always better!  And I frequently use the Bic 4-color pen so I have the option of using different colors with just a click of a button.

my favorite pens – cap free!

3.       Take your planner with you nearly everywhere you go.  And when you’re out and about is the only time it’s okay to put your planner in your purse or briefcase.  Frequently when I’m out I need to write something down or look something up.  If my planner isn’t with me, it doesn’t help me.

4.       Write in your planner as soon as you think of something.  When you remember that task you need to do, jot it down.  Don’t wait until later because by the time later comes, you’ll have forgotten.  Write it down ASAP.  Once you write it down, you don’t have to think about it anymore and that frees your brain to think about other stuff.

5.       Customize your planner.  Very few people can use a planner straight out the box, exactly the way it was designed.  We are each unique and our planning needs are unique, too.  If you try to use a planner as designed, you’re probably going to be frustrated.  Just because a section in your planner page says it’s for a to do list doesn’t mean you have to write your to do list there.  Or just because an area is designated for your schedule doesn’t mean you have to use it for that.  And here’s an idea – if the pre-printed pages don’t work for you, MAKE YOUR OWN!  Then you can create pages that work for your life and your needs!

my homemade pages

So if you’re not using a planner or your planner isn’t working, maybe it’s time to try again.  A planner can be an extremely helpful tool that makes the difference between having your ducks in a row and having your ducks scattered everywhere.

And if you have any planner questions that I can help you with, please feel free to ask.  You can write a comment below or send me an e-mail.

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Born in Kentucky, I am a wife and mom to 1 son and 2 daughters . I have an ink pen obsession, as well as a love for all things planner. I have been married for 10 years to my high school crush. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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26 thoughts on “Strategies for Making Your Planner Work Well For You!

  1. My kids are about to start school and I’m feeling overwhelmed by the amount of paper, so I was thinking the other day that I’d better get organized…I was thinking about maybe a binder with compartments for each kid and a calendar? got any ideas? How did you keep all your kids’ school stuff organized (because I’m sure you did!)?

    1. I have some ideas but I’m going to ask my readers on Facebook for input, too. I homeschooled my kids so we didn’t have near as much paper as you do.

      I think I would probably have a family calendar on the wall – we did that for a while anyway – so we could record each person’s schedule. I think the binder with sections for each kid is a great idea. I’ve also seen set-ups where you have a file box with hanging folders for each kid and the papers go in the appropriate file folder. The box would be located near the family calendar. When papers were no longer needed, they would be tossed or filed somewhere. I’d probably put a mark of some kind on each paper as it was processed. By processed, I mean the information recorded in the appropriate place. I would also have highlighters handy to highlight important information on each piece of paper. That way you wouldn’t have to search for the important information each time you looked at the paper. I would maybe also have a section for important phone numbers or reference information – like school supply lists, schedules, soccer rosters – things that you’ll have longer than a week or so.

      I’ll keep my eyes open for any other ideas. Also, I’m going to ask the blog fan page readers right now!

  2. Can you give out your secret to making your planner pages? I would love to figure out how to customize my own planner. Thanks!

    1. I would be happy to. It would be helpful, though, if you told me what kind and size of planner you use. Then I can provide more specific information. It’s not hard once you figure it out but it takes a little work at the beginning. Now I have a bunch of pages stored on my computer from everything from daily pages to financial pages and food journals. If I need it, I can make it.

      1. Oh my gosh! I love the rounded corners on the inserts, as well as the inserts themselves. I’m also curious as to how you made them. 🙂 I’m currently using a personal size Filofax.
        And the green color of your binder is just gorgeous!

        1. Thanks for stopping by. I do love that green binder!

          I’m going to e-mail you a sample page for the Franklin Covey compact. You can modify my form and make a template to make your pages. You’ll probably have to change the margins or the space between columns to make the pages a little more narrow. The Franklin Covey compact is almost the same size as the Filofax personal but the FC pages are 1/2 inch wider. You could probably even just print pages using my template and just cut them a little smaller. If you have trouble figuring it out, let me know and I can do it for you.

          Rounding the corners takes a little extra effort but I hate pages without the rounded corners. They turn so much better in the binder when they’re rounded. Several people have noticed that. Glad I’m not the only planner nerd!!! 🙂

  3. I’d also love to know how you make your own pages. They even have rounded corners! Is that a Compact or Classic size you’re using? Thanks!

  4. I am in love with my Erin Condren Life Planner! I use colored pens specific for each thing I schedule/plan: meals, exercise, kiddo activities, blogging, bills, etc. I tried to use the calendar on my phone and I still had to-do lists everywhere.

    1. I’m not familiar with the Erin Condren Life Planner but I’m going to go look it up. I love seeing what other planners are out there.

      Have you considered using a Bic 4-color pen? They have them with the basic red, black, blue and green or sometimes you can get other color combinations. I have one and it makes color coding so easy!

  5. Hi,
    Your ideas are great. My planner has been in my bag for the last week or so and it hasn’t been of much use. I think about it or need to write something down, but it is never on hand. I will try your ideas and hope they make a difference! I love a copy of your pages – they look great. I use a personal sized Kendal Filofax, but I am waiting on a Chili Cuban to arrive. Maybe a change of Filo will help too.

    1. Sometimes making a change does help. I’ve done that before, too, and it did help. But the most important thing is to keep your planner visible! That makes all the difference in whether you use it or not. If you have to go get it, you probably won’t. You’ll think “I’ll put that in there later”. But later, you don’t remember what you were going to write.

      My planner is almost out out on the kitchen counter or next to my computer. I used to have a spot in the kitchen that was PERFECT – it was a little ledge. My planner fit perfectly there. But when we remodeled, I lost the ledge. Sad. Now it sits on the kitchen counter and has to be moved frequently (if I’m cooking). Oh, well.

      Good luck and I hope your new Filo gets you rolling again. I also have some articles in the Time Management section about different ways to use a planner page. Maybe one of those would get you motivated, too.

  6. Hi,
    I just came across your blog. I too love a great planner, but haven’t been able to find one that works for this ADD brain. I would love to see how you formatted your to do list. Could you send me a sample?
    Thank you!

  7. Hi – I have been pouring over your planner entries for the last week or so now! I am a new to home-schooling mom and it is really stretching my limits of organization! I found an older Franklin Covey classic sized planner from college when we moved. I ordered some 2 page/day refills for it after I was getting very frustrated trying to cram notes about what we had done that day in addition (some days, instead of!) to what I had planned for the day into a generic spiral bound day planner (8X11, 2 page/week).

    After reading through your blog, I’m trying to incorporate other regular things into my planner, like meal planning/shopping, home school plans and resources (in addition to my HS binder), projects, financials, contacts and notes. I want to create my own pages for my HS and financial sections but I’m having trouble with the logistics of how to lay out the word document, make it double sided, how much margin room I need, etc…. Any tips where to look?

    Also, where did you find your tabs? I have been looking for a set of 8-10 but have only been able to find sets of 5 for mini binders…. Thanks!

    1. Suzanne:

      I feel your pain! It does take a lot of organization to keep things running. In addition, homeschooling is like having a full-time job. The only thing is – when you work outside the home every day, your house stays cleaner because no one’s there to mess it up. But when you homeschool, you’re there all the time messing things up. It gets complicated trying to get everything done.

      As far as the tabs, those are Franklin Covey tabs. When you purchase a starter set, you get 12 tabs. They’re pre-labeled but I just put new stickers over the labels. Here’s the link: They also have some A-Z tabs. Daytimer has them, also.

      To make your own pages, this might help: I make my own pages all the time. I don’t print them duplex, though, because I haven’t taken the time to figure out how to do it. I just print one side and then stick them back in and print on the other side. But it’s really easy to do it that way. I’ve used the paper punch from Franklin Covey but it didn’t last as long as I hoped so I got one from Daytimer and am using that one. You can punch the holes individually but it’s easy if you can get a punch. I think you’ll have to order that on-line. I’ve never seen them in any of the stores I’ve gone to.

      Please let me know if you have any more questions. I’m happy to help. You can comment here or email me directly.


  8. I guess I must be a ‘planner person;’ I spotted those rounded corners right away! They look great; how do you do them?

    1. I round the corners 2 different ways. Sometimes I just use the scissors and round them manually. I also have a corner punch that I picked up at Michaels craft store. It was about $5 and works great. It can punch several sheets at a time and makes perfect corners.

      And yes, you must be a planner person if you noticed the rounded corners!!! 🙂

  9. I love my planners! Yes, I have more than one. My personal planner is the half-sheet size from Day-Timer and is a bright, sunny yellow. Although I no longer work, I still have to have my planner. I never carry a small handbag, so the planner still goes with me everywhere. The other planners are specific things that are dealt with only at home. The biggest of these is our Household Management Notebook. It holds the “masters” of everything else that is contained in the various planners. Although our budget and other financial basics are in the Household Notebook, I have a separate binder to use for the monthly bills and for tracking expenses across the month. The most recent back statement is held in there until the next one arrives and the accounts are reconciled. Then the older statemnt is filed until tax time. The other binders deal with Meal Planning and shopping, another for Home Maintenance (that is actually my husband’s planner), and then there is a planner for holiday preparations for the major holidays or other events when family and friends will be joining us or we will travel to them. Rounded corners are great! When I print my own pages, I use a special cutter to round the corners. I get the “parts”for my planners from Franklin-Covey, Day-Timer, or Day-Runner because they will interchange easily. The last planner is the one that is used daily at the dining room table. It has my routines for each day in it, the lists of daily, weekly, monthly, and other types of tasks to accomplish I keep reminders in there for tasks that hubby will have to do, too, so that I can remind him of what we had planned.

    1. I have a corner cutter, too. I can’t stand squared corners! I guess it’s because I’m used to the rounded ones but the squares corners annoy me. They work just fine, though.

      I’m impressed with your system. I wish I could do something like that but with ADHD, I have to keep it really simple! Everything is pretty much in my one binder. When I’m through with the information, it goes into my storage binder. I’ve tried having a different binder for my finances but I hated doing it that way.

      It’s so cool to see how other people structure their time and paperwork. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You can download a variation of it here:

      They’re also available here in the 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 size only:

      That format has worked really well for me. OH, the second article explains how I use it. I’ve started doing something new lately. The to-do page on the left – I cut slits in the holes so I can remove the page without opening the rings. Then I move it to the next place I need it. It’s a lot easier. If that doesn’t make sense, let me know and maybe I’ll write a post about it.

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