Essentials to Start Using a Planner: Planners 101

I recently re-discovered my love for stationary things, specifically for pens, notebooks, planners and all things related to organizing the different aspects of our lives. As I have mentioned before, I have always carried a planner for as long as I can remember but it is until now, that I am a mom, a wife, a full time working woman and that I try to have other side projects that I started to feel the need to have a planner that will help me keep my life organized. Not only for my benefit, but because I also need to keep an eye on finances, my husband’s projects, our dog, our child and so on.

I now have a Plum Paper Planner which I love and that I use for my keeping my household organized, I have a Kikki K that I received as a gift, and also have a moleskin (week on my page) for only work related things.

I know many women – and some men – love the idea of having a planner but not necessarily know where to start. When I started taking note of my present life and the different planning needs I had, I realized that maybe, to some people, it can be overwhelming. Where to start? What do you actually need and what you really don’t?

I thought I should come up with a list of a few things that I found myself being more “essential” than others, yet thinking of the fact that, really, when you want to plan and even decorate your planner, all you truly need is paper and a pen.

But let’s say that if you are in the place and position to buy a variety of things, these are the ones that I believe are a great place to start:

  1. A planner – these days you can find a planner for even $4 up to $60, it is up to you to decide how much you really want to spend on a planner. Before buying an expensive planner, however, think about what you will need it for, what are your planning needs? How do you need to organize your life? Will you take the planner with you, or will it stay home? Will you need it to be light, or is it okay if it’s heavy? What size? How do you want the pages to look like?.

    There are endless possibilities as to how you want your planner to look like. Today, you have planners for moms, students, professionals, executives, fashionistas, musicians, travelers, etc. Before buying one think of the uses you will give to it. For example, I currently use the Plum Paper Planner as my family planner because you can customize it with the names of your family members or use any kind of word – for a total of 7 words – to choose the different sections. This planner also, can start in any month that you wish, mine goes from February to February. I also have a moleskine planer in large for work. I have been using this planner for maybe three years now, and the reason why I chose it is because it is light, easy to carry, and the layout of the pages can be a week on one page. You find these planners in many varieties and are one of the most popular planners out there, maybe also because of the price (between $10 and $25) I bought mine on sale for $10!

    I also carry a Kikki.K medium (equivalent to personal size in filofax) planner which stays home, only for my financial matters. I love this planner because it is beautiful, easy to use, portable and the inserts fit my needs. It has a week on two pages and that gives me enough space to write everything I need. It is a small planner yet very spacious, did I mention it is beautiful?

    Many people prefer planners that are plain, but also many of us want them to be fun, some want them to be inexpensive and some people don’t mind how much they spend. The main questions you need to ask yourself are similar to the ones above, what do you need the planner for? Do you need to write a lot or a little? Are you okay with having a week spread on two pages or one? Do you need it to have a monthly view and a yearly view? Do you need it to have rings so you can put your own inserts or do you need something already put together?

    Sometimes, finding THE right planner will take you a long time, sometimes years. Sometimes, if you are a lucky one, you will find one planner that you will love and that is enough to you, at times too, you may never really find that ONE planner and you will use a mix of different ones, like many of us in the planner community do. Don’t give up if you buy one planner and you find that you are having a hard time using it, many times too, using your planner and entering information is a matter of discipline. Whatever planner you choose, if you use it correctly and if you are creative with how you use it, it will help you reach your personal and professional goals, finish projects, remember appointments, simply, keep your life more organized. You want to learn to manage your time effectively, specially in this day and time.


  2. Pens, highlighters, pencils or markers –  For many of us planner-addcits, the utensils we use to write are as important as the planner we choose, but if you only want the basics, try to look for pens that don’t bleed or shadow through the back pages. You will want to use a pen that helps you keep your pages neat, clear and your tasks visible. If you choose to use different colors of pens for different categories, also known as color coding, you will want these colors to differentiate from one another. Also, sometimes for example, I use a pencil to write down meetings or appointments that are tentative but which I am not sure if they will in fact happen. Let’s say you email someone saying that you can meet at 5pm on Wednesday but you need to hear back from that person and you are not sure when he or she will reply, you can always pencil that appointment and later on, when the appointment is confirmed, you can mark it with your favorite pen. The reason why I pencil it is because I need to keep that time slot marked as a potential time when I might see someone so that I don’t double book with someone else before I hear back from that initial person. You don’t want to have to ask that person for another time to meet if you don’t pencil a time slot early in your planning process.

    These days people are busy and time is a precious resource, using techniques like this will help you be more effective when thinking of your availability and when planning things with other people.

