Setting up a Simplified Planner (or any planner really) can be kind of intimidating.

Getting the planner is pretty darn exciting!! It’s shiny, pretty, and new. A clean slate and a fresh start for the months ahead. But all those empty pages can be daunting and scary.

Sometimes those empty pages scare people away from using the planner at all.

But let me tell you something, sister. That planner? It wants to be used!!

I use my Simplified Planner every single day and can’t imagine my life or business without it—and I want you to feel the same way.

So today, I’m sharing my complete planner set up process so that you can set up your Simplified Planner (or whatever planner you purchased) in a way that works best for you!!

This is the exact system I’ve used for years now and I’m so excited to finally share it AND the ultimate Simplified Planner set up checklist so that you can set up your Simplified Planner (or any planner) with confidence… and actually use it all year long!!

Related Post: Is the Simplified Planner Right for Me? (Your Questions Answered)

Alexandra of The Productivity Zone holding a Simplified Planner and planner accessories with a happy smile on her face

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase using these links.)

HOW TO SET UP YOUR SIMPLIFIED PLANNER (OR ANY PLANNER) FOR SUCCESS

When you first get your planner, I recommend taking it out of the box and getting to know it. Look at the introduction, the prep-work pages, and the daily or weekly pages to see what’s new or changed. This should also start to give you ideas for HOW you want to use your planner in the coming year.

Once you’ve done that, you should set aside a day (or two) for you to spend some time setting it up (or as I like to call it moving in). This is especially important because THE KEY to using your planner all year long is setting it up in a way that not only works for you but also inspires you to use it every day.

Related Post: How to Use the Simplified Planner (And Why I Love It)

GIVE YOUR PLANNER A PURPOSE

Take a few minutes to think about WHY you bought it. 🤔

Maybe it was to help you manage your day-to-day schedule, to keep better track of appointments and projects, to tackle all those to-dos, to simplify, to stay organized, to help you find some sort of balance between your work and your life, to reach your goals…

Giving your planner a purpose gives it VALUE and ultimately makes it an important part of your life and business. You are honestly way more likely to use it when you realize it’s a  tool you can’t do either life or business without.

Related Posts: How to Use the Simplified Planner for Life and Business

FIGURE OUT A SYSTEM FOR HOW AND WHEN YOU’LL USE IT

If using your planner does not become part of your daily routine, you’ll never use it. You must make checking in with it a multiple times a day habit.

My planner is the first thing I reach for in the morning, the last thing I touch at night, and the only thing I check in with multiple times each day. It’s a simple system that works and I’m all about sharing, so here it is:

  • First thing in the morning: I check in with my planner as part of my workday start up routine. When I sit down at my desk, before I open my inbox, before I even wake up my computer, I pull out my Simplified Planner to review my schedule and list of to-dos.
  • Throughout the day: I like to leave my planner open right beside me while I work so I can clearly see my schedule and check off to-dos as I do them.
  • At the end of my workday: I take a few minutes to write out my schedule and to-do list for the next day so I can hit the ground running. It’s the last thing I do before I end my workday.

Pro Tip: I also recommend giving your planner a designated (sacred) space so you always know where to find it!! I like to leave mine right on my desk or in my top desk drawer.

Related Posts: How to Make the Most of Your Paper Planner + How to End Your Workday for a More Productive Day Tomorrow

FIGURE OUT A COLOR CODING SYSTEM

Color coding can get overwhelming and out of hand pretty fast so I recommend keeping things super simple!! Pick ONE WAY of color coding and that’s it (i.e. don’t color code by family member and type of event). Too many rules or systems is complicated; and if using your planner becomes complicated, you won’t follow through.

I’ve finally perfected the following system for myself using Simplified’s color coding stickers:

The Simplified Planner color coding sticker key that I use on a daily basis

I recommend trying different color pens, highlighters, or even stickers to see which method works best for you!!

Pro Tip: Make a color coding key and keep it in the front pocket of your planner with your sticker sheets for easy access.

Related Post: 5 Things You Need to Be Color Coding in Your Business

FIGURE OUT A STICKER SYSTEM

Stickers and color coding kind of go hand-in-hand. You do what works best for you, but in case you need some inspiration…

This year, I plan to use:

  • Flag stickers on the monthly page spread for important business days like Quarterly Clean Up and Monthly Prep + Plan + Duty Day.
  • Color coding stickers to color code my schedule and to-do list each day.
  • Colorful doodle stickers to add a little intentional color and fun to the pages of my planner.
  • Washi tape to make multiple day events like conferences or vacations stand out on the monthly page spread.

Pro Tip: Stickers are great when used in a way that works for you, but doesn’t distract you. Use them to make important dates or events stand out, but don’t use so many that you can’t figure out what you wrote down for each day’s tasks and to-dos.

Related Post: My Favorite Planner Accessories (And How I Use Them)

DO YOUR SIMPLIFIED PREP-WORK

The prep-work pages were new to the 2018-2019 Simplified Planner and I’m so glad they’ve decided to make them a staple. I love having the opportunity to look at the things that worked and didn’t work last year, refresh my routines for this year, and more. It really helps set the tone for the coming days, weeks, and months.

