5 Tips on How To Use Your Paper Planner

December 23, 2022

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Let’s take a look at how to set up and use your planner and what planner I have been using. I have been obsessed with paper planners since I was introduced to them in junior high school. I carried one literally with me from 7th grade all the way through college and now I still adore and use my paper planner regularly. Some of us find ourselves lurking, searching, and stalking the internet for any new, fun, or inspiring option when it comes to picking out a new paper planner.

I am so happy to say that I have been in love with the planner that I am using. It is because of the five fun and new ways that I have found to use my planner that I am going to share with you. I no longer feel the need to test out multiple different planners over, and over, and over again. Recently, I love the way that I have begun to incorporate some fun and different elements to make using my paper planner an actual tool for productivity. This year, I want you to be able to start out your new year with that same kind of enthusiasm, excitement, and clarity on how you’re going to set up and use your paper planner.

Listen below for the entire episode on The Systemize Your Life Podcast

What is my favorite paper planner?

Let’s Jump into how to set up and use your planner. I use the Dream Planner from Horacio Printing and you can go to Horacioprinting.com. If you use Chelsi20 and you can get 20% off anything. This year it is a little bit different. You don’t just get a planner, you get an entire planner kit. When you buy a 2023 Horacio Printing Dream Planner, you get a whole free mini course that teaches you how to set up the planner. And you get time block training from me! It takes you through my entire time blocking method inside of that free training, which you cannot access anywhere on the internet, except for inside my Systemize Your Life Program. So it is such an excellent opportunity for you to learn all that you can and take my daily, weekly, and monthly systems and put them in your planner.

How to Set Up Your Paper Planner

Now you do not have to use the Dream Planner to still implement what we are going to go through today. No matter what planner you use though, these five fun and new ways to use your paper planner can still be done. When you first open your planner you will notice most paper planners will have a few pages at the beginning that are for establishing the actual planner.

The reason why I love the Horacio Printing Planner so much is that it doesn’t just do this once a year it does it every quarter. It’s a really great way to set up a baseline for you to really get you thinking. To really access your fundamental needs. My fundamental needs system is also inside the planner. The Dream Planner a beautiful blank canvas to find out the foundation of who you are and who you want to become.

This planner is designed and geared for you to set up your year in a very successful and productive way. It’s not just for business, just for home, and it is not just spiritual it’s like the whole thing. So it is important to have that foundation of the planner that they all have in the beginning. 

If you are continually switching from year to year to a different planner that may work for you. Maybe you haven’t even opened that part of your planner yet. I want to challenge you to go sometime between Christmas and New Year to a coffee shop for two hours and set up your planner. It’s never too late to set up your planner. 

Step 1 Find Your Monthly Rhythms to Use in Your Paper Planner

Once your planner is set up and squared away let’s talk about the five fun and exciting things you can do to really make this fun, make this exciting. Honestly, these five things have been game changers for my productivity, my ability to accomplish goals, for my ability to be effective and efficient as a work-from-home mom trying to balance it all.

This may seem rudimentary but this is a great reminder of how to use your monthly spread in your planner. Many of you are going to have daily or weekly layouts, and I always recommend a daily layout. But several people are not utilizing that monthly spread inside your planner. What I want you to do right now is start with a baseline system for what you want to do with that monthly spread.

Mine has changed throughout the years and know that sometimes it will change. Ask yourself, what do you want to be tracking in your household on a monthly basis? Do not book appointments here.

Instead of the “where I have to be?” mentality in your monthly view, look at the patterns you have going on month to month and put that in your planner. Map out specific rhythms in your life.

What monthly rhythms are essential to you?

One thing I like to do is to track my monthly cycle, and yes I know a cell phone could do that. I also know there are fancy devices you can use to track that. But there is something very cathartic about putting pen to paper when mapping out specific rhythms in your life.

What about my business?

Another fun thing you can do, especially looking at January, is you can do this three months out at a time, or you can do this month to month. But I don’t recommend you do it more than a quarter at a time.

If you are a business owner and you don’t have a complex business yet you can map out either your content strategy or marketing strategy for the month. You may have a YouTube Channel or Podcast you are showing up to and you could create a legend in the blank space of your planner and write that in.

Just over the last six months, my team has shifted completely to a content calendar online. Our content calendar in MeisterTask has to be that way because now I have multiple people. Everyone has to be able to see upcoming content, and I can no longer keep that in my planner. Whether you’re just getting started in your business or you are full-fledged in your business there is a way to use the monthly layout for your benefit. There is a way to use it that feels fresh and new to you.

Step 2 – Find your Rhythms Annually to Use in Your Paper Planner

Now we are going to shift to the annual view of your planner. Most planners have an annual view. Using precisely the same concept as Step 1. Sit down and create a legend in some blank space. Be sure to color code it so that it is very easy for your brain to understand.

Some events that you may want to look at annually are holidays when the kids are off school, and promotions in your business when you’re taking time off your business. Maybe you’re running a seasonal business and you are running high season and really low season or you have heavy prep season. Make a legend for yourself and map that out. Doing this helps me know when I have more on my plate and when I have less on my plate.

When we are running our internships, running our promotions, or running our partnerships; these tend to be the bigger things in my business that I have to put in more time and what I want to see mapped out. Once this is done, I can see all the negative space that leaves availability for travel, rest, and celebration. It allows me to get a good look at what peace, joy, and productivity really look like over the year. Does everything always go according to plan? No.

