5 Top Tips for getting started with Planning
It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed before setting up a planner. You don’t know how to make the most out of it, you are scared to mess it up, you are not sure you can keep up.
I felt the same way when I first started to - properly- use my planners. I was bored of those diary-styled planners with set times in the spread, and I felt I couldn’t be the most creative with it. I simply had a pen and all I did was to write a plan for the days. No different coloured pens, no stickers, no nothing! Eventually, with a black Filofax my husband passed me down, I managed to create a section for finances and expenses. It was boring. And I didn’t felt motivated to come back to my planner.
Plus, the planner was too big to carry with me all the time. As a new mum, already carrying the house with me to make sure the baby had everything he needed when we went out, the last thing I wanted to carry was a heavy, big, boring planner.
When I finally got round to buy a beautiful personal size mint green KIKKI.K, I was too scared to mess it up. The planner was so perfect, so pretty, I just wanted to mesmerise it. And so with that fear of ruining it, I stored it on my shelf for over a year.
I know how overwhelming it can be to get started with planning- the kind of planning that you truly enjoy coming back to, that you keep using, and that serves your life!
So below are 5 tips on how to get you started with your planner:
1- Choose the right planner- The market has a HUGE choice of different brands, planners, colours, layouts, and sizes- it can be so overwhelming shopping for a new planner. So before you start this overwhelming and endless quest, first do your research to see what can actually work for you. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What size do I prefer/ need for my day-to-day life? Do I need to carry my planner around or will it mostly be sat on my desk? Do I need to write a lot of things, or can I go for a slimmer/ smaller planner?
- How do I need to track my schedule? Do I need a monthly/ weekly/ daily layout? Do I need to track hours for appointments/meetings? Do I need extra space for notes?
- Which planner bound attracts me more/ annoys me the most? Consider if you are right or left-handed as certain bounds can get in the way. Do I need/prefer a ring-bound/coil-bound/ hardback or disc-bound?
- How many sections do I need in my planner so I can track everything in one place?
- Do I prefer a planner that gives me the flexibility to create whatever layout I want, without restrictions?
- What is the reason why I need a planner? Is it to track my family commitments? Is it for my job? Is it to track my health? Is it a combo of everything? Is it for to-dos and plans or do I want it to be a place for inspiration as well?
Answer all of these questions and when you know the list of needs/ preferences you have, it becomes less overwhelming to go on your shopping venture, because you will be looking exactly at what you need. Here is a list of planner styles and brands that can help you once you have your list.
2- Just start- When you have your beautiful planner with you and your favourite pen, don’t do what I did and just sit there, mesmerising your planner and not actually doing anything with it. Just open it and start. You chose that planner because it ticks all your need boxes, so you know it can’t go wrong. If you are too scared to mess up with your writing, there are in the market erasable pens, so if you make a mistake, you can actually erase it and rewrite it!
Start with labelling the sections so you know what goes where. Write your name on your planner and the important information. Why not writing on a spare sheet some bullet points with what you want to get out of your planner? This way you can refer back if you feel too overwhelmed or need motivation. Start experimenting with it- if you like the minimalist style, just stick with your favourite pen and what you like and you know works for you. If you would like to be more creative with your planner and have it as a place to be yourself, be a reflection of yourself, and be motivated to come back, start with baby steps: a bit of washi tape here, a sticker there until you find your voice and your style. Make it a place of enjoyment, not a place to feel overwhelmed. If you start feeling too scared, go back to basics.
3- Get rid of perfectionism- Perfectionism is the killer of joy and it’s actually a sign that you are creating resistance to using your planner. There are no mistakes- only creativity. If you misspell a word, you can cover it up. If you don’t like your spread, you can try a new one the following week- actually, why not add a note and write that that spread didn’t bring you joy. Maybe your headspace was not right at the time and the things/ colours chosen were a reflection of your emotions.
My advice to you to get rid of perfectionism is to be clear about what you like in your planner, how it can help you support your life, and why. Then, don't hold back! Use it the way it fits you, be as much or as less creative as you like and, if by any chance, you skip a week or two of planning, it's always OK!
Not being perfect, doesn't mean you are failing! Not being perfect means you are being true to yourself. It means you are navigating through your routine, your emotions, and your learning experience.
4- Make time to plan a priority- Set yourself a day to plan for the week ahead. Why not make it your self-care time? Grab a cuppa, your favourite planner goodies, and spend half an hour with your planner to decorate it (if you wish) and to write the things you need to remember, things you have already scheduled, or that need to get done.
Make the ritual to look at your planner first thing in the morning to check on what you have planned for the day, and come back in the evening to tick the things you managed to accomplished, write a gratitude entry and make a note of something exciting or upsetting that happened to you. Add things to your schedule for the following day(s) and so on.
5- Have fun- When we are having fun, we are sending signals to our brains that will produce dopamine. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter ( a chemical!) that works as a messenger between our bodies and our nerve cells, responsible for your happy mood! Also called the “feel good” hormone, Dopamine helps to promote positive feelings, including happiness and pleasure- you might have heard this name in some anti-depressants medication labels.
Doing exercise, meditating, being creative, AND playing are some things that can be done to increase this chemical in our bodies so, make planning fun and creative!!
Whilst you are being playful with your planner spread, you are increasing the levels of dopamine in your body, which then will increase your levels of concentration, motivation, and happiness ( which will then help you focus on planning and thinking)! What not to love about it?
A planner it’s an amazing tool to support our routines, our brains, and they are supposed to bring us less overwhelm. As I normally say, if it’s written down, it has to get done!
Use it in your favour. The trick really is in finding a planner system that fits your needs.