How to Make Your Paper Planner Work For You

This isn’t my first post about using a paper planner. I am a self-professed techie, but my planners have to be paper. There is just something satisfying about writing things down. If you have been around for a long time you probably already know about my planner obsession. But if you’re spending time in the same online circles that I am, then you’ve seen the Worst Purchase of 2020 memes too. People joked repeatedly (or maybe they weren’t really joking) that a planner topped the list of something no one needed during the pandemic. Interestingly enough for me, it was just the opposite. I felt like mine actually kept me sane. I used it to schedule and reschedule my appointments (apologies to my dentist- I pushed that 6-month dental cleaning back a few times until I felt safe enough to actually go).

But I also used it to keep track of birthdays so they didn’t surprise me last minute ala facebook style and to stay ahead of other important events, when all my days started to run together and I couldn’t keep track of the time of day, more or less someone’s birthday.  I scheduled my workouts to give my fitness schedule some structure when my days felt fluid yet hazy, and I still worked out my career and personal goals on paper-the best way that I know how. 

So yes, I used my planner in a pandemic and I’m ready to get the most out of mine as we dive into this new year! If you are looking for ways to maximize your planner use in 2021 or just looking to make the switch from digital then here are a few things I do that might help you too. 

1. Pick a specific place to start your planning day-I always chose a pretty planner because it literally lives on my coffee table. There’s no writing things down on scraps of paper or half scribing in my phone because I have no idea where I left my planner. It is always in the same place. Your place might be your kitchen table, your work desk, or even your tote but the important part is to make sure that you always return it to the very same spot (or leave it there). The first step in making sure that you use your planner is knowing where it is. 

2. Make it a part of your morning routine-I always start my day with a quick monthly scan. It is so much easier for me to see my month, or even the next month laid out in front of me. Even if my schedule is open that day it’s helpful to see which days are full. After my scan, I write my to-do list and jot down a few things I am grateful for. This helps me get a productive start to my day but journaling gratitude also grounds me in the present too. 

3. Mix it up– Use your planner for doses of inspiration too. Schedules, finances, and to-do lists might seem like a bore but giving yourself some space to map out your goals, add inspirational quotes and affirmations, might just make you more likely to flip it open. If all you have in written down are appointments and chores you may be less likely to turn to it especially in more stressful times. Make sure your planner is not just showing you what you need to do but make sure it speaks to what you want to do. Record your goals and your dreams and use it as a map to not only mark where you are but to show you how to get to where you are headed too!

4. And finally, make it personal and have a little fun-I use different color ink to make sure that business, personal and social events stand out. I use stickers to mark special occasions or just to bring me a little joy. Washi tape (decorative adhesive tape) and colored binder clips help me flip through sections easily so that my gratitude journals, goal setting plans, and to-do lists don’t run together. And using different colorful ways to mark the sections makes it more fun and so much easier to flip through too. 

There really is no one way to use a planner. It is more about making it work for you. I have friends who order personalized planners and that’s a great option but it’s also very easy to personalize any planner too. My favorite planners are Blue Sky and Day Designer and you can find them here and here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on using a paper planner and feel free to share your tips. I’m always inspired by this community too. 

Until Next Post, 

Xo Tonya Parker

*The gifted planners featured above are Cupcakes and Cashmere from Blue Sky but this is not a sponsored post. As always all opinions are my own.

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Tonya Parker is a counselor, author and certified life coach who believes in helping women look and feel their best! Ambassador for O, The Oprah Magazine and author of Single Mom Chic

3 thoughts on “How to Make Your Paper Planner Work For You

  1. I LOVE my planners too! I feel lost if I skip using mine for a bit. I adore decorating with stickers and tape and lots of positive affirmations. I’ve seen some of the nice ones from Blue Sky at Target.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely LOVE that you’re a planner gal … me too! My mother used the Sierra Club’s planner and had it on a shelf in our kitchen. I’m sure she thought I never took advice or learned anything from her … but that planner stuck and I’m paper planner all the way. I love using colored highlighters for birthdays, holidays, important anniversaries. My New Year’s Day ritual is to transfer all those important dates from one year to the next. In our new house I’m having a difficult time finding the right spot to keep my planner … and its messing me up. I need to see it first thing in the morning and prefer to keep in on my nightstand. Popping it into your tote is a great idea … I need to start doing that because I make appointment when I’m out and about and get home to find there are conflicts. Everyone gives me a hard time about not using my phone calendar … but why mess with what works?! xo


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