*Please note that the prep-work pages are only available in the Signature Simplified (Daily and Weekly) Planners. If you have Dapperdesk, one of the At-A-Glance planners, or another brand of planner, I suggest doing your prep-work on notepaper.

The prep-work pages have the following sections:

  • what worked last year
  • what didn’t work last year
  • ideas for new routines
  • ideas for new healthy habits
  • weekly routines
  • daily (morning and evening) routines
  • The Simplicity Challenge
  • and yearly bucket list

Pro Tip: If you don’t have one of the Signature Simplified Planners, but want to keep better track of your daily and weekly routines, you could write your morning and evening routines on a post-it and move it from day to day.

Filled in prep-work pages in a Signature Daily Simplified Planner

WHAT TO PUT ON THE MONTHLY PAGE SPREAD

Think of the monthly page spread as the bird’s eye view of what’s happening that month. It’s the place for all the big picture stuff, not the nitty-gritty detail stuff.

Write in things like birthdays, anniversaries, school or sporting events for kiddos, school vacations, family vacations, business deadlines, launches, meetings, doctor’s appointments, date nights, self-care days, and long weekends. I also like to use the notes section on the monthly page spread to keep track of my business focus for the month.

Pro Tip: Write in perpetual dates (the ones that happen on the same day year after year) right away and add in other dates as you schedule them/find out about them. Compare each monthly page spread to your Google Calendar or iCal at the start of each new month to make sure you’ve got everything. Nobody likes to miss a deadline or be surprised by a meeting!!

Related Posts: How to Use a Digital Calendar and Simplified Planner Together + How to Never Miss a Deadline, Appointment, or Meeting Again

Stickers on the monthly page spread in a Signature Daily Simplified Planner

WHAT TO PUT ON THE DAILY PAGES OR WEEKLY PAGE SPREAD

The daily pages or weekly page spread are where the hard work and magic happens. It’s the place for all the nitty-gritty detail stuff including where you gotta go, who you gotta see, and what you gotta do.

  • Each daily page is split into three simple sections. I use the My Day section to time block my entire day and keep track of related to-dos or other things I must do that day in the To Do section. I keep a food journal in the Notes section and I sometimes use the header space at the top to write a daily affirmation or intention for the week.
  • Each weekly page spread includes a lined space for your schedule and a checkmark list for your to-dos. If you don’t have many scheduled meetings or appointments, you could use the lined space for notes instead.

Related Post: Why I Love Time Blocking (And You Should, Too!)

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER PUTTING IN YOUR PLANNER

I thought I would share a few of the things I schedule into my planner that make my days, weeks, months, and year so much easier, smoother, and more productive!! I hope you find them as helpful as I do!!

  • My Fresh Start Systems are days dedicated to giving myself and my business a clean slate and a fresh start. I mark off the days I’ll do my Annual Review, Quarterly Clean Ups, and Monthly Prep + Plan + Duty Days on the monthly page spread with flag stickers or washi tape that coordinates with that month’s tab color.
  • Power Hours: You know all of those little, one-off tasks that you have to do every day (including the ones that crop up during the day)? I keep track of all of those in the To Do section of each daily page and then binge do them in a Power Hour (marked with either a fuchsia or navy color coding sticker for business or personal tasks) each day. I set a timer, glue my butt to the chair, and get them all done in one hour. It’s way more efficient to batch them together than to do them here, there, and everywhere throughout the day.
  • Business Education and Self-Development Time: It can be hard to find time for business education and self-development, which is why you have to make time. Schedule full days, half days, or blocks of time on certain days to get your learn on!! (I like to mark my business education or self-development time with a light pink color coding sticker.)
  • Introvert Recovery Days come after days that involve A LOT of extroverting. I’m the biggest introvert you’ll probably ever meet and an Introvert Recovery Day is the ONLY thing that gets me back to my normal, energetic, sassy, and productive self.
  • Morning and Eventing Routines: Because if you don’t schedule the time, you probably won’t have the time or you’ll forget about them completely. Morning and evening routines should bookend your day and make you feel your absolute best. (If your current routines aren’t doing that for you, we need to talk inside Running on Routines!!)
  • Breakfast + Lunch + Dinner: Because if they’re not scheduled into your day, you’ll probably starve. Drinking coffee all day is not enough. Your body and brain need REAL FOOD. So make it a point to schedule meals into your day, every day.
  • Travel Time: This is something I see a lot of people forget when planning their days. They write down dentist appointment at 10am and then pack tasks and to-dos all around it. They forget that it takes 40 minutes with traffic to get there and 40 minutes with traffic to get back. Plan your days accordingly. Always take into account travel time, traffic, and wait time.
  • Wins of the Day: I got this idea from one of my coaching clients. She started to keep track of how many Etsy sales she made every day and how much she earned from those sales in the Notes section of her Daily Simplified Planner. You could also keep track of course sales, client inquiries, email list signups, and more!!

I hope my planner set up process and the ultimate Simplified Planner set up checklist help you find success with your planner this year!! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you. Most of all, I hope you open that planner you just purchased with confidence and excitement this year!! 🥰


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Alexandra of The Productivity Zone holding a Simplified Planner and planner accessories with a happy smile on her face

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. I only share about the products and services I personally use and love most and think you will, too!!