Modern Open Dated Planner in Camel on Tabletop with Plant

Along with losing weight, eating right, or practicing mindfulness, your New Year’s resolution might include a commitment to being more organized. The question is, where do you start? 


We asked ourselves the same question and concluded that the best way to organize everything, from a new style launch to drinking more water, is to write down a plan. We collaborated for months on end with Smitten on Paper, an expert brand on personalized luxury stationery, to create a line of planners to do just that.  You can use a planner as a time management tool to organize and remind you of your most important daily tasks and have a clear picture of how to reach long-term goals.


Why Should I Use a Planner?

Planning can seem tedious or overwhelming at times, however, there is no need to be reluctant. You should use a planner because it allows you to turn a large goal or long timeline into a series of smaller subtasks or short milestones that are easier to achieve. It is particularly effective when working from home or on a hybrid schedule to create balance and discipline and avoid work fatigue. Using the method of focusing on smaller pieces of the plan, you will find yourself making progress overall and the positive reinforcement will energize and encourage you to complete the bigger goal.


It is important to choose the right planner to match the way you want to break down your goals. The most common type of custom planner is the annual planner. This yearly planner breaks down a set year into monthly and/or weekly pages for planning. You could also consider using an undated refillable planner like our Open Dated Planner, which does not dedicate spaces to specific days or months. Instead, you can write in your own dates and use the blank spaces to focus on the time periods that need the most planning and leave out the guilt of wasted, unused pages.


Undated and daily planners will give you more of an agenda book feel. For a true breakdown of tasks, a daily planner will allow you to plan out each hour or couple of hours in a day. Daily planners are especially useful for goals that require a lot of collaboration with others or many subtasks to complete. If your goal is particularly people-oriented, a dedicated appointment book might also help you in your planning needs.


A blank journal might give you more freedom and control on your journey  towards building a functional planner. Our Medium Journal is a bound leather journal cover and the journal insert can be lined, spiral bound, or blank allowing you a lot of freedom in deciding how to setup a planner to suit your work style.


If a physical weekly planner seems like a hassle, there are digital planner options that will allow you to keep your planner conveniently on your phone and at your fingertips. A good digital planner goes beyond the color-coding and notifications of something like Google Calendar, allowing you to complete many of the functions of a written custom planner such as making extensive notes and creating to-do lists.

How Do I Use a Planner?

To use a planner, first you need to decide what kind of timeline you have to accomplish your goal and how long is a reasonable amount of time to achieve it. From the final deadline, you can take a top-down approach and work backwards to break down the ultimate goal into more manageable and specific small tasks.


An example would be you decide to sign up to run a 5K race in three months’ time. You can already run a mile, but five kilometers is about 3 miles, so you need to triple your distance. You can use a planner to create a schedule to remind you of what days you are going to run and when you want to consider increasing your distance, so you are running the full three miles by the time race morning rolls around.

Step #1: Add Your Events & Appointments

When using a planner, it is best to start by adding the events, meetings, reoccurring holidays with social commitments, and appointments with definite dates. The easiest dates to start with are holidays and annual events. Birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays you chose to celebrate with family and friends should be easy to write in the appropriate spots.


Events could include parties you have RSVP’d for, like weddings or Friendsgiving. Graduations and church ministry meetings should also be added to the calendar. Don’t forget to write down any doctor or dentist appointments as well.


Meetings at work or school, and even PTA meetings that you choose to attend can be included. We would also suggest including any reoccurring meetings for hobbies like book club or your weekend sport league practices and games.


Writing down definite dates first allows you to see where you have room in your schedule to place smaller tasks or if you have room for another event. It also provides a visual of where you might be overbooking yourself or won’t have the time to reach a goal. This is especially useful when you want to create a better work-life balance. You can take that visual of your schedule and determine where you might need to reduce or increase the time set aside for work or home tasks.

Step #2: Add Your Tasks

After you have your major event dates added, you can work on adding the smaller tasks or steps that lead up to the dates. For work tasks, this may mean writing down other significant deadlines and any deliverables that need to be produced at that time.


When completing general home tasks, you might write down when bills are due if you are budgeting or days when you need to meal prep if you are trying to eat less take out or lose weight. Exercise is an easy task to break down. Like our earlier example, you can turn a large goal like the weight you want to bench press or the distance you want to run into reoccurring events that build up towards your final goal.


The key method is to write down any major tasks or pieces of the overall goal or deadline that the plan will not work without. An example would be if you plan to drink 8 glasses of water today but maybe you need a reminder to fill up your water bottle at the beginning of the day or need to set a task to buy a bottle with measurements lines for more motivation.

Step #3: Add Your Lists

Once you have dates and major tasks to reach those deadlines written down, you might need to list all the items needed to complete your task or goal. Lists could be made up of physical items like groceries for the weekly shopping, a selection of dishes for Sunday dinner, or materials like clothes and gifts for special occasions.


You could also create a list of to-dos. The bemusing “honey-do” list of home repairs, décor you might want or need to update the home. Furthermore, a planner can be helpful during renovations, so you can personally keep track of timelines and have a good idea of the progress being made. Especially if you are working on a DIY renovation project, you can keep lists of materials needed to finish projects.


Your lists should be a collection of items or short phrases made of two to four descriptive keywords. If you find yourself writing out full sentences and bullets to the list item, then that item may need to become a task instead.

Step #4: Maintain Your Planner

Now that you have a detailed plan, it is important that you maintain your planner and the initial momentum with regular updates. A planner is only helpful if you are consistent about using it. Whether this means updating daily or adding events monthly, you should make it a habit to spend time refreshing your planner and evaluating your progress on the tasks you set for yourself.


Like any other big undertaking or lifestyle change, repetitive behavior reinforces and increases the likelihood you will create good habits. If it feels too daunting to fill out an entire year’s worth of goals and dates, commit to planning out shorter time periods. Planning the goals you can accomplish in the next three months might feel more reasonable.  


In addition to quarterly planning, you would greatly benefit from short regular check-ins and updates daily or weekly. That means taking 5-10 minutes out your day or week to make sure your planner is correct. You could also pick a day towards the middle or end of your planned quarter to plan the next quarter.


Another way to be consistent involves every week that you update your current quarter, use a few minutes to update another week in the next quarter. This way your calendar is constantly moving forward, and you won’t run into crunch times or scheduling conflicts during the upcoming quarter. You might find immense satisfaction and lower your stress at work or in daily life by crossing out past events and checking off lists and tasks.


If you choose to use one of our personalized planners and organizers or a purely online option, everyone can find a way to benefit from using a planner to effectively organize their life by breaking down large goals into small tasks. Time management is a good life skill to have and developing a use for a planner is an excellent tool to add to your work or home office to help you achieve the stress-free, work-life balance you want.