Setting up your planner correctly is important to get the most out of it. In addition, you need a regular system for maintaining your planner so you can operate at peak efficiency. I adjust and clean-out my planner once a month. I also spend some extra time each quarter and at the beginning of each year making sure everything is set up for amazing achievements. Here’s a peek into my annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily processes that keep my planner working for me.
For each of these processes, you need to gather all the necessary supplies. Here is a list of things you might want to gather.
- Daily or Weekly Planner
- Future Pages (if applicable)
- Favorite Pens, Markers, or pencils
- Stickers if you like using stickers
- Perpetual Calendar & Menu List
- Goal Setting and Tracking System
I usually do my annual planner reset during the week between Christmas & New Year’s. This tends to be a little slower time around here and that makes it easier to find some focused time to work on my planner.
- Unpack new planner pages. This actually happens a little earlier because I usually need to make entries. I order my annual planner/refill sometime in September to make sure that it’s here in time. If you use an academic year planner, this will probably happen in late June.
- If your planner is ring bound, put the monthly calendars in your planner and the daily or weekly pages in storage binder. I only carry two months of daily or weekly pages in my planner but I carry all of the monthly pages.
- Enter master schedules and occurring events into the new year. This includes writing in holidays if their not already in your planner as well as the dates of celebrations for birthdays or anniversaries that happen every year. This is also the time when I put in the school and work calendar for all family members.
- Schedule vacation and self-care for the year. Personal time needs to be a priority in order to avoid burnout. By scheduling these days at the beginning of the year before anything else is on the calendar, I make sure that I’m keeping a commitment to myself to have downtime.
This is my chance to make sure that nothing is falling through the cracks. More importantly, it’s when I review my goals for the previous quarter and set goals for the next quarter. I usually do this process on the last Friday of the month since Friday is an administrative/desk day for me.
- Clean out projects and master task lists. Sometimes life gets busy and we forget to mark things off the lists that we have accomplished. This is a great time to review those lists and make sure that we checked off anything we’ve already accomplished. It’s also a good time to review for any that need to be scheduled during the next quarter.
- Decide which of my goals will be my focus for this quarter and plan out their action steps. You can only focus on 1-3 goals per quarter to be able to make significant progress. Trying to focus on too many goals can mean that you don’t accomplish any of them.
- Enter these action steps for my focus goals in the daily pages of my planner (including the months that are still in the storage binder).
I do this part of the process sometime around mid-month. The number of times I have to pull my storage binder down to add something to a date for next month usually determines exactly when that is.
- Take the past month out of my daily planner. When I do this, I go through the notes on each of the days and make sure that everything got onto the appropriate list. I also check for notes that I might want to reference later and note them on the index at the beginning of the month. Finally, I put the past month in the back of my storage binder.
- Move next month from the storage binder to my daily planner. I also double check that I have my goal action steps entered as well as add any master task list items that I want to accomplish that month.
- Enter regularly occurring events into the new month. This includes writing in birthdays from my perpetual calendar, putting in regular events like meetings and family dinners, and making sure everyone’s school and work schedules are up to date. This is also when I put in recurring days for bills, paychecks, trash/recycling pick-up, etc.
This really is the heart of the system because this is where you apply your goal action steps to specific days.
- Prepare and enter this week’s meal plan on each day. Also, make note of anything that I need to thaw for the following day. I use the forms in my Meal Planning Binder to help prepare my meal plan and shopping list each week and then transfer the meal plan information to both our command center planner and my personal planner.
- If you have a command center calendar (I use an Living Well Planner for this), enter all appointments, meetings, and commitments for the family. I’ll give you a full peek at my command center process soon.
- Enter scheduled appointments and meetings from your monthly calendar to your daily or weekly calendar pages for this week. Be sure to enter “self-care” appointments. If you don’t they’ll be too easy to push to the wayside.
- Enter action tasks from your quarterly goals list into the appropriate days in your daily/weekly calendar pages if they’re not already there.
- Enter any recurring tasks that need to be completed this week into your daily/weekly calendar pages.
The daily process shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes. I try to do this as the last thing I do each evening before starting my evening bedtime routine.
- Check the appointments for tomorrow that you added during your weekly planning session. I try hard to put all appointments on both my monthly and daily views but sometimes things slip through the cracks.
- Carry forward any tasks that didn’t get completed yesterday. Pay attention to how many tasks you are moving forward. If you are moving too many items forward on a regular basis you aren’t planning the right amount of time for your tasks. If you see this happening, adjust the number of items you put on each day. I always add 1-3 items on my task list that I really don’t think I’ll get done so I never am at a loss for what to work on next. Those are the only items that should be moving forward.
- For those goal tasks that you completed, check to be sure the next step is on tomorrow’s task list. You always want to be working toward your monthly focus goals so make sure that there is a task from each of those goals on each day.
- Enter your task blocks on the daily calendar. I use color coding for all of my tasks so it’s easy to see which blocks I need and approximately how long I need. During this step, I may adjust the number of items on today’s list because I see that it isn’t realistic. While I want to challenge myself each day, I don’t want to be moving lots of items forward every day or I might start getting down on myself.
That’s my process for keeping my planner up-to-date and making sure that I am moving forward on my goals. What do you do differently than me? Let me know in the comments below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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