I’ve made dozens (<< not an exaggeration) of planner layouts over the past couple of years. Some worked ok, some worked great and with others I ended up having checklists accompanying the weekly spreads and everything felt a little disorganized with multiple papers and checklists scattered here, there and everywhere. This year I’m determined to find planner peace once and for all and have decided to go back to square one of sorts and try more ‘simple’ planner layouts.
So this year I’m experimenting with a ton of different layouts, and at the end of the year I’m going to design a custom planner that suits my exact needs that meshes together all of the elements I liked from each planner design.
Each week there’ll be a post sharing how I set up my planner if you want to try the same layout yourself and follow along in the challenge 🙂 Make sure you’ve subscribed to the blog to be notified when each week’s layout is posted. I’ll also be sharing some of the planner layouts I create throughout the challenge for free here on the blog so make sure you you’ve subscribed (you’ll also get access to the rest of the free printables library).
For week 1, I created a routines tracker. This planning method would be ideal if you’re prone to over-scheduling and are a visual person that likes color coding!
Setting up the planner
All you need is:
- A blank page (lined paper preferable – I used the Plum Paper Planner)
- A ruler (I like the Poppin rulers – they’re flat and heavy and are less prone to slipping when ruling lines)
- Pencil & rubber to mark it up in ‘draft’ before you draw your final layout in pen
- Black pen
- Color coding tools (either highlighters or colored pens)
How to set up the page
Step 1: Choose your column width
I used the Plum Paper Planner. First, I made my days of the week column 1cm wide. Working from the right side of the page, I drew a small pencil mark at 1cm increments until I had 7 columns marked up. I then did the same with the bottom of the page. Once my markers were drawn I pulled out a pen and drew a line to connect each of them. I’m a perfectionist so I’d rather spend the extra minute or 2 to mark it up so that the lines are straight!
Step 2: Choose your start day
Do you want the week to start on Sunday or Monday? Once you’d decided, add the days of the week to the first line of the planner
Step 3: Choose your colors
I did an entire post on how to color code your planner. The main tips:
- Choose colors that are readily available in most office supplies (in this case highlighters and pens) – I recommend pink, blue, orange, green, purple or red (in that order as those are the colors most stationery comes in)
- Don’t use too many colors otherwise you’ll confuse yourself. At the same time, don’t use too few colors – 3 – 4 colors will probably be enough – you can always add more colors later
- You may want to keep a key of what colors you’ve used for what, or label your stationery with your categories until you familiarise yourself with them
There are 2 main (and quick) ways to color code your planner: using colored pens or using a black pen and highlighter (I tried both methods but more on that in a sec).
Step 4: Choose your pens
This will probably be dictated by the pen colors you chose in the last step. For this planner I used the Papermate Inkjoy Gel (0.7mm) and the Papermate Inkjoy 100 (1.0mm) – the Papermate pens write so smoothly!
Step 5: Start adding your tasks to the left column (the largest column)
I added all of the tasks for the main things I plan:
- Graphic design
- Personal Life
- Products for my Etsy shop
I wrote everything in black.
Step 6: You can plan using this planner in 2 ways:
By scheduling what you think you’re going to get done on each day
You may want to use a pencil to schedule in or use the Frixion erasable pens. Another option would be to highlight a box around the square when you’ve scheduled it, then color in the box if you did actually do that task. You could use either colored pens (the Papermate Inkjoy Gel (0.7mm) are my favorite) or just write in black pen and use a highlighter (the Frixion line also come in erasable highlighters).
If you’re going the highlighters route – make sure you wait for the pen ink to dry first – especially gel pens that are prone to smudging!
I numbered my blog posts by the order I thought they would be published on the blog. Because I didn’t write all of the tasks directly below one another in the left hand column and had 2 posts of the same category (i.e. the same color) I numbered the tasks (so draft blog post 1 obviously relates to the blog post I’ve written the number 1 against).
You could also number the tasks by priority on the left hand side.
By looking back retrospective at what you actually did each day
For this option, you’d only shade in the box if you actually did that task. So I can see in the image of my week below that I didn’t do any posts on my Facebook page. To be honest this weekly spread helped me realise that Facebook isn’t really worth my time. I set up a page for my shop because I felt that’s what I had to do because that’s what everyone else was doing. But the time spent posting to my basically non-existent page likers results in very minimal results. Given that I work a full time day job, run my Etsy shop and this blog, the that I didn’t shade the box really pointed out to me that it’s time to let go of what isn’t working so from now on I’ll be focusing on Pinterest, Instagram and engaging in Facebook groups. Facebook groups are super interactive whereas when I posted on my page I felt like I was just having a conversation with myself!
- I shaded in the boxes of what I actually did – so I posted on Instagram 4 times this week so 4 boxes are shaded
- I shaded half of the box if I started the task but didn’t get it finished – that way I know that I need to move that task to next week
Benefits of using this planning style:
- By shading the boxes it helped me quickly see what did and didn’t get done this week, and where my priorities lie. This planning method would be ideal if you’re also prone to over-scheduling!
- You choose how wide to make the columns
- You can customise the layout over time. For example, if you use method 1 – you could add a second column to each day where you number the tasks that you’ve scheduled to help you prioritise
- You don’t have to write the tasks in the order they need to get done – you can do a brain dump in the left column, then carefully plan out what you’re going to do throughout the week – by visually shading it helps you see just how much you try and cram into each day and when you should re-schedule and move things around to avoid over-scheduling
- You can see what’s happening throughout the entire week on the one page – it condenses your entire life and all the different categories onto one convenient page. I’ve previously separated things onto different calendars such as one calendar for social media planning, one calendar for blog planning, one calendar for personal stuff etc. and I just grew increasingly frustrated having too much paper rather than just one go-to place. One of my aims this year by doing this 52 planners in 2 weeks challenge is to simplify and condense!
- It’s ideal for recurring tasks so you don’t have to re-write things out – you can just shade in the boxes for each day
- By using different colors/color-coding your tasks you can see which categories of your life you spend the most time on and where you should scale back to maintain a work-life balance
- You don’t have to worry about writing tasks for each category in order as you may have more tasks in 1 category and less in another. By using different colors you can easily see which tasks relate to which category (so when it’s time to do something for the blog my eyes automatically go to pink and block out the rest of the colors)
- You could also use it for meal planning
I originally planned my week using colored pens, then decided to do another version of the same spread to see how it would look using highlighters instead of pens – I think I like it better!
Want to try this planner layout? Share it on Instagram using the hashtag #52plannersin52weeks I’d love to see how you tweak it to suit your needs!