How to Use a Planner Effectively and Avoid these Newbie Mistakes

Do you ever feel like there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done? Are you struggling to stay organized despite your best efforts? But the real question is, are you using a planner effectively? 

I wasn’t. I had my cute planner with all the bells and whistles that I wanted. However, I still tried to keep everything in my head. I only used my planner once a week–maybe. Even then, I wouldn’t stick to the plan I made.

I wish I realized the mistakes I was making because I would’ve become a planner addict a whole lot sooner. It took me years of letting tasks and appointments slip through the cracks before I got my planner game on point. Don’t waste years feeling and being disorganized. I’m going to share with you my biggest mistakes in using a planner.

How to Set Up Your Planner Effectively

In order to make the best use of your planner, you have to start with setting it up the right way. This takes time that I didn’t allot to my planner as a beginner. I knew I needed to put in the things already scheduled into my life, but I didn’t think of these cool planner ideas.  

Creating a Schedule/Routine

Start by making a schedule. If it’s a weekly routine, time blocked schedule or an hour-by-hour schedule, have something where you can quickly look and see what’s the next part of your day or the major tasks for the week..

If you don’t know how to begin, think about what happens each day, the important routine tasks. Write them down. You can even do this on a piece of paper separately and add it to your planner later.

Categorize Tasks

With your list of routine tasks, work or school hours, and all of that, you can divide your planner into categories. Mark out personal tasks, family tasks, work, etc.

Use Color Coding

Color coding is optional but can make using your planner more effective. Assign different colors to the specific categories. You’ll be able to look quickly at any day and know what kind of tasks are needed, or on your calendar and recognize what the event details are.


Once you’ve set up your planner for maximum efficiency, you can now plot out things already going on (or will be happening) in your life. Take all of your appointment cards, class syllabi, upcoming events, and sticky notes and write them in your planner. That way, everything is in one place. This is one of the major benefits of using a planner.

Make sure everything fits nicely in your new schedule. If it doesn’t, move it around or reschedule it right now. Remember to place tasks on a to-do list, not a calendar appointment!

How to Use a Planner Effectively: The Steps

Schedule the Time

It’s super easy to write about a task to do, an appointment or an event. What’s hard is to remember is to log how much time that event takes. To use a planner effectively, you need to mark out how much time it takes to do the task. Leave room for arriving on time for a meeting or event. Don’t squeeze a ton of tasks together in a short time. Sometimes we have to divide up tasks.

Divide Large Tasks 

Another tip for using your planner effectively is to break up a large task. Some tasks seem like they are just one thing, but actually they are a lot of little tasks in one. Examples of these are things like writing a paper, creating a blog post, decorating a room or cooking a meal. If we look at cooking a meal, there could be hidden tasks like printing out the recipe, shopping for ingredients or letting meat marinate overnight.  

You might have to divide up the tasks like print the recipe and make a shopping list on Monday, go to the grocery store and pre-chop veggies on Tuesday, marinate the meat on Wednesday, and finally cook the meal on Thursday. When you write a task, take just a few seconds to think if there are additional steps that you need to prioritize in order to have the task done on time.


You know you’ll be using a planner most effectively when you are able to give prioritization of your plans. Some plans seem important but only because they are urgent, others seem like they don’t matter because there isn’t an urgency. But truly, the best judge is you. Again, remembering taking time to plan will help you use your planner to its utmost. Judge the importance and needs and mark tasks (through color-coding, starring or some other method) as high-priority and perhaps even others as low-priority.

The Biggest Mistakes In Using a Planner Effectively

One of the biggest mistakes I made in using a planner is only checking it once a week or even less than that. Don’t just check in when someone hits you up to hang. That’s a no-no. 

If you want to get your life organized, you need to do more than jot down appointments on the calendar. Be the boss of your life and check in everyday. Depending on how packed your schedule is, you might have to reference your planner multiple times a day.

Using a planner effectively is all about CONSISTENCY. My mistake was not actively using my planner and if you want to really be in control, get in there and adjust things as you go.

Another big mistake people make is failing to establish a habit. Let’s face it, this takes time and effort. If you want to know how to use a planner effectively, start a habit of using it daily. All of your intentions for consistency, prioritizing, and scheduling will go out the window if you don’t commit to establishing habits around your planner.

How to use a planner effectively
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Don’t Expect Miracles!

Using a planner effectively can start the journey of being better organized. Planners are a great tool to fast-forward your productivity. But don’t forget, a planner is just a tool. It is only one step towards reaching your goals. You need to read the next article on how to boost your motivation to reach your goals.

Do you use a planner? Have you ever made any of these “newbie” mistakes?

Author: Rose from Signature By Rose

Rose is a lover of paper, productivity, and planning.  Self-proclaimed as the #1 planner addict, Rose spends time creating beautiful organizational printables for her blog Signature By Rose, where she talks about planning and journaling.  You can also catch her over on Twitter and Pinterest

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