Armed with an obsessive love of color-coding and all things related to organization, I’m on a mission to help you maximize efficiency in your business and life so you can spend time on what matters most to you.
Equally right and left-brained, I’m that unique business owner who can think like a creative, but act like an administrator. This blog is where you’ll see me bring that dual-brained magic to life, taking the left-brain side of life and breaking it down for your right-brained self.
You know that scene in 27 Dresses where Jane (played by Katherine Heigl) realizes, to her complete terror, that she’s misplaced her File-o-Fax? That is totally what would happen to me if I lost my Simplified Planner.
2021 is my seventh (!) year using this beauty from Emily Ley, and I would truly be at a loss without it. It’s the linchpin to the analog portion of my life and business systems. Simply put, if it’s not in the Simplified Planner, it’s not happening.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through one of the links, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Whenever I talk to people about the Simplified Planner, they always ask me the same question: is it worth it?
Of course, they’re talking about the financial cost. If your experience buying planners is limited to the office supply section at Target, you might have some sticker shock when you first start considering purchasing a Simplified Planner, which is understandable.
To everyone who asks me whether or not the Simplified Planner is worth the cost, I will always tell them yes… if you use it.
No planner, whether it costs $10 or $100 is going to be worth the money you spend on it if you don’t actually use it for its intended purpose.
So if you purchase a Simplified Planner and it sits on your desk gathering dust the entire year, it absolutely is not worth the cost. However, if you integrate it into your daily life and use it for its intended purpose — to help your simplify your life and make room for what matters most — then it’s worth every penny.
But that brings up another question — how do you use a Simplified Planner? How do you actually use it to help you simplify, prioritize, manage life, add margin, and make room for what matters most in your life?
Like with everything, the number of ways you could approach using something like the Simplified Planner are as varied as the people who purchase it.
To give you a little inspiration and hopefully a starting point, today I’m breaking down exactly how I use my Simplified Planner after seven years to simplify my own life and make room for what matters most.
Now, before we get into the nitty gritty, there’s a couple things you need to know.
First, there are four variations of the Simplified Planner — daily and weekly, academic and calendar year. The daily planner gives you a full page per day, the weekly planner gives you a full spread per week. The calendar year planner starts on January 1st and the academic year planner starts on August 1st.
I’m a daily calendar year planner girl, through and through, which means how I use my planner is specific to the daily layout. (Whether you go with a calendar or academic year doesn’t make a difference, in this case.)
Second, there are two main sections of the Daily Simplified Planner — the monthly view and the daily view, which includes the schedule, to do list, and notes section. I use all of these sections of the planner extensively, so that’s what we’ll talk through in the rest of the post.
Ready to dive in?
My use of the Simplified Planner always starts with the Monthly View. It’s where I go first as I’m planning out my months to see the big picture of everything that’s on the calendar.
So it doesn’t get too cluttered, I reserve the Monthly View for events or appointments outside of the norm (meaning things like work don’t get put on there) and I use minimal color coding.
For big picture things or important reminders, like a weekend conference for church or a business launch, I use a flag sticker, writing the event on the flag itself.
For anything that lasts more than a day or two, like a vacation, I mark those off with the Happy Stripe washi tape, based on my color coding for the year.
In addition to the calendar, I use the notes section on the side to note or plan in advance tasks I need to accomplish or events I need to schedule in a particular month. This might include regular tasks like scheduling appointments with my doctor or hairdresser, or one-off tasks or events for a specific year.
Using the Monthly View this way allows me to get that big picture view whenever I need it. I’m able to flip to the specific month and easily see if a particular night is free, without having to search for the individual spread for that particular day, which saves a ton of time.
As you might expect, the Daily View is the bread and butter of how I use my Simplified Planner. I love being able to map out my day hour-by-hour, ensuring I don’t overschedule myself.
The hourly schedule is the primary place I use color coding in the Daily View. I place a color coded dot on the hour line for a particular task or event and write it there. If an event or task spans more than two hours, I opt for a flag sticker instead, since it takes up more visual real estate.
On the to do list, I use the flag label stickers to break up my tasks for the day between top priorities, personal, work, business, daily, etc.
As a visual person, using color coding gives me a great overview of how much is happening in each area of my life from day to day and how many tasks I’m managing in each area of life.
It’s also great when you’re assessing how to simplify your life and focus on the things that are most important to you because you can easily see exactly where your time is going from day to day!
Finally, let’s talk about what has become one of the most important aspects of my Simplified Planner — the notes section.
Because I’m an analog girl at heart, I redid a lot of my systems late in 2017 to take advantage of my Simplified Planner even more. I wanted to truly have one tool I could use on a day-to-day basis and be confident that nothing would fall through the cracks.
I write everything down (and I mean everything), because I never want to forget big or small things in my life, my business, my work, or the lives of people I love.
This means if it’s not an event on my calendar or a scheduled task, there’s a 99% chance it goes in the Notes section of the planner — birthdays, reminders, deadlines, FYIs, all of it.
When I start or finish a book? It goes in the notes section. A reminder a week before someone’s birthday? It goes in the notes section. What’s for dinner tonight? It goes in the notes section.
I could keep going, but you get the idea. If it’s important to me and it’s not an event or a task, it goes in the notes section.
To help bring attention and awareness to specific things, this is the one place I use stickers a whole lot, because the visual of a bunch of exclamation points or a little book or something similar helps trigger my visual brain to pay more attention to it than if it was just words.
Bonus Tip: In 2020, I started also taking advantage of the few pages of general notes that are at the front of the Daily Planner. (The Weekly Planner has always had notes, but it’s a new feature for the Daily!) This is where I keep my running to do list.
You know, all those random tasks or projects you need to get to eventually, or even by a specific date, but you don’t have them scheduled in your actual planner yet?
These all go there, which means all my tasks are still in one place, and when I’m planning out my weeks and days, I can flip back to that running to do list and assign tasks to specific days to knock them out, one by one!
Whether you’re a devoted color coded like I am, you love all the stickers, all the pens, or some combination thereof, I hope this in-depth look at how I use my Simplified Planner has given you some practical inspiration for making the most of yours in 2021!
Here’s to simplifying our lives and making room for what matters most.
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