I’ve worked with Whitney English for over 7 years, but my love of paper planners goes WAY back. I loved office supplies as a child. I “played school” constantly. I still have every planner I have ever used from high school on.
A core memory of mine is participating in Take Your Daughter to Work Day. My Dad showed me the office supply closet and let me take whatever I wanted. Pens. Highlighters! Notepads. Notebooks. Mechanical pencils. Stickers. File folders. It was a dream!
I still love office supplies (hi, I work for a planner company!), but I’ve also honed in on the tools that help me be most productive. Efficiency is important to me. Time is a finite resource. I want to use my working hours as best I can. It makes the non-working hours that much sweeter!
Here are some of my best tips for using your planner more efficiently. Grab your 2022 planner, your favorite office supplies, and let’s get started with the first five tips!
1. Write everything down.
Don’t attempt to keep everything in your head. Mental lists don’t work. In fact, trying to keep things organized in your head alone is a losing game that will tax you mentally. What was the thing my boss asked me to do in our meeting? When is that project due? What was the item I was going to grab next time I was at Target? Write it down and you don’t have to remember it.
I use a combination of my planner, notepads, and Evernote to take notes and create lists. Everything gets written down. I spend time once a week consolidating the important stuff to my planner. Use notes pages for lists or meeting notes. Jot down important numbers or figures you want to reference later on. Your planner is the central spot for everything you need!
2. Don’t be afraid of digital calendars and tools.
Loving paper planners does not mean you can’t also use digital tools. I love digital calendars! I use Evernote or the Apple Notes app often. Google docs, Slack, and Asana are tools our team uses to stay organized. These resources work great in conjunction with your planner! Keep a shared digital calendar between you and anyone who needs to know your schedule. You can have multiple shared calendars. Share appointments and tasks with the appropriate people like a spouse or co-workers.
My digital calendar is the first stop for appointments, vacations, project due dates, birthdays, and celebrations. I love that I can add to it from my computer or phone and add things far into the future (like my cousin’s wedding that’s a year and a half away!). I set recurring reminders for birthdays and anniversaries. And I love being able to switch from weekly, monthly, and yearly views.
3. Use a prep day to review your plans for the week ahead.
A 5-10 minute preview of the week ahead is a habit so ingrained my planning process that I would be lost without it. I typically do this on Sundays but you could also do it on Friday afternoon or Monday morning.
Review your digital calendars and transfer meetings and appointments to your planner. Notice any due dates or meetings that you need to prepare for and take note of those tasks. You can also add workouts and meal plans! But no pressure to schedule out every second of the week. This is a quick exercise. The point is to prepare your planner for the week.
4. Use weekly lists to keep you on track.
I always have a running weekly to-do list, one for work and one for personal items. Use a notes page in your planner, a note on your phone, or a notepad to keep track of the list. Sometimes I’ll transfer tasks to a specific day but I also like the freedom to tackle items as I find the time. I can take a quick 10-minute break in the middle of the day to cross off an item from my personal list. Or batch similar tasks in an afternoon.
Seeing a full weekly overview of things I need or want to get done helps me prioritize the tasks and my time. If a weekly list feels like too much, use a monthly list. Monthly lists are also a great way to stay on track with your yearly goals.
5. Make tomorrow’s to-do list at the end of each day.
Hello anxiety, meet the brain dump. Picture this. It’s the end of your workday and you are tired! You feel a little defeated because you didn’t get everything done you’d hoped to get done that day. Plus, there is a global pandemic continuing to rage. There are just a few things on your mind. Do a brain dump by getting everything out of your head and onto paper. Clear your mind of all the worries and to-dos. You can tackle those tomorrow. In fact, you’ll be glad you have a to-do list prepped for you in the morning!
I’ll be back with five more tips for using your planner more efficiently in 2022! In the meantime, what are your favorite planner-related tips? Share below, I’d love to know!