How to Create An Awesome Planner Setup Before You Even Open Your New Planner

Last Updated on December 23, 2022 by Stephanie

Are you ready to either jump on the planner bandwagon or open up your new planner for the first time? Awesome! Before you do, wait!!! Are you ready for that new planner? Do you have a plan for it already? I know you might be thinking to yourself “Lady, I don’t need a plan for my planner…” Well, I beg to differ because I want you to be successful with your new planner. I want you to have the best planner setup experience.

We all have the best intentions… especially around the new year or specific new starts in the year like summer or the new quarter. In our minds, we are ready to succeed and do amazing things. We set goals and we are totally going to be different this time around. Everything will be easier and we are going to use that planner EVERY DAY! No… you aren’t. Unless you take the time to do some work before you even open that new planner. It is my hope that in this post you will learn a few things to reflect on before you even open up your new planner, and that it helps set you up for success in whatever new journey you are on toward awesomeness!

planner setup Where should you start;

Reflection First

Your planner setup should absolutely start with asking yourself why. Why do you want to use a planner? What do you think the benefits of having a planner are? Check out a few of these ideas for things to think about.

Do You Already Use a Planner? What is Working and Not Working In Your Current Planner Setup?

If you already use a planner or you have tried and failed to use a planner in the past, this is super important. This might be the most important step of your planner setup. In one of my posts about creating your perfect planner layouts, I gave this list of things to think about with changing your planner layout. The list works for when you’re looking to start a new planner for the year or that stage or area of your life. Thinking about your current or lack of planning, you will be hesitant to use it in the following cases:

  • It takes you too much time to fill it out.
  • It makes you guilty when you look at it because you aren’t using it.
  • When you are creating spreads, you are covering the majority of it up with other things.
  • You find yourself annoyed that it doesn’t have ______ (fill in the blank) every time you use it.
  • It isn’t easily accessible to you.
  • You’ve changed jobs or times in your life (new baby, teacher summers, big project during the month)

Think about each of these ideas as you move forward!

I’m a Planner Novice! —> Back to Why

Skip ahead if you’re an old pro or keep reading this part for helpful thoughts that may help you as well!

Welcome to the community! Prepare to be obsessed, and keep reading. There is definitely a learning curve to being successful with using a planner. It is a habit that you have to grow. You have to learn what works for you.

I cannot stress how important it is for you to ask your why before taking this journey. Let me save you time, money, and headache before you go this route! Your planner has to serve a purpose. It has to serve a purpose that means a lot to you. Here are some examples:

  • I want a planner to keep track of all my calendar events.
  • I use time blocking and want to track my blocks.
  • Keeping track of what I’m working on is important to me.
  • A place to keep track of my habits is what I’m excited about.
  • I need a place to sort out my daily to-do list and keep tasks straight.
  • Goal tracking and setting is a habit I would like to start and I need a place to keep my thoughts and benchmarks.

Now keep reading to learn more about what you should think about before going forward with your planner setup.

Digital Vs. Traditional

This is not a new topic for me to talk about because oh man is it close to my heart and something I struggle with often in my own productivity journey. If you want a more in-depth look into this idea, check out this blog post. If you are a teacher, I took the same question to the area of teaching and how we plan for that. I would say go with your gut on this one. Personally, I love using technology and it is an integral part of my life, so I choose digital more often than traditional. If you are always one to reach for paper and pencil, maybe digital isn’t the way to go for you yet!

Traditional Planner Setup

The traditional planner can be as easy as a cheap planner from Walmart that is super simple and doesn’t have a lot of fluff. It can be as involved as the Erin Condren or Happy Planner planners which have a lot of cool accessories and extras that you can purchase. Essentially this can be as easy as a planner and a pen or pencil.

If you’re going to be super creative, you can add stickers, lots of extra fun pens and markers, Washi tape, and even more!

A view of one of my older planner setups from early 2022!

Digital Planner Setup

A digital planner is a great way to go for on-the-go planning. If you have a tablet and a stylus the sky really is the limit with this. I personally use digital planning more than paper planning. As recently as the beginning of this year I was still using a paper planner for my business things. I got hooked on using digital tools for those things instead and like it a LOT more!

One of my weekly spreads in my digital planner 2022.


This is a huge question you need to be honest with yourself about. Be REALLY honest. Don’t think about the time you have on a perfect day when everything is going well. Think about the days that your toddler daughter decides to throw a fit before walking out the door because you picked the gray shoes instead of the black ones and ruined her life. Or think about the days that a million interruptions happen before you get what you need to do for the day.

Now that you’re being honest, then we can move forward. In my post about planning in a world of bullet journals, stickers, and more, I talk more about this. It goes back to your purpose. What do you want to keep track of? Think about this and what has worked in the past for you or not. This can determine the type of planner or the layout you need.

  • Daily – You have 15-30 minutes EVERY DAY that you can, without fail sit down and plan your day.
  • Weekly – You have 30-40 minutes set aside every week and can check in for a couple of minutes daily.
  • Bullet Journal – You have a lot of time to create your own layouts and spreads.
  • Functional/Minimal – You want to keep track of the basics and want things to look nice, but functionality is key!
  • Decorative/Stickers/Etc. – Your planner is an extension of your creativity and you want to use it to express yourself.

With myself as an example, it takes me about 40 minutes each week to set up my weekly spread the way I want it. Daily I check in for about 10 minutes in the evening and then refer to that check-in throughout my day. This is what I’ve found works absolutely best for me!

Do Your Research

There are a LOT of resources out there for planners of all types. After you’ve figured out the kind of time you want to spend, that can help you focus your research. If you’re going digital, check out some free planners. If you’re sticking with traditional, go browse the aisles at Michaels or Hobby Lobby. What do you like or not like? Are there deal breakers with certain planners?

Word of Warning: Don’t Research to the Point of Being Overwhelmed! Definitely look into things, but there is a true paralyzation that happens when you have too much information coming into your system. You can’t make a choice because you’ve seen too many options.

Another Word of Warning: Instagram/Facebook/Etc. Are Often Finished Products! When you see gorgeous spreads on Instagram that took time and creativity to make. If you are new to this, PLEASE don’t compare yourself to people on the internet. That is the quickest way to shoot yourself in the planning foot. You are you and they are them. Your planner doesn’t have to look like theirs at all because they aren’t living your life!

With that said, watching “plan with me” videos is super fun and can be crazy helpful! Check out some of mine with me using GoodNotes on my iPad Pro. I use a lot of different things to do my planning including some other apps and some different sticker packs. I do think that watching these types of videos can totally help a new (and veteran) planner. There are people that have commented about something I’ve done because they’ve been planning in that app, etc. forever and didn’t know that specific trick. Since we all do things differently, it is a cool way to see what is out there.

Are You Ready For Your Planner Setup?

After you’ve done some of this work to make your setup easier, now is the time to get out there and do it! Stick to it and let your planner work for you and help you reach the goals that you’ve set for yourself this year! I can’t wait to hear all about it. Shoot me a comment below to let me know if there are any other tips and tricks you can think of before setting up a new planner. I can always use more tips myself!

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