Planning on paper can be a fun ritual to add to your life for several reasons. You’d think that, with the ever-growing list of productivity apps, paper planners would be obsolete, and yet they are more popular than ever. Today’s planner communities center around people who have several things in common: a desire to manage their lives and time well, as well as a love of paper and/or art.
Whether you’ve been faithfully using a paper planner since middle school or are just now toying with the idea of making the switch, let’s chat for a few minutes about seven ways to make the planning experience fun.
*This post contains affiliate links. This means I receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase something through the links provided…and I only post products I’ve tried and believe in. Thanks for supporting the Scattered Fashionista!
1. Collect your planner supplies
Before you begin, one tool is essential: the actual planner. Your choice will depend on your lifestyle and personal style, so I’ve listed a few of my favorites over the years along with the reasons these planners have made it to my love-list:
- Staples monthly and weekly planner
This is the planner I used for probably five or more years. I loved that it was inexpensive (maybe $20 max?), it folded over easily, had plenty of room to write appointments in the monthly view, and had vertical weekly columns for my daily task lists. Why did I switch? Because I discovered a world of color in the …
You can read my reviews here and here, along with links to $10 off your first purchase. I’m a lover of pretty much everything Erin Condren. Her products made planning fun again for me. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve always loved the planning process. But Erin Condren got me to take the first few steps of making my planner artistic and colorful. So why did I switch from EC? Because I wanted to give the bullet journal system a try, which led to…
This notebook is quite literally a blank slate. I’ll go over the bullet journal system at a later date, but for now you can learn more by watching this video by Ryder Carroll, creator of the bullet journal. (Note: this is my current planner.)
This is a new product from Erin Condren, so of course I had to give it a try. I’m using the spiral bound dot grid notebook for my blog bullet journal, and so far it’s working well for that purpose. I love that I can keep my handy-dandy post-it dashboard clipped into the back of the book, as well as the fact that each notebook comes with re-positionable labels, which I can use for my blog post planning.
Related posts: Planning for Success: The Why
Pens and Markers
Once you’ve settled on the planner of your choice, it’s time to pick up your pen. I’m pretty much a pen whore. Without my pen obsession, my savings account would be quite cushy. But pens bring me joy, ya know?
- Faber-Castell PITT Artist pen in Superfine for my Leuchtturm 1917
- Faber-Castell PITT Artest pen in Fine for my EC dot grid
- Staedler Triplus Fineliners for accent colors
Other favorites include:
Stickers and Washi Tape
You can find loads of planner-friendly stickers and washi tape at Michaels, AC Moore, on Amazon, through Erin Condren, or on Etsy. And let me tell you, it’s your lucky day! At the end of this post you can jump into a giveaway for a set of planner stickers from Beyond the Paper Flower, my friend Kellie’s Etsy shop. Kellie’s stickers are super fun, and you can find stickers for every imaginable planner need. Kellie has an amazing sense of personal and decorating style, so it was no surprise to see her artistry shine through her stickers, as well. And you’ll definitely want to check out her Instagram feed.
The last thing I love adding to my planner is photos. I use my Polaroid ZIP printer from EC to print these up nine to a sheet. The paper is actually sticker paper, so I slice them, peel off the back, and stick them into my planner. I use these to mark birthdays on my monthly spreads, as well as for special photos from daily life that I want to commemorate.
2. Make planning a ritual
Feel free to call me a dork, but one of my favorite parts of the week is when I sit down to plan Sunday night after the kids are in bed. Sometimes I have a glass of wine, sometimes not. The house is quiet (mostly), and I’m able to get artistic and do a giant brain-dump for the week. This frees me to wake up Monday morning with a plan already in place so I can dive right into the work ahead.
Since switching to the bullet journal, I’ve also made nightly planning a ritual. This consists of 10-20 minutes reviewing what I have or haven’t accomplished for the day, what’s on tap for the following day, and what tasks most appropriately fit into my schedule. I also make notes about the weather forecast, which helps me remember to lay out my clothes for the following day.
While your ritual could be completely different from mine, having a ritual is an important factor in your planning success and enjoyment. Experiment until you find out what works for you.
