Planning for Beginners: Step by Step Where and How to Start
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A planner isn’t just a lovely hobby that allows for creative “me time” it’s also a brilliant tool to be productive, focused and help you to set and meet goals. These goals don’t have to be about work; they can be life goals, things you’d like to achieve in your life or bucket list stuff that you can aim towards. Because without a plan, these things are just pipe dreams. In order to make them happen, acknowledging them and taking small steps in the right direction are a brilliant way of getting better focus and clarity in a very busy and overwhelming world.
I have had lots of friends, and strangers, ask me about my planning obsession and my beautiful planners when I’ve been out and about. Some have asked about where they’re from and where they’d start if it was something they were thinking of taking up. Honestly, there’s so much out there from cheap and cheerful to super luxury with a matching price tag and everything in between.
So whether it be because you just need somewhere to note life’s mountain of appointments, or you have big business and entrepreneurial dreams; a planner can help to clarify, focus and build those things into reality. They’re also super pretty to look at too!
Here’s a little breakdown of what you might need to know and some questions to ask yourself if you’re thinking of jumping on the planner bandwagon and joining the community.
1. What is your budget?
Like I mentioned earlier, there is a range of planners out there for every budget and your ideal starting point is to decide how much you’d like to invest in your first planner. Remember, depending on the type of planner you go for depends whether you’ll need additional items on top of the planner itself; from dividers to inserts, planner bands, pens, functional or pretty stickers — there is a world of accessories and additions that you might fall in love with as you go. My advice then would be to set yourself a budget and STICK TO IT! Ensure the budget includes room for the planner and any additional extras that you might need to make it perfect for your purposes.
2. What are your purposes?
It’s important to be clear about what you need from a planner. Planners can be used for literally everything in your world and can keep things as structured or as interchangeable as you need them to be. So make yourself a little list with what you really want your planner to do for you.
One planner might not be suitable, don’t set out with the intention of fine tuning the process from the get-go. This will be something that develops with you over time but it is a good idea to have a rough indication of what you want out of the planning process. Might you need more than one or do you want an all-singing, all-dancing life binder that keeps everything in one spot?
Some things you might want to consider:
- appointments and meetings
- personal appointments vs business appointments/tasks lists
- shopping lists
- fitness tracking
- goals/bucket lists
- goal planning (weekly/monthly plans that help you take steps toward the overall goal)
- partner/family/friend appointments that you might be in change of reminding people of!
- Journaling or gratitude (it’s good to keep focused on the important things in life, especially if you have mental health issues like a lot of people do. I find reflecting on what went well and what could be improved upon really helps me to find clarity in my week)
- other “to do” lists
- project planning
- books to read/books you’ve read
- other hobbies
3. Would you prefer to change things up to suite you, or have a rigidly structured planner?
Most planners are customisable so this isn’t a hard and fast rule but, there are two different planners in the world in the main. Those with inserts and therefore add-to and take away from as you need. These can be good for multi-functional planners where you plan on doing lots of different tasks in the same space. I use a loose planner/binder for my editorialcalendar for my blog. This allows me to buy suitable inserts for my needs like business contacts, profit and expenses, tasks lists, social media posting schedules and blogging schedule. I also have lots of blank sheets for the regular brain dumps I need to do to keep my ideas safe but out of my head!
There are also some spectacular planners out there that are pre-bound and rigidly set, like a diary. Some come with additional sections for notes and other areas, and some are simple diary format. These are great for regular appointment keeping and can often be adapted according to what you need but aren’t quite as flexible as an inserts based planner.
4. What sort of layout will suite you best?
Like we discussed earlier, one of the most important things is to think about what you’ll be using your planner for. This is because you need to know how much space you’ll need on diary pages and what additional space you might want. There are a few types but the basics are daily, weekly and monthly calendar styles.
If you know your planner will be the hub of all your lists, ideas and appointments every day, then a daily might be best for you. These are also brilliant if you run a business with appointment times during the day. It will allow you to schedule your day at a glance without worrying about overlapping times.
Alternatively, weekly is another option which allows week at a glace and helps you to manage less things in a smaller space. Weekly comes with its own additional choices because of the layout — week on two pages (known as W2P), more or less? Again, this all depends on your preference as each format is readily available.
Lastly, monthly allows for a month overview and is great for at a glance appointments, birthdays and events but doesn’t allow much room for anything else. Lots of planners have these as standard at the beginning of each month so you have a monthly overview as well as weekly/daily pages afterwards. It all depends on what you want and need.
For my personal planner I use a daily. I make lists for everything and tick them off as the day progresses. This helps me to manage my anxiety and gives me a real sense of accomplishment at the end of each day. For work, I use a week on two pages as well as a monthly overview. This allows me to see, at a glance, what I need to achieve that week along with what I’ve published over the course of the month. I spend time on a Sunday planning for the week ahead, and write down all of my business tasks and personal tasks. I then make lists for each day in my personal planner, even work related stuff, so I can see my day and I’m more productive. This isn’t the right or wrong way of doing this planning thing; it’s just what works for me.
5. Where will you use this and where will it need to go?
Size does matter! In the planner world anyway ;) If you know what sort of planner you’ll need with regard to what the contents will look like, your final decision is how big or small do you want it? If you’re carrying it everywhere, like most planner-addicts do, an A4 might not be practical to fit into your clutch? But, if you’re a busy bee and need lots of space in your planner, will you be able to see a personal sized and have enough room in it to do what you need?
Here is a helpful size guide for you courtesy of Alicia at Open Quote Designs:
you might also want to have a look at Alicia’s brilliant article The Ultimate Planner Guide: Paper And Planner Sizes (Infographic + Chart)
Don’t fancy a planner, try a notebook instead. I’ve listed my favourites from Amazon under £15 on this post. Want to expand? You could also have a look at this post with some of the best Etsy Shops from my fab friends over at UKPA!
Has this helped? I do hope so! What’s your planning planner plan now? Check out our favourite shops for inspiration!