Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Build YOUR Perfect Planner

Having been a planner junkie for the better part of 15 years (30 in my mom's case), we know with absolute certainty that there is no such thing as the "Perfect Planner." The reason there are thousands of different planners and agendas to choose from these days is because there is no one system that works for everyone. While one person may fit their entire life into a pocket size notebook, another person may require multiples planners of various shapes and sizes to organize their life.

Over the past year, our printables shop has grown from ONE planner option to over FIFTEEN different planner options in multiple sizes (with more on the way). We've also added individual docket pages, add-ons, stickers and so much more! My husband asked me the other day if I was out of planner ideas now…and then I showed him "the list." :)

And that's the thing I love most about printable planners…the possibilities are endless! But with so many options to choose from, the process of building your perfect planner can seem a bit overwhelming. One minute you are casually browsing Pinterest for a cleaning schedule, and then next thing you know you've blown through a whole ream of paper and an entire ink cartridge!! It's easy to want to try everything out there, but before you bury yourself in a pile of printables that you won't use, remember that the end goal is building YOUR Perfect Planner.

One of the questions we get asked most often in our shop is, "How do I decide which planner is right for me?" I always wish I had a simple answer, but the truth is…a planner is a very personal thing and to get the right answer, you often have to ask yourself a few more questions. 

I feel like the best way to illustrate these questions is to walk through my answers and show how I have  found the perfect planners FOR ME :)

I have tried many, MANY times to use just one planner for everything in my life. In college…one planner worked perfectly for me. My life was school and work and everything I needed for that (and my personal life) could fit in a little zip-up planner.

But then I went and became a college English teacher, got married, had two babies and opened a small business with my mom. Suddenly, my one little planner became five.

FIVE PLANNERS??! I know, I know…5 planners seems a bit crazy, especially if you are someone who is just trying to figure out how to use their first planner. So let me say again that the goal here is to build a planner (or planners) that work for YOU. I simply just want to share my process. And for me…I need 5 planners. I currently use:

A Home Management/Household Planner

{click on the links for more details and pictures on how I use each of these planners}

The very first time I broke away from my ONE planner was when I became a teacher. I noticed that trying to keep track of lesson plans, deadlines and other class material was getting to be too much in my personal planner. The same thing happened when we opened our Etsy shops.

The third time I broke away from my ONE planner was to move all of my Home Management printables to their own binder. I found that my husband was needing to look at these things too so keeping that planner in a place where we could both access it was key. Same goes for our budget planner, which we also use to house all of our bills {check out the system we use here. It has been a game changer}.

But if I had to narrow down to the two planners I use every single day to TOTALLY manage my life, it would be my Personal Planner & my Household Planner.

Deciding on the perfect size for my planners was definitely a struggle at first. I wanted portable, but I knew that an x-small planner would not accommodate my big handwriting. I literally tried EVERY planner size out there but in the end, I knew my Personal Planner couldn't be smaller than a half-sheet. In our shop, we call this size SMALL which measures 5.5 x 8.5. This size is perfect for an Arc Junior or Small Martha Stewart Discbound. It also works in Filofax and other A5 Planners (even though a true A5 page has slightly different dimensions).

The SMALL size is what I call my "happy medium" for portability and writing space. I carry a larger purse everywhere I go so this size planner fits neatly inside. And of course if I know I am going somewhere I will not need my planner, this beauty stays home on my desk.

As much as I would LOVE to be an electronic planner, I am a paper girl. Always have been, always will be. There are SOME things I keep on my phone and not in a planner (like contacts and passwords), but for the most part…this planner is my lifeline.

The calendar set I am using at the moment is our Seasonal Planner. I LOVE having my months change color with the season and no matter how much I love our Signature design, or the simplicity of our black and white sets…I always go back to Seasonal.

After a year of trying almost every different weekly layout there is, I have found that vertical weeks work best for me. I love all the writing space of the vertical weeks and that our Calendar Stickers fit so nicely in the squares :) This set comes with or without the meal planning option at the bottom, but I happen to love using it and seeing my menu with my other weekly plans. 

Right now, I have my planner divided into 5 sections or tabs that come after my calendar.


Under lists, I carry just that. Lists. ToDo lists, "Books to Read" list, shopping lists, etc. It is nice having a section for just those sorts of things that don't really have a specific home. I also keep my Weekly Docket it in this section. I don't always use a docket, but when I have a particularly crazy week, it's nice to have a page-at-a-glance. 


