Make the Most of Your Life by Using Your Planner Efficiently

Let me tell you, I LOVE planners. I love journals, notebooks, agendas, pens, stickers, office supplies – you name it. Hobby Lobby, Office Max, and the school supplies aisles are my sanctuary.

But all that means nothing if I didn’t know how to use those tools efficiently when it comes to actually executing my calendar. So, what’s the secret?

It all comes down to being consistent. If you’re not using your planner everyday or every other day, then there’s no point of even having it. Unleash the potential of your planner and execute your goals, dreams, and weekend plans, girl!

People juggle their Outlook, iCal, To-Do list apps, and for what? To have 3 different schedules all just out of arms reach of one another? No thanks, Tom Hanks. Using a paper calendar/planner is the best and most efficient (in my opinion) way to keep your work, personal life, finances, birthdays, and notes all in one place.

Let’s dive in.

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Choose your source:

You might feel more comfortable with Outlook or iCal – go for it! Just choose one source for all your dates, plans, and notes and stick to it. This source will be your overall look at the week, month, and year. Make sure you have 24/7 access to this because without it, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

I used to use the Lily Pulitzer Large Hardcover Agenda 8 x 6 that you can purchase here. I liked this planner, but it just didn’t have enough space. This was college Marley’s go-to brand.

Now that I am a grown-up (ha) use the Erin Condren Personalized LifePlanner. The monthly view is the perfect amount of space for me and the larger weekly format is perfect for writing the details of my plans. I also have the Snap-In Monthly Bill Tracker Dashboard, Dual-Tip Markers 6-Pack, Fine Tip Wet Erase Marker Set, and Coil-Clip Connectors. This actually all came in a bundle with the first planner I bought and I have reused these items since. I am now on my fourth Erin Condren planner and I don’t think I could ever consider switching to something else!

USE IT

A simple step, but it’s honestly one of the hardest. Taking the time out of your day (10-15 min TOPS) and really using your planner will make you more efficient – I promise. Your time is precious, so taking the time to use it wisely will benefit you.

Make it fun

Stickers aren’t for children. Say it with me, “STICKERS AREN’T FOR CHILDREN!”

I use stickers, different colors, glitter, tape, or whatever I can get my grubby fingers on because it makes things POP. If you have an important meeting, write it in red, put tons of stickers around it, break out the washi tape, and don’t forget to write it in your weekly and monthly view.

This is your life written down in a book, so make it yours. If you’re not all about the glitz’n’glam, do what makes you feel comfortable. Just make sure that this space represents YOUR life and YOUR time.

Some of my favorite pens and highlighters:

Throw in some commitments

Shameless plug to check out my other blogs about The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. This book is all about making small choices or ~commitments~ that compound to create large impacts in your life. You can read the first review of this book here and you can purchase it here.

Go to the gym every Monday. Read 10 pages of a book every Wednesday. Make 3 home-cooked meals a week – do something that you can commit to every week and do that thing.

Write everything down

So you had your day planned, but a in a last minute decision you’ve decided to head to the gym. Write that down when you get back to your planner! Writing down your unexpected lunch plans, gym time, or random phone calls throughout the day can be beneficial. Why? Because you can see your progress. Seeing your phone call to your grandma last week will remind you to call her again this week. Seeing your work-out last week will ~guilt~ you into going again this week. Planners (if you haven’t figured it out) are all about creating habits.

Find your layout

There are a few different layouts that you can choose from, especially depending on what kind of planner you choose. For the Erin Condren LifePlanner, she has a Vertical, Hourly, and Horizontal. I go with the Horizontal just because I like it. Everyone is different and, again, this choice comes down to how efficiently you will use it. I’ve been tempted to switch to hourly, but I don’t schedule clients or have appointments very often so ultimately it’s just not a good decision.

Blank spaces

Make sure you have room on the sides, tops, bottoms, and some extra “notes” pages for.. whatever you want! This area could be for lists, next months appointments, phone numbers, addresses, again – whatever! Just don’t have two notebooks/agendas for these. You want all your thoughts and plans in the same space so having two separate places for these notes would totally cancel out how efficient your being!

Add-ons

I have a monthly bill tracker in my planner, two pockets, a pouch, and a ruler. My bill tracker helps me keeps track of when my bills are paid, my credit cards, and paychecks for the month. I use the pockets to keep my pay stubs and other important papers. The pouch keeps my stickers and deposit slips safe and the ruler keeps my lines straight throughout the entire thing.

Add-ons are a great tool to keep things organized. Erin Condren and Hobby Lobby have tons of great accessories to make your planner just the way you want it.

Separate your plans

Using different colors for your plans can help so much in the long run. If everything is the same color, it’s easy to get lost in what task is next.

Here’s my color code:

Red – work related

Orange – travel related

Green – finance related

Blue – school related

Purple – birthdays & holidays

Pink – personal (lunches, events, etc.)

Gray – seperations

Black – notes

If you’re wondering why I don’t use yellow it’s because I can’t see it. Use what colors make you the most efficient. I’ve seen some awesome planners that are all written in black and the tasks were highlighted in what color made them stand out.

There isn’t a correct way to use your planner

I can give all the tips & tricks in the world, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you!

If you take away one piece of advice today it is this: USE IT. Your planner will mean nothing if you don’t use it.

Keep all your planners

My dad moved offices a few weeks ago and as we were moving tons of boxes we opened one up and found planners from the last 25 years! They were fun to look at and see how my dads clientele has increased in the last quarter century. He even had a planner from when he was doing his clinicals! There were his classes written in, tests, and dates with my mom! His whole career was written down and, honestly, it was really fun to look at.

I have my planners from college up until now and I plan to keep them all! It’ll be fun to look back one day when Elly goes to college and share with her what my days looked like – I bet their very similar! Dog parks, walks.. you know, the usual.

Your whole life can be looked back on – why not make it amazing?


I hope this helps you make your planner and your life more efficient! Leave some thoughts or photos in the comments below how you use your planner!