Despite all the digital apps and calendars, I still rely on a paper planner. And for about 5 years, I’ve used Emily’s Ley’s Simplified Planner. For me, it’s the best one out there in terms of quality, format and as the name implies…simplicity.
While I’ve used her weekly and daily versions, the daily is best for me. Here’s how I use this planner throughout the year. While I use the Simplified Planner, this could work with any simple daily planner.
The Simplified planner has some really nice “worksheets” at the beginning of the planner to help you think through your year ahead. Since I use the annual calendar, this is a great tool for me going into a new year. There are simple sections to fill out that include:
- A yearly bucket list, providing a very laid back way to write down some goals and accomplishments you’d like to achieve
- A review of routines and healthy habits that worked/didn’t work, along with a section for new routines and healthy habits to adopt
- An outline of routines by day of the week and morning/evening
Planing for the Week Ahead
Using a paper planner allows me to do something tough for me digitally – absorb and focus on my weekly/daily schedule. The act of putting pen to paper is an activity every Sunday that helps me truly see what’s going on in my life that week and then set priorities and plan my time. Here’s how I do it:
- As appointments and meetings get planned, they go right into my Google calendars (for personal appointments) and Outlook for my work meetings (unfortunately I can’t sync Outlook to my Google for various reasons). If an appointment is within work hours or work extends beyond my office hours, I would have already checked the other calendar to avoid a conflict.
- Every Sunday, I sit down with this planner, look at my week in Google and Outlook and write down my week into the Simplified planner.
- Once I can see my week on paper, I touch base with my husband on any extra appointments or conflicts that we couldn’t avoid earlier. For example, if one of the kids has a dentist appointment after school but a meeting popped up for either oof us, we’ll figure out who will drive to the dentist or reschedule the appointment.
- I still work out of my Google and Outlook throughout the week, but my Simplified planner is out on my desk too to remind me of everything that’s happening. Especially with my Google calendar, I find it hard to see the broader view on my phone and don’t typically have it up on a computer, so this really helps me to have it written down.
Managing Daily To-Dos
Organizing my to-dos is a constant struggle for me. I have a few different systems to capture to-dos digitally and I haven’t quote mastered one way to do it. However, I do have a great system of keeping track of what I need to do in my planner on a daily/weekly basis. In the daily Simpified planner, there is a large section each day for a to-do list. Here’s how I use it:
- On Sunday when I write down my weekly appointments, I’ll also write down what I have to do that Monday knowing what’s on the calendar. If I know of a weekly to-do that is later in the week, I’ll add it to that day.
- I look back at the previous week’s to-do lists to make sure nothing fell through the cracks. Usually these items were nice to haves. At that time, I’ll also assess — does that really need to get done?
- Once a day is complete, I’ll move any to-dos that didn’t get done to the following day. Again, if I didn’t do it, I’ll assess, does it really need to get done.
- If a to-do comes up during the week that’s far out (ex. I learn that in a month I need to sign the kids up for an activity), then I’ll add that to my Google calendar for that date. When the week comes up, that would then go into my to-dos when I go over my calendar on that previous Sunday.
I find paper is the best way to track habits — there’s something about putting pen to paper to feel a sense of accomplishment.
Because all of vacations, appointments, birthdays and holidays are in Google, I found I didn’t use the Simplified planner’s monthly view. So, I started using it to track my workouts. I’m the type of person who needs to do something every day tor nearly everyday to make it a lifelong habit.
For a long time, my workouts were all or nothing. If I missed a few days, they fell off. Now, with this monthly view, rather than planning workouts ahead and then feeling bad when I missed, I track what I did. To me, it’s all about finding a consistent rhythm and this system rewards me for doing something, even if it’s a walk or stretch. It’s all about keeping my movement going. And if I miss a day, no big deal, I just put that it was a rest day and keep going the next day.
After my workout, I simply write down in the monthly view what I did — often that motivates me to do a little more than I would have. For example, if I write down that I did a 10-minute arm weights class, I may add another 10-minutes abs class.
So to sum it up, I really rely on the Simplified planner to help me keep my life in order. I can’t imagine having everything purely digital since I’m such a visual person. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I want to hear from you — do you still use a paper planner in some way?