June 10, 2016

The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Planner (from the Beginner’s Point of View)

As I’ve mentioned, I have anxiety, which is extremely difficult to live with some days. It’s not just difficult for me, but for my husband and the rest of my family and friends. Because of this, sticking to a schedule is crucial for me. I’m fortunate enough that my anxiety is not very severe. I have good days and I have bad days. When my son, Cooper was born prematurely, we had a lot of doctor’s appointment to keep up with. He was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism which comes with extra appointments, routine blood work and medication. On top of all this, Tim and I’s lives still continued. When I returned to work two months later, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of things we had going on in our lives. I felt my mind constantly racing about what we had going on that day, week, month, as well dealing with planning our wedding coming up in August. I couldn’t stop thinking about how busy we were and desperately needed time to relax. I began researching ways to manage the hectic things going on in our lives. I then discovered the world of planners and agendas. Apparently, there is an entire social media community built around beautiful planners, efficiency systems for planners and the creative sides to planning. It was like my prayers had been answered. Starting a planner was difficult. It’s something that you need to work into your routine, as putting together your planner is work itself. For me, I enjoy doing it. Setting up my week in my planner is my quiet time after Cooper is in bed on Sunday nights. I get to sit back, make my planner look pretty and enjoy a glass of wine. The biggest benefit to me starting a planner was being able to put all my thoughts, appointments, and wedding ideas down in paper. This way I could clear my mind to be present while at work, while spending time with Cooper, and with my husband. I became a more attentive partner and parent by doing this. With that being said, I’d like to share the steps I took to start a great planner. I highly encourage you to share with me your ideas and planner experience. I’m still a Planner Newbie and really am looking for creative ways to improve mine.

Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Planner

1. Research the type of hardware you want. There are so many different types of planners that vastly range in price. Some planners are a one-time use system, while others you are able to use from year to year by simply changing the inserts. I personally prefer something reusable. I always feel the up-front investment is always cheaper in the long run. But there are still so many types and it is a personal preference. First, you will need to determine the size you want. The two most popular are A5 size and Personal size. When considering which size you will chose make sure to think about what you will mostly be using it for. Do you need a lot of space? Or do you prefer to keep your planner brief? Where will you primarily be keeping your planner? Do you want to take it with you everywhere, or do you keep it stationary? Next, decide what type of binding you want. There are so many different choices. You can purchase a standard 6-ring binder, a coil binding, disc-bound planners, etc. Do your research, and even try out different planners. There are so many bloggers who have reviewed different style planners. Sarah from Mama’s Got It Together does a great overview of the different system’s and their pros and cons. You can check that out here. I personally love using Filofax “The Original” in Hot Pink A5 size. I ordered mine on Amazon. It was a large cost up front, but I know it is sturdy and I will have it for years. It is made of beautiful soft leather, and the hot pink color is BRIGHT and so fun. I like that with a binder system, I can move things around for what works for me, which was crucial just starting to plan. I still haven’t quite figured out how I like my set up.

2. Choose a layout. Your options here could be limited based on the type of planner hardware you choose. If you are choosing a binder system or disc-bound system, chances are you will have more options. If not, I’d suggest researching what the interior of your planner will look like prior to purchasing. Most reusable planners will come with stock inserts. Personally, I find the Filofax inserts to be really dull, super thin paper, and being way too cluttered. I like having Day-On-One pages (or one page per day). It gives me plenty of room to write and doodle. My favorite inserts are from Etsy shop Veronica Foley Design LLC. You can read my review on these here . I’m also re-purposing the sample Meal Planner inserts she sent me for planning my blog posts! Other options that are popular is Week-On-Two, Month-On-Two (I also have these in front of my daily inserts). Many blogs and Etsy shops sell pre-printed inserts that are already punched for your planner, as well as printables that you can download and print at a local Office Max or Staples. 

3. Accessories. There are sooo many planner accessories out there, so do some research. I will talk about what I have in my planner, and what I’ve found not to be very useful, however these are all personal decisions based on how you plan to use yours. First thing I really wanted to do was add some flair. I started by designing my divider sheets that I received with the stock inserts of my Filofax. I’m still working on these since they are pretty boring. I decorated them with some washi tape and cute printed quotes I found on Pinterest.