Why is this step so important when setting up your paper planner?

That’s not the point. The point is to get as close as you possibly can to mapping out a high level of when you’re going to do things throughout the year so that you don’t end up in a pickle as I have done. Those times, I didn’t have a birds-eye view of what the year was going to look like, and all of a sudden my back is up against the wall. I realized it would start to affect family members, the people that work with me, it starts affecting my children, and how I can show up in my house.

If it starts to affect my fundamental needs, it is because I have overbooked too many things at a time. And this may or may not have as much relevance for you in your business. Or maybe this is what it looks like in your extracurriculars. What are the big events that you would need to use paid time off for? You could map out all of those weeks and highlight them in your planner.

Step 3 – Write Out Your Gratitude List

Find a blank piece of paper in your planner or if it doesn’t have one grab one. Write down what happened last year and what you are grateful for. Keep it inside your paper planner. This has been great for the times I have felt like I didn’t achieve what I had set out to. When actually there has been so much that we have achieved.

Step 4 – Dream Board Mapping + Your Goals

This is again another page that should be blank. Whether you are using the Horacio Dream Planner or not there are spaces set aside for these things in there. Step four is your goal for next year and it is a double whammy. It is also in addition to your goals for next year your dream board.

How to choose goals to use in your paper planner

When selecting your goals for next year make sure you have gone through a goal-planning process. If you did go through my goal planning workshop you should have that replay. If you didn’t snag a ticket to that maybe next year. But you can still go through your goals for next year and write them down inside of your planner. I like to have 1-2 clear very attainable goals in multiple areas of my life. Some of the goals I have included are fitness, finance, marriage, and parenting. I also have goals for my home and I have a few for my business as well. That is what I would like you to do in that section or page in your planner.

“It is because every single year I am expanding and I am building upon what I did the last year.”

How to create a dream board for your planner

Here is where I put my dream board and it is so much fun. There is no right or wrong way to do this at all. But when you first open your planner, that front cover when you open it on the inside, that is where I put my dream board. It is so much fun. I like to use Canva. Old School, we would cut out magazine pieces and put everything in. But now I go straight to Canva and use up a whole 8×11 design page. I like to put pictures of my family that inspire me, my goals, and my mantras.

Whatever it is that I inspire to become in the new year. That is what I would put inside my Canva design, in no particular order. Then print them out in color and cut them out. Then you can arrange them in a collage-like fashion inside your planner. Use a decent amount of glue stick to put them in your planer. Then you can use a peal-and-stick laminating sheet or masking tape to protect them inside of your planner.

Why is it important to create a dream board?

Every single year for the last four years or so now, I have created a dream board in my paper planner. I will continue to do it forever because it is the most incredible thing to look back through all those years. I literally cried when I looked at the goals I had in that first planner looking back at the pictures and my vision mapped out.

What I am mapping out now for my health, my family, and my business, is so beyond the scope of what I could ever imagine for my life. It is because every single year I am expanding and I am building upon what I did the last year. I am putting it in my Dream Planner, and I am constantly reminding myself of it. It is always there to strive for me to grow day after day and week after week.

Step 5 – Face Your Fears

I don’t know that you would consider this fun and I don’t know of anyone else doing this. Here is the last thing that is so new. It is really exciting to be able to have this as the real nuts and bolts to be the support of what you are going to be doing into the new year.

I want you to open up your planner and find a blank piece of paper You can easily make any page blank by adding a blank sheet of paper on top of a page and gluing it in there. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

I want you to write down the fears that often hold you back. And really sit with it a minute. Maybe this fear is not in every single area of your life, but it affects every single area of your life. This was such a beautiful process that I went through thanks to Polly and the Dream Planner with Horacio Printing.

What are you afraid of?

The planner guides you through this process. It has allowed me to do kind of what I already know about myself. What is my M.O.? Where do I backslide? What is the dark side whenever I approach something that is hardly what fears get in my way? Write those down.

In addition to that, I wrote down my battle plan for that fear. For those of you who are faith led, you can go and find specific scripture to add to them, and for those of you who are into particular mantras. Or you have someone in your family specifically. Anything that you know to be your go-to to help you during those particular times. Maybe it is a positive affirmation you repeat to yourself like any specific gratitude practice. What are the practices you know to help you during those times?

Sometimes your fears are triggered by a lack of nutrition or lack of sleep. Fixing that could be a part of your battle plan. Throughout the years whenever I find myself backsliding, I go straight to that page and remind myself of what my fears are and I check in myself.

What is your plan to overcome those fears?

Go over these questions with yourself when you start to feel afraid. Are you fighting fears? What is your battle plan? Are you armored up? Do you know what are you actually doing at this moment? And that in and of itself if you do nothing else this is such a beautiful process for you to go through.

How to Be More Productive With Your Paper Planner

Let me do a quick review of the 5 things that I think are extremely fun and will help you become productive when you learn how to set up and use your paper planner.

  1. Monthly Rhythms
  2. Annual Rhythms
  3. Gratitude for Last Year
  4. Goals for Next Year + Next Years DREAM BOARD
  5. Your Fears + Your battle plan to face those fear.

If you enjoyed these tips for updating your planner for the new year and would like to learn more ways to be productive in life and business. and motherhood, join us over in the Systemize Your Life Facebook Group.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I know how to use my weekly section of my planner?

Feel free to also check out the FREE time-blocking workbook which is an excellent tool to help you get started with time blocking.

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