setting up your planner for a productive year

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One of my favorite parts of a new year is cracking open a fresh planner and preparing for the months ahead. I’ve used many different planners in my life from Lilly Pulitzer (loved these in college) and Day Designer to random off-brands, but my brother got me a Passion Planner for Christmas last year and I’m obsessed with it, so I got another one for 2019. My advice below works really well if you also have a Passion Planner, but it can definitely be adapted to any planner on the market.

gather your supplies
First things first, you’ll need supplies. I recommend a good black ink pen (Pilot fine tip ones are my favorites), some colored pens or highlighters, cute washi tapes and lots of fun stickers. You’ll want things to not only make your planner look fun, but to help you keep things organized. I personally don’t use any colored pens at the moment other than a gold one for drawing designs, but I use washi tape to section off things. You can use colored pens to color coordinate your different tasks and activities. As for stickers, I like buying mine from Michael’s, Etsy, and Kawaii Pen Shop.

decide on formatting
Next step is to decide how you want to use the spaces in your planner. My planner is set up with each day of the week having hours of the day, a to-do list section, and a blank section for every week. I don’t actually use the hourly scheduler, but you can definitely do so if you have a really scheduled out day. I tend to just use that area to list out my daily tasks.

You also want to decide how to use the blank spaces in your planner, which vary from brand to brand. Last year, I feel like I didn’t use my blank spaces to the fullest and I’d like to change that. I’m going to use them as a space for my monthly bucket list and also paste in a custom insert which I’ll talk about later. The point is that deciding how you want to lay things out ahead of time will help you to take advantage of all your planner offers and keep everything neat and orderly.

create your goals
If you have a Passion Planner, that means filling out the beginning of the year goals and subsequently following the roadmap laid out for you. If you’re setting up a planner without designated goal planning, decide how you want to set it up. I suggest picking your big goals for the year then breaking them into quarters, monthly, and weekly accordingly.

As an easy example, let’s just say one of your big goals for 2019 is to make an extra $10,000 from a side hustle. That would mean your broken down goals are to make $2,500 every three months, $833 every month, $208 every week.

One note on goals is that they don’t have to be professional or money related goals. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had this weird thing in my head where I felt like I needed to make these big professional goals every year and sometimes it would just stress me out because I was making arbitrary goals that I didn’t even really care about. Personally, I don’t love to plan ahead too much professionally because I prefer to keep myself open to all opportunities. Therefore, my goals tend to be related more so to personal development and fitness.

input recurring activities
Once you have your big picture items figured out, start filling in your planner with important dates like birthdays, travel, and recurring activities. Recurring activities include things like classes, clubs, meetings, blog posts, workouts, coffee dates, and so on. I like filling these things out ahead of time in the calendar view of the planner.

customize with inserts and tabs
Finally, customize your planner with printable inserts and tabs. Most planner brands offer printables that you can get online to help track and organize things like workouts, budgets, and meal planning. I’ve seen a really cool printable where you list all of the meals you like to cook regularly, put it in your planner, and every week, you use a highlighter or sticker to point to the meals you want to make that week. That’s always helpful because I feel like I’m always forgetting what foods I like to make, which is dumb when you think about it.

This year, I’m using the Passion Planner’s printable workout tracker. I’ve just been tracking my workouts by checking “workout” off my daily to-do lists, but this will be really helpful to ensure that I’ve done the amount of exercise I want for the week and also to look back and see what specific workouts I’ve been doing.


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Ultimately, your planner should be customized and tailored to suit your lifestyle and needs as best as possible, so it’s really different for everyone. But, I find that the top down view, that is, looking at the big picture then filling in the details is really helpful. The key after that is consistency. Make sure you’re referencing your planner daily and keeping track of your to-do lists and goal progress.