Next, I ordered a planner dashboard. A dashboard is basically the cover to your planner. I got mine from Etsy (shocker!) in the Stylish Planner shop. I tried to find something beautiful that would match my bright pink planner. The shop sells covers and dashboards for all different style planners and they are all reasonably priced.

I then ordered a pocket folder for my Filofax from Sequins & Paper. This is one of my favorite planner accessory shops! The stuff is so cute and she hand illustrates everything. Such great work! I’ve already placed another order for some journaling cards (still not sure what to use these for but they are cute) and a custom made dashboard.

4. Supplies. Ok – these are crucial. You cannot have a pretty or efficient planner without the proper tools. I like to keep all of mine in silver Bando pocket I bought on clearance from Nordstrom. It’s about the actual size of my planner itself, but it holds EVERYTHING. Inside, I always have these things on hand –

  Scissors: I purchased my scissors from Poppin.com for work and just started using them for my planner instead. I love how sharp these scissors are but they are large. I may end up purchasing a smaller size for my planner.

Single Hole Punch: Skip purchasing the A5 6-Ring hole punches. It’s not worth the ridiculous price! I purchased this standard hole punch for just over $2 from CVS and it’s perfect.

A Good Pen: And make it a GOOD one! You’ll be using it to write a lot. I like using the Pilot Frixon Clicker pen. It’s erasable! And honestly, one of the best erasable pens I’ve ever used. It’s not the prettiest, but that’s nothing a little washi tape can’t fix.

Washi Tape: This is a staple for any planner who wants to get creative. It’s an inexpensive way to make a dull planner bright. I don’t usually carry it with me unless it’s a single roll. I use it at home when I plan out my week.

Multi-color Pens: I purchased a cheap pack of BIC Cristal pens for this. They are inexpensive and have really bright colors. I love the way they write also. If you like color coding these are great. I mainly just use them to keep things pretty. I also like using Sharpie fine point pens. The inserts I use are thick enough that they won’t bleed through, but that’s not always the case for Sharpies.

Sharpie Markers: I keep a handful of different Sharpies with me. I keep a couple colored, three metallic and a standard black.

Stickers & Flags: I love using stickers all over the place. I haven’t used the flags much, but I’m sure they are helpful.

5. Setting up your planner. When deciding on how you will set up your planner, this may take some time. I’ve already rearranged mine a few times and still move things around. Right now I have it sectioned off like this.

Odds & Ends: This is where I keep samples that came with my purchases, pretty pictures, yearly calendars.

Calendars: I set it up Month-On-Two with Day-On-One pages in between the months. I usually only keep three months in my planner at a time because with Day-On-One pages, it can get a little bulky. After a month is over, I pull out the pages and save them in a small plastic box. I’m a bit of a pack-rat so I save everything.

Blog: This is basically just lined paper where I can brainstorm ideas, keep my weekly posting plans and doodle.

Wedding: While my husband and I are already married, we never had a wedding so I am in the process of planning our ceremony & reception for this August. In this section I have doodles of what I want the layout of the space and ceremony to look like, to-dos, important contacts and notes.

Misc.: This is mostly planner insert samples that I know will be useful at some point but still not sure how I want to use them.   I’m probably going to be adding a Budgeting & Bill Tracker section to my planner soon. I didn’t find having a meal planner was useful because I never stuck to it. My life is too crazy to get that detailed into planning. Starting a planner can be overwhelming at first because there are so many different options. I hope this helped to clarify a few common questions. I’m still learning how to use mine every day and it’s a lot of fun. The most important part is to make a routine out of it. I open mine every morning when I get to work and look at my day. Before I even answer e-mails, I make sure I have all my meetings written in and make a short to-do list for the day. Taking planning day by day has helped me relax a lot. It’s also helped me to realize I can’t do everything exactly when I want to. By seeing my day on paper, I stress a lot less knowing what to expect next.

Have any great planner tips for me? I’d love to hear them in the comments!!

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