5 Ways to Use a Personal Planner to Maximize Success

If you usually walk right past the planners because you don’t see the point in tracking every detail of your life, it’s time to stop and take a longer glance. Not all planners are used for obsessive tracking and detailing. You can use them to reach your goals faster while reducing stress and overwhelm.

Andrew Charles, Partner
4-minute read

Why are there so many planners in the world? You’ve probably seen them piled on shelves at your local office store or even at Walmart and Target. Go online, and you will find hundreds for sale on Amazon plus a wide variety of specialized planners with unique tracking systems.

There are planners for writers, planners for students, planners for mothers, and planners for business executives. Name a category of the population, and there’s probably at least one planner dedicated to their organizational needs.

If you usually walk right past the planners because you don’t see the point in tracking every detail of your life, it’s time to stop and take a longer glance. Not all planners are used for obsessive tracking and detailing. You can use one to reach your goals faster while reducing stress and overwhelm. There are five ways to do just that.

1. Implement time management strategies with a simple daily planner.

You’ve heard about time blocking. You know that some people create daily, weekly, monthly, or even quarterly and yearly schedules that they follow religiously. There are so many other time management systems from simple to-do lists to eating the frog.

Did that last one grab your attention? It’s a strategy that requires you to tackle your most important tasks first thing in the morning, starting with the biggest, hardest, or most intimidating one. It’s a concept that started in a book, but has gained considerable popularity around the world.

The problem with many time management strategies is the lack of consistency. You need a planner to fully commit and make them work.

Here’s how a planner might work for a couple of the most popular strategies:

  • Time Blocking — Take everything you need to do in a day and assign it to a specific block of time. Commit to doing that and only that in each block. By the end of the day, you will have accomplished all of your daily goals or at least given them all some effort. Choose a planner that has daily calendar sheets with the times of the day listed out. Use those sheets to put boxes around your blocks for each day.
  • Batching — Group similar tasks from all areas of your life together and do them at once. For example, read and respond to email at select times of the day or do all reading for school assignments and your professional life in one block of time. Your planner will help you look at everything you need to do and find creative ways to batch them together.
  • Eat the Frog — Write down your most important tasks daily. Do nothing else each morning until they are checked off in your planner. It’s so simple but incredibly effective if you get into the habit of doing it daily.

2. Use your planner as a creative or artistic outlet.

Have you heard of bullet journals? They’re also referred to as BUJOs. You start with empty notebooks filled with dotted or graphed pages. You decide what pages you want in your journal and create them using stickers, markers, and other art supplies.

Check out Modern Mentor's guide to using bullet journals to stay on track and achieve your goals. 

This is a great way to stay organized and motivated while giving your creative or artistic side an outlet. Many bullet journalers find it relaxing and stress relieving. If you enjoy it as well, you may find that the time you spend creating your journal allows you to relax and focus more when it’s time to work or study.

3. Manage your complicated student life with an academic planner. 

You buy books, notebooks, ink pens, and other supplies at the start of a new college term. Add an academic planner to your shopping list, and you have everything you need to keep your life organized during a hectic school year.

Don’t limit your planner to schoolwork. Write down all appointments, due dates, important events, and social functions in the planner. Your family, personal, professional, and academic lives will all collide while class is in session. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you can’t flip to one page and see how every aspect of your life is flowing together for the next week or month.

Tracking everything in one location will help you make smart time management decisions without missing deadlines at school or forgetting important occasions for your loved ones.

Use the monthly pages to get the big picture of your life. The weekly and/or daily pages allow you to create to-do lists and schedules or simply list assignments that you need to complete each day.

4. Turn your planner into a goal tracking system.

Start by setting a few long-term goals that really matter to you. Break them down into quarterly goals. Then break your quarterly goals into monthly goals. Those monthly goals become weekly goals, which determines the action you take daily.

It sounds so complicated until you start working through the steps in a well-organized planner. You will need a larger planner that has space for all of that planning, or you can make your own by buying printable planner sheets from Etsy.

5. Turn your planner into a journal

Journaling your thoughts can free your mind to focus more clearly on important tasks like work or taking care of children. Emotions can easily overwhelm your mind if you don’t unleash them on the page. One simple way to journal is to open a planner and use the daily space to write out your thoughts at the start of each day.

Try it for a week or a month and see what happens! You should choose a planner that has large boxes or lined spaces for each day. That gives you the space to write, but it should only take you a few minutes each morning.

The next time you see that stack of planners in a store, stop and look through a few. You may find that one leaps right into your heart and gives you a creative idea for tracking and managing your complicated life.