Getting Started Guide
You bought your shiny new planner...the crisp, clean pages are blank...now what?!
"Where do I start?"
"How do I use this thing?"
"OMG the blank pages are paralyzing me!"
"I don't want to mess up my new planner - I'm scared to write in it!"
"What stickers do I buy first?"
Don't worry we understand the planner struggle is real! There are tons of products out there to outfit your planner from stickers and washi to inserts and more (in fact we have over 1000 items in our shop alone) which can be super overwhelming. On top of that figuring out just what you want to put down in your planner while staring at a blank page can lead to a total mental block!
But we are here to help with our Getting Started Guide:
Step #1: Pick your areas
Consider what areas of your life you need to keep track of, what areas need a little TLC and what goals you have. Once you know what areas of your life you need your planner to help you with you can more easily shop for stickers & inserts.
Check out some of the Top Planner Categories below! Grab a sticker sheet or 2 from each area you are focusing on to help you craft your weekly spread.
- Home (ie. cleaning, chores, errands)
- Special Occasions
Step #2: Mark Important Dates
Mark all important dates in your monthly views! This will be different for everyone, but often includes...
- Quarterly, Biannual, Annual Finances (ie estimated taxes, insurance, investments)
- Kids School Stuff (events, breaks/days off, tests, etc)
- Big Events (trips, conferences, games, workshops, etc)
- Deadlines (projects, blogs, newsletters, certifications, etc)
The key is to get out all your various calendars and brain dump all the important things you know for the year & get them down in your monthly views. Keeping all that in your head increases the likelihood you may forget something - so get it all down in one centralized place...your monthly calendars! Shop our Month View Collection to find tons of planner stickers designed to help you organize it all!
Step #3: Get down all time based things first!
You put down major dates in your monthly view, but those might not necessarily be time sensitive so now it's time to get the time sensitive stuff down in your monthly then weekly views.
Start with your monthly! I personally like to approach this step one month at a time unless I know the exact times of things for coming months (but planning too far ahead with time sensitive stuff may result in having to scratch out a lot because #lifechanges ). So look at your monthly calendar for this month (and maybe next month too) and write down time sensitive events... Hair appointments, kids sports practice, workout classes, etc....anything with a specific time associated with it!
Next let's dive into the weekly view! Again I don't like to plan too far ahead so I do this one week at a time. Open your planner to the weekly view for this week and write down your time sensitive things first... Meetings, appointments, kids appointments, workouts with your trainer, etc!
The key is to start with time sensitive things first so you don't overbook or try to do more than humanly possible! Once you know where your committed & uncommitted time is then you can figure out how many other things you can realistically get done!
Check out our appointment/events section to find a bunch of stickers to help you nail this task!
Step #4: List out monthly tasks and goals!
Once you have your important dates in your monthly calendar and your time sensitive things in both your weekly & monthly views - it's time to start the list making! When it comes to list making I like to start with monthly tasks and goals first to help me be as productive as possible each week!
Simply write a monthly task list somewhere in your planner that includes all the things you MUST get done this month! A few great places to put this list is in the sidebar of your month calendar, a separate note page of the month or if you use an IWP planner the Plan section works too!
Remember you want to be realistic with your task list taking into account all the major events and time sensitive things you have going on that month. Break down goals and bigger projects into small manageable steps and slowly chip away at them with your monthly task list. You want to feel successful and build momentum so again don't over commit!
We have a variety of checklists that can make creating your task list even better!
Step #5: List out your weekly to-do's and goals!
Now that you have the big picture stuff down, it's time to prep for a successful week! Weekly to-do lists are key to productivity! But again remember we want to be realistic and take into consideration all the time based things we have going on for that week so we don't take on more than we can chew!
Everyone likes to approach their weekly to-do list differently...some like to put a running list in the sidebar of their weekly view, some like to use a separate sheet of paper, and others like to put to do's on certain days. I personally use a mix of strategies. I like to put some to do's in certain days - these are tasks in I know need to get done on a specific day or I know I'll have time for on that day AND I keep a running to-do list in my sidebar of things that don't have to get done on a certain day but need to get done that week. Play around with different approaches and see what works best for you.
And do you best to NOT get caught in the trap of the bigger the to-do list the better! Less is more my friends - busy work doesn't get us anywhere. Try to be purposeful with your time and keep your weekly list manageable!
Check out all our checklists that are perfect for making those weekly tasks lists!
Step #6: Track It
While not everyone uses their planner for tracking or building habits, it can be an awesome tool to do just that! Whether you need to stay on top of daily routine tasks, work on building new habits or keep yourself honest with goal based habits, integrating some sort of habit tracking can be a huge asset to your planner & life!
- Habit Tracker Inserts. If you have a disc planner these are a must have and work perfectly with our Habit Hexagons.
- Habit Hexagons. These are designed to fit beautifully in the Inkwell Press Daily Habit Track built into the planner or with our Habit Tracker Inserts.
- Outlined Habit Hexagons. Love these for tracking habits that aren't daily! Set your frequency with the outlined hexagon and fill it in with the mini when it complete!
- Sidebar Habit Trackers. Keeping track of a particular habit conveniently in the sidebar or notes section of your weekly spread is a great way to never lose sight of it! And if you are tracking more than one habit the multi-habit tracker is perfect!
So there you have it our Getting Started Planner Guide. Remember to be patient with yourself as you figure out how to make your planner work for you. It takes time - in fact it usually takes about 2-3 months to get in a groove with it. Don't be afraid to try new things, ask others in our FB Fan Club for advice and inspiration or hit us up with questions! The key is to make your planner your own so it can serve the purpose you need it to!
Bonus Tip: Focus on Function First
It's easy to get caught up in the comparison trap when you see other planner peeps posting their beautiful spreads on social media, but remember to stay focused on the purpose your planner needs to serve for you! While the decorative stickers, beautiful handlettering and perfect color coding is #igworthy and fun, starting with functional planning helps you truly get the most out of your planner (the fun stuff can come later unless your #1 purpose for planning is creative than skip this tip).
So head over to our Best Sellers Collection to shop for functional stickers that will help get you started.
- Classic Headers. Perfect for creating sections in your planner and categorized lists.
- Mini Hexagons & Checkbox Flags. Great for creating checklist!
- Month Labels. Essential for highlighting important dates, events and more in your monthly view
- Quarter Boxes. All functional shape stickers are great for calling attention to tasks, block out time/space for events or bigger projects, layering with other stickers to make to-do's stand out and more!