    You also have the Frixion pens  very famous in the planner community because these pens allow you to write something with a pen, without worrying about not being able to erase it later on. These pens have a “rubber” end that erases the ink after you write. These pens have given us the possbility to not have to carry pencils with us all the time. You can buy them on amazon and many stationary stores, specially Japanese stationary stores because the pens were initially created in Japan.

    Markers, will allow you to highlight something that might be important or that you need to remember.

    As with planners, pens are also something you need to try and test, to find the ones that you like and prefer using because of its looks or because of the ink or how they write – yes, many of us care about how smooth or clear a pen writes!.

    My favorite pens – ever – are the Pilot G-2 and the paper-mate Flair!


  3. Paper clips, page markers or tabs – you will need these to mark the different sections in your planner, regardless of the kind of planner you are using, if you use a planner filofax style you will need tabs or dividers to mark your sections. Even when you use a moleskine or an inexpensive planner you need to mark your “TODAY” page just to make it easier for you to find your current spread. Tabs are also a great way to mark the different sections you are using, you can place them on the side of your planner, lengthwise, or on top, withwise.

    If you want your planner to look colorful or “cute” you can make your own ribbon paper clips, there are many tutorials in You Tube as to how to make these. This is a fun way to add color to your planner without being on the way of your planning, if you are not so much into decorating your pages.

    Pageflags can also be a great tool to use as page markers, these are inexpensive and easy to find at any store.


  4. Washi-tape, stickers, stamps and journaling cards – these are not essential but if you are into decorating your planner you will need them. I personally add little to a lot of washi-tape and other decorative stickers to my planner depending on which planner I am using. My work planner only has a few stripes of washi-tape because I need to be neat and clear, besides, I don’t want to have to pull out my planner in front of my colleagues and confuse them as to why my notebook is covered with hearts and polka dots! This is mainly because of the working environment in which I work but if you don’t mind your colleagues confusion, then go for it!

    I love decorating my family planner and I use a combination of… basically everything that is out there! I personally enjoy using stamps because you can use different ink colors, you can stamp on stickers, you can fill in the stamps with alcohol based markers, etc. I currently use stamps from the Sweet Stamp Shop they are inexpensive and more sustainable than stickers.

    You find all kinds of stickers, page flags, sticky notes, stamps – Simon Says Stamp   – on this note, recently released a new line of stamps for planners with inks as well. It is up to you to decide what you want to use. When I had just bought my Plum Paper Planner I made the mistake of going to Michael’s and buying tons of stickers, later to find out that I really am not a sticker person. It will take you many trials and errors as you go on your “planning” journey to discover what is it that you like and what helps you be productive rather than making your spend time doing something that doesn’t add value to your planning. You need to explore and try different things before you know what you like and what you don’t like.

  5. Creativity and a flexible mind to try new things or things that you didn’t know you would like. Often, the best planner for us or the best system that works for us is found through a series of trial and errors, through exploring and daring using things that we didn’t know we liked. When you see a planner in a store, image the many ways in which would work for you. You don’t have to use it as the instructions say or as the planner comes designed to be used, you can find many ways to use one single planner.

    Even a notebook can be transformed into a planner if you use your imagination. These days, there are tons of planners in the market and each one can be used in different ways. There is one planner for example, called “Midori travelers notebook” initially used by journalists, now it is used as a planner, as notebooks, as bullet journal, as journal, as art journal, as trash-journal, as a hononichi notebook, and so on… I do not have one of these planner but I have been dreaming of one! Not now but I am thinking that this system is something that allows you to experiment and try different methods to customize it depending on how you want your planner to be. This planner can be inexpensive if you make your own booklets, and you can even make the Midori cover yoursel – what is called “fauxdori”.


Remember: Whatever planner you choose to buy, and whatever system you choose to use it will not work out if you don’t actually use it! As with anything else, using a planner requires discipline and systematic use so that it becomes part of your life. Most of all, be creative and dare to try new things, this is also one of the reasons why many of us become “planner nerds”, because through the planning process we find ourselves exercising our creativity, exploring “new boundaries”, being flexible and also we use planning as a creative outlet that can become even therapeutic. Planning allows us to organize the various pieces of our lives and integrate them so that we become better at managing our time, getting things done and moving forward with our life and professional projects.

If you need some inspiration you can always check pinterest or instagram for ideas to the many planners that are out there. Facebook also has groups of planners such as Planner love or Kikki-K Love where you can connect with other planners or where you can also ask questions and learn.

A planner sometimes also becomes a space where you can break some rules and be you, and this is one big reason why many of us enjoy it so much.

Happy planning journey!

E M Jorden


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