Setting up a Simplified Planner (or any planner really) can be pretty intimidating.
Getting the planner is pretty darn exciting!! It’s shiny, pretty, and new; a clean slate and the freshest of fresh starts for the months ahead…
But I know so many people who are so intimidated by the empty pages that they never wind up using the planner. And that’s not how a planner works. It won’t magically change your life unless you actively and consistently use it. (And believe me, 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 step-by-step process that will help you set up your Simplified Planner (or whatever planner you purchased) in a way that works best for you!!
It’s 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 round)!! 👊🏻
(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 REALLY)
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 changed or new. 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 is setting it up in a way that not only works for you but will also inspire you to use it every day.
Which leads us to step number one…
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 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’re more likely to use it when you realize it’s a tool you can’t do either life or business without.
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 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 morning 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 scheduled tasks and 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.
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’ll never follow through.
I’ve finally perfected the following system for myself using Simplified’s color coding stickers:
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 inspiration…
This year, I plan to use:
- Flag stickers to draw attention to important business days like my monthly prep + plan + duty days and quarterly clean-up days on the monthly page spread. (In the past, I’ve used flag stickers for birthdays and anniversaries and to make my top 3 to-dos stand out on the to-do side of each daily page—one flag fits right over 3 of the checkmark circles!!)
- Color coding stickers to color code my tasks and to-dos each day and add color to my list of monthly goals and action steps on the monthly page spread.
- Colorful doodle stickers and sticker book stickers to add a little intentional color and fun to the pages of my planner.
- Washi tape to make extended events like conferences or vacations stand out on the daily pages and 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 SIMPLIFIED PREP-WORK
The prep-work pages are new to the 2018-2019 Simplified Planners and I have to say I’m a fan. I love having the opportunity to look at the things that worked and didn’t work last year, refresh my routines, and more. It really helps set the tone for the coming days, weeks, and months.
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, you can simply do your prep-work on note paper.
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
- 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.
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. (You can also use colorful doodle stickers or sticker book stickers to draw attention to these things like I did.) I also like to use the notes section on the monthly page spread to keep track of my monthly goals and action steps.
Pro Tip: Write in the perpetual dates (the ones that happen on the same day year after year) right away and add in others as you schedule them/find out about them. Double check this by comparing it 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!!
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 and what you gotta do.
- Each daily page is split into three (simple) sections. I use the My Day section to block schedule my entire day and keep track of other things I must do that day in the To Do section. Finally, I keep a food journal, meal plan, and write down things I’m grateful for in the Notes section. I also use the header space at the top (by the date) to write a daily affirmation or intention for the week.
- Each weekly page spread includes space for your schedule, to-dos, notes, and dinner for each day of the week (including Saturday and Sunday). I recommend scheduling your meetings, appointments, and top 3 to-dos in the lined section, additional tasks in the to-do section, and what’s for dinner next to the little pot icon.
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!! ☺️
- Monthly Prep + Plan + Duty Days: The first workday of the month for me is Monthly Prep + Plan + Duty Day where I do all of the prepping, planning, and duty-doing for the entire month. (I use a flag sticker that coordinates with that month’s tab color to mark the day on both the monthly page spread and daily pages.)
- Power Productivity 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 them in the To Do section of each daily page and then batch do them in a Power Productivity Hour (marked by a yellow color coding sticker) each day. I set a timer, glue my butt to the chair, and get them all done in one hour. It’s so much easier to batch them together than to do them here and there throughout the day.
- Business Education Time: It can be hard to find time for business education, but it’s a must if you want to keep growing. However, you aren’t going to magically find the time, you have to make the time. Schedule full days or blocks of time on certain days to get your learn on!! (I mark my business education time with a light pink color coding sticker.)
- Self-Care: It is so important to make time for downtime. I’m not talking about vacations (although scheduling those is important, too). I’m talking about days off, facials, massages, mani/pedis, naps, window shopping with your best friend, lunch dates with your mom, date nights with your significant other, and even just 30 minutes of no work, no email, no interruptions every single night. It’s good for your heart, mind, body, and soul!!
I hope you’re feeling more confident, ready, and excited to start using your planner!! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you. I truly hope my system and the ultimate Simplified Planner set up checklist help you find success with your planner this year!!
Disclaimer: I was not paid or approached in any way to write about these brands or products. I only endorse products that I personally use and love. Some of these links are affiliate links.