When I designed our Health & Fitness Planner, I had a lot of people like myself in mind. When I start a project, especially one as big as losing weight, I like to plan EVERYTHING out to hold myself accountable. At one point in my life, I would have needed a separate planner for this. But right now, I just need a tab. Under "Health" I carry:

Insurance cards


I am a HUGE planner when it comes to holidays, so I needed a special section for keeping track of birthdays and other special dates, holidays and parties. In this section I carry:

Special Dates List (FREE printable)
Holiday Lists (FREE printable)
Christmas Printables (FREE Printables)
Thanksgiving Printables (FREE Printables)
Easter Printables (FREE printbales)


Even though we have a binder dedicated just to all of our camping stuff, I also include several planning pages, including the trip planner, in this section for quick reference and planning on the go. I also have note pages for our upcoming Disney vacation and any other trips (camping or otherwise) that we have planned. This section includes:

Disney Notes pages (coming soon)
Bucket List for vacations (FREE Printable)


The last little section of my planner (with the polkadots) is for my shop stuff. I do have a large Etsy planner for tracking everything in our business, but it is nice to have some of those pages on the go. I also like plain old list paper in this section for jotting down ideas and brainstorms :) In this section I have:

simple list/note pages

I used to be a planner pack rat for a LONG time. I loved planners with a million pockets so I could stuff them full of everything I would need on the go. But what I soon realized is that I wasn't using half of that stuff on the go and all it was doing was weighing down my planner. So I added just a few business card holders for important contacts, and I added one folder for housing my calendar stickers :)

As you can see, my personal planner is filled with only things that I need access too. My hubby couldn't care less about my "Books to read" list and he has his own monthly/weekly calendar on his phone (I know many planners who opt for electronic calendars to sync with their spouses and then paper plan everything else :)

But the things he does need access to are now in our Household Planner.

Some call this a Home Management Binder as well, and I am sure you have come across How-to posts on Home Management binders all over Pinterest. This is another very personal planner that should be set up to meet YOUR family's needs. 

{You can download our "Together We Have it All Cover" for FREE in Small or Large}

These are the categories we are currently using:

I have given each of our kids their own section of the planner to house all of their school calendars and important handouts. As soon as something comes home, my hubby and I know to punch the page and put it right in the planner. 


Our Home section is filled with important documents and other maintenance info that we both like to keep track of on a regular basis {like brochures and info from our landscapers, schedules for our trash and recycling pick-up, etc.}


Although the kids have their own section for school paperwork, I have also assigned a category to "Activities" because we get a number of different packets, flyers and schedules for events at our local library, parties and classes at our park district, concerts and special events in our town, etc. 


Meal planning is something that I have been trying to be so much better about lately. I have found that planning meals monthly AND weekly is incredibly helpful, and it's also great when you are working on a budget. In this section, I have meal planning sheets that I have laminated (although you could use a page protector too) so that I can just write my menu down and then wipe it off each month or week.

{Recipes & Meal Planner coming SOON}

Just as a tip, I prefer the Crayola Washable Dry Erase markers because they dry without smudging and wipe perfectly clean with a damp towel.


I have pretty much downloaded every cleaning printable that Martha Stewart has ever put on her website {get them here}, and although I love following them, I decided I really needed to develop my OWN cleaning schedule. There is a new cleaning schedule included in our updated FREE printables pack, and I just love it! 


All my "secret" party planning and holiday goodies are in my personal planner but in this section of my Household Planner, I have invites to holiday gatherings, Christmas Card lists, Special Dates pages (so the hubs can remember) and a 2014-2016 holiday list. All of these can be found in our free printable pack or our Christmas printable pack.


This section is a must-have in a Household Planner. It's where we keep all of our Emergency contact numbers, some CPR instructions and other helpful babysitter notes. We also keep a list of our Annual Renewals so we know when to renew our Sam's club membership, our vehicle registrations, etc. These are also in our free printables pack.

As much as I love the planner systems I am using right now, I realize that they are always a work in progress. What is "perfect" for our family today may not be the same tomorrow. The best advice I can possibly give to someone just starting to use a planner is to be open to change. If something isn't working, change it! To really use your planner(s) effectively…you have to enjoy using them. Make sure you answer Question #5 before deciding on your planner system. What does you "perfect planner" look like. For me…it's color. Lots and lots of color :)

I do hope this post helped give you some ideas for set up and of course if you ever have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to contact us!! We also welcome feedback and ideas for NEW planners and printables you would like to see offered in the shop. We have lots to come so be sure to follow along!

Now let's get organized!!!!


Supplies used in this post: