How to Use a Planner: Your Guide for 2024

You’ve chosen your planner, and you’re trying to organize it, but you don’t know how to make the best out of it. In this guide, you’ll learn how to use a planner effectively.

After reading this guide, you will discover planner ideas for beginners, multiple planner tips, how to start a planner, and how to organize a planner most productively.

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What is a planner?

First of all, let’s define what a planner is. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a planner as

Something (such as a device, program, or notebook) that provides a schedule and is used for planning activities, travels, etc.

A planner is a tool to help you capture every task, goal, or required action as it comes up.

How to use a planner

To use a planner most effectively, you must choose the correct type of planner according to your goals and have your ideas clear on the fundamentals of organization and the planner’s goal. Then, you need to learn how to structure a planner and what to write inside.

If you don’t know which type of planner you need, read our blogs about the top productivity planners and the best free digital planners.

What to do first when customizing your planner

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your planner:

Understand the fundamentals

Planners are great for organizing your time, but they can’t do all the work for you. To use a planner effectively, you need to have a good understanding of how they work.

Generally speaking, the items in your planner will fall into one of two categories:

  • Calendar Events: Events or obligations with rigid start and end dates or times (e.g., meetings).
  • To-Dos: Tasks that need to be done—no surprises here! To-dos might have a rigid start and end date, one and not the other, or be completely flexible (e.g., file tax return).

As a general rule, calendar events form the backbone of your planner. Sure, you might be able to move them around, but generally, it’s easier to schedule around them.

To-dos will be a core part of your planner, but they aren’t always as rigid as calendar events. That’s why many people write their to-dos in a separate list and schedule them into time blocks between calendar events.

Download for free: Time blocking schedule templates

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Have a clear goal in mind

Clarify the Whys behind your choice of using a planner.

What do you want to achieve? Maybe you want a more productive life? Or do you want to get better at managing your time? Do you want to improve your health and well-being, and do you need a planner to achieve this goal? 

Read more about why is it so important to set realistic goals?.

the best way to structure a planner

How to structure a planner?

Once the fundamentals and the motivations are clear, it’s time to think about how to structure a planner.

Come up with an organizational system

It’s essential to devise a system for writing things down in your planner. There isn’t a correct way to go about this, but it’s vital that you’re consistent and that all the information you need is easily accessible.

Some things to include are:

  • Task Name
  • Due Date and Time
  • Priority
  • Location (if applicable)
  • Supplementary Info (e.g., names, contact details)

Make use of planner features

Depending on the type of planner you’re using, it might have some great features that can help you save time and stay organized.

Here are a few examples:

  • Notes Sections: Jotting down notes during meetings or brainstorming sessions? Many planners have designated note sections that make it easy to find your thoughts later.
  • Reference Sections: Have a planner with an address book? Use it to keep track of important contacts, so you can easily find their information when needed.
  • Stickers, tags, and Labels: Some planners come with stickers or labels that you can use to mark important dates or tasks. This can be a great way to add a personal touch to your planner.
what to write in a planner

What to write in a planner

Make A Weekly Schedule

An effective way to organize your time is to write a weekly schedule. This can be helpful if you have recurring tasks or appointments that must be completed on specific days.

For example, let’s say you have a weekly meeting with your team every Monday at 10 am. You know this meeting will take about an hour, so you’ll need to block that time in your planner. Plus, you’ll want to leave some extra time before and after the meeting for prep and follow-up.

By making a weekly schedule, you can ensure that you’re prepared for everything that’s coming up—and that you have the time to complete it.

TIP: Get a free weekly work schedule.

Take notes of things you care about

Here are examples of things you should write down in your planner:

  • Work schedules
  • Birthdays, Anniversaries, & Holidays
  • Deadlines
  • To-do Lists
  • Vacation days
  • Bill’s payment due date
  • Doctor appointments
  • Grocery list
  • Car repairs
  • Parties
  • Inspirational quotes
  • Thoughts you have
  • Goals
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If you’re using your planner also for organizing personal health and well-being, you may also want to note down:

  • Cycle phases
  • Sleeping habits
  • Eating habits
  • Energy levels
  • Social media consumption
  • Sport and physical activity
best tips for organizing a planner

Five tips for organizing your planner

1. Set task priorities

Every day, take a few minutes to think about what’s most important. What tasks need to be completed first? What deadlines do you need to meet? Please write your top priorities in your planner so you can focus on them first.

Some paper planners have a designated place to write your top priorities for the day. Others don’t, so you might need to think of a system for representing these manually, such as:

  • Stars (e.g., 1-star = low priority; 5-stars = urgent)
  • Color Coding (e.g., blue = low priority; red = urgent)
  • List Order (e.g., last = low priority; first = urgent)

Use the time management matrix quadrants to help you prioritize your taks.

2. Use timeboxing

Timeboxing is a technique that can help you make the most of your time. It involves breaking down your day into smaller chunks and dedicating each piece to a specific task, goal, activity, or focus.

For example, you might block off your day as follows:

  • 8 am-9 am: Checking and responding to emails.
  • 9 am-11 am: Writing.
  • 12 am-1 pm: Lunch and break.
  • 1 pm-4 pm: Client meetings.
  • 4 pm-5 pm: Tackling to-do list items.

Or you might want to use the Pomodoro time management technique, which involves breaking work into intervals (typically around 25 minutes) and having small breaks.

Using time blocks, you can ensure that you’re progressing on your most important tasks and goals. Plus, it can help to prevent you from getting overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done in a day.

Within these time blocks, there might be specific tasks or calendar events you’ll need to take care of. Or, the time might be relatively unstructured. That flexibility is what makes time blocking so effective! 

Most digital planning tools use a flag system to tag priority whenever you create a new task or to-do.

Get to know the best time management techniques that help you to master your time.

3. Make it a habit

The more you use your planner, the easier it will be to stay organized. Make sure to use your planner daily so it becomes a part of your routine.

Until it becomes a habit, we recommend setting a daily alarm on your phone to remind you to update your planner.

4. Schedule in buffer time

No matter how well you plan, there will always be surprises. That’s why scheduling some buffer time between tasks and events is essential. 

You won’t be thrown off course if something takes longer than expected. Buffer time can also take a break, catch up on emails, or give yourself some breathing room.

Make it more functional for you. As we mentioned earlier, most digital planners come with this built-in feature.

5. Be flexible

Plans change, and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to change your plan as your schedule evolves—remember to write in pencil.

If you’re the kind of person who needs their notebooks and planners to look clean and polished, it might make sense to go digital. 

FAQs on how to use a planner

What are the different types of planners?

There are several options out there: work planners, travel planners, financial planners, etc. Get to know the different types of planners in our free guide.

How to use a weekly planner?

A weekly planner serves to note down your weekly appointments and tasks. The best way to use a weekly planner is to create the top three tasks for the week and plan time to accomplish them within 7 days. 

How to use a yearly planner? 

A yearly planner takes into consideration your yearly goals and helps you to break does those big and ambitious objectives into small ones. A yearly planner is a great tool to think big and make long-term plans and projects.

How to use a digital planner?

A digital planner can be used as a weekly or yearly planner, with the only difference being that it will be all digital. You may have to be a bit tech-savvy to learn how to use a digital planner, but the system is exactly the same as the other two.

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