3. Find your planning groove
Planning, like anything in life, must be done according to your personality. I love lists. LOVE. It’s certifiable. My friend Sara, on the other hand, HATES lists. When I post pictures of my lists, they make her physically ill. So if she tried to fit her creative self into my Type-A system, the consequences would be disastrous.
Think about your goals for planning. Are you trying to manage your time well? Stay on top of the kids’ schedules? Juggle work and life? Create a scrapbook? Once you know your goal, think about when you last achieved something similar to that goal. What helped you do so? When did you last feel successful and fulfilled? What organizational systems were you (or weren’t you) using?
This is the time to tap into your personality. Pick a system that fits you. It might take time, trial, and error, but in the end you’ll achieve what many call “planner peace.” That’s when you know you’ve found your planning groove.
4. Make planning fun
If there’s not someone breathing down our neck, generally we humans only stick to what brings us some sort of benefit. And if there’s no monetary benefit, then it better be darn good fun. That’s why, if possible, your planning routine needs to be fun.
Remember my friend Sara? I remember her posting her task list a few years ago. She’d created a free-form coloring sheet with to-do items inside various interlocking shapes. As she completed the tasks, she colored the shapes in. By the end she had a paper that resembled stained glass. The list had no ordered logic, so Sara didn’t feel as confined by it. Again, she worked with her personality.
While I’m a pretty structured person, I dislike rigid schedules. I work better with chunks of work time, in which I can fit whatever tasks I deem appropriate. But if I said 8:15-8:30 meant email, followed by writing until 9, then contacting customers until 9:30…I’d never get started. While getting work done isn’t as easy as selecting which chocolate truffle I’ll sample next from the box, at least I’m leaving myself open to choices.
For me, part of the fun in planning is the creative aspect. I enjoy experimenting with hand lettering, doodles, and adding washi and stickers. My planners are filled with creativity–usually inspired by someone else–but it still brings me joy. Go with what works for you.
5. Join a planner community
If you haven’t yet joined a planner group on Facebook, you might not yet realize what big geeks we are. Planner girls are a serious lot. Thank God washi is legal in the United States, but we still need support groups for our obsessions.
A few of my favorite planner groups on Facebook include:
Here you’ll find people as crazy as you, inspiration for ways to plan better, and you’ll learn whatever you could possibly want to learn about hacks, supplies, and more.
6. Try new things in your planner, but be faithful to your style
I never thought I’d leave my Erin Condren Life Planner, but in February the call of the bullet journal grew too loud to resist. However, I’m no BuJo purist. I know that I need a full calendar with me at all times, so I’ve added that to the back of my notebook. Ryder’s vertical monthly calendar didn’t work for me, so I use a traditional two-page monthly view.
Maybe you want your planner to be more of a scrapbook. Scrap away! Maybe you like things simpler, and to you black is the only color. Have at it. Whatever suits your goal and makes you happy is what will be the most successful system for you.
In March I attempted to keep a gratitude log in my BuJo. Should I continue this log? Probably. I need to practice gratefulness every day. Did it work for me? Nope. It felt like one more thing I had to do each day, another box to check off. So instead, I note things I’m grateful for in my personal journal as they occur to me, without
a daily/weekly/yearly/any kind of deadline.
Again, give things a try if you like, but don’t feel tied down if something doesn’t work for you. If it keeps calling to you, you can always come back to it at a later date.
7. Use your planner daily
Let’s say you have the perfect planner with fabulous stickers and the best layouts imaginable but you never use it. What’s the point?
If you’re using creating spreads you enjoy and that are beneficial, opening your planner each morning will be automatic. You’ll want to look at your page. You’ll want the high of crossing things off your list. You’ll be certifiable, just like the rest of us.
So if you do everything on this list but find that number seven isn’t working out no matter how hard you try, maybe you are one of those digital types. As much as it pains me to say, a paper planner isn’t for everyone (even though I think it is). In a future post, I plan to share some great digital options beyond Google calendars and your phone’s built in app. Those of us using paper might still talk to you. Maybe. Probably not. 😉
Kellie from Beyond the Paper Flower has generously agreed to do a planner goodies sticker pack giveaway. Click on the Rafflecopter box to join the fun!
**This giveaway is limited to those with US addresses or an APO.**