My name is Sarah and I'm so glad you're here!
This blog is where you'll find all my best tips and tricks to organize, simplify, and streamline your business and life.
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.
2018 is my fourth 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, so it stays by my side pretty much all the time.
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, 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 to simplify my own life and make room for what matters most.
When my new planner arrives each year, there are always a few steps I take immediately to get everything set up before the craziness of the holidays descends upon us.
Start by putting birthdays and anniversaries in for all the important people in your life.
I start with the monthly overview and mark off the birthdays and anniversaries with bar birthday stickers from FayeCreates. I put the sticker on the bottom of the day within the monthly view and write the name of the person (or persons) whose birthday or anniversary it is.
Because it helps me make a visual distinction, I use the different colored stickers for birthdays and the gold glitter ones for anniversaries.
From there, I move onto the individual days. For birthdays, I use gold glitter birthday cake stickers, also from FayeCreates, on the individual day with the person’s name written next to it. For anniversaries, I use heart stickers with the couple’s name written next to it.
Something I implemented last year is also adding notes a week or two in advance of those birthdays and anniversaries to send cards or pick up a gift, depending on my particular relationship with the person or couple. Sending people cards, in particular, is one of my favorite things and it frees up so much brain space to make little notes like that before the year even starts.
After I’ve marked off all the birthdays and anniversaries, the next step is travel and vacation.
Because travel and vacation time typically spans multiple days, I like to mark off those dates using thin washi tape. I use a sharpie pen to write the location of the trip or the particular event on the washi tape itself and color code the tape based on whether it’s related to business stuff, a church trip, or a personal vacation.
One of the great things about washi tape is that it’s easily repositionable. That means you can mark off tentative dates for vacations you’d like to have or just time off you’d like to take and if those get rescheduled or aren’t able to happen, it’s super easy to remove them from the calendar without doing any damage!
Before we jump into the breakdown of what I do for my monthly views and my daily views, let’s talk color coding, because that has a big impact on my system!!
There are obviously a lot of different ways to color code and I’m actually going to share with you two different ideas — how I used to color code and how I color code now.
For the first three years I used a Simplified Planner — 2015, 2016 + 2017 — I color coded with pens.
There were five major things I was tracking in my life at the time — personal, travel, church, work, and (a totally different and now closed) business — and every category had its own colored pen.
Whenever I wrote something in the planner planner for one of those things — task, event, or note — I wrote it in the corresponding color. This made it easy for me to look at either the monthly or daily view and know exactly what was happening in all the moving parts of my life.
If color coding with pens isn’t up your alley another great option, and my new system in 2018, is to color code with stickers and write everything in your planner with black ink.
My categories are similar to what they used to be, but with a bit more nuance. I now track personal, travel, church, business, and creative projects, with subcategories for both business and creative projects.
Using the Emily Ley color coded dot and flag stickers, every one of those categories (currently totaling eight) has its own colored dot or corresponding flag that I use to visually designate between to dos, events, and notes.
Once the initial set up is complete, you’ve figured out your tracking and/or color coding system, it’s officially time to start using the Simplified Planner!
So it doesn’t get too cluttered, I reserve the monthly view for big appointments that I need to keep in mind and I use relatively minimal color coding.
I reserve one or two days a week for focused work, where I don’t make any appointments before 6pm. I designate these work days with a dot sticker in the upper right corner, so I know not to schedule anything.
For big picture things, like a monthly duty day for business or a weekend conference for church, I use a flag sticker, often writing the event on the flag itself.
When it comes to anything that lasts more than a day or two, like a vacation, I mark off those days with thin washi tape color coded to match its event category as closely as possible. (Here’s hoping there will be some EL Happy Stripe thin tape released soon!)
Because I have a daily planner, the daily view really is the bread and butter of my Simplified Planner system, but even then, things are fairly simple.
I place a color coded dot sticker on the to do or hour line for a particular task or event and write in there. Just like the pens used to, this gives me a good visual overview of how much is happening in each area of my life from day to day.
It’s also great when you’re assessing how to simplify your life and focus on the things are most important to you because you can easily see exactly where your time is going from day to day!
Getting into the nitty gritty as a business owner, I use one sticker color for all my work with clients. Since I have multiple clients and still like to be able to see what needs to be done for whom, I stick a dot sticker in the time block and write out the clients name in the daily schedule area. For each of the to dos, I write their initial on the dot sticker itself.
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’ll be going into some of these things more in depth a future post, but here are a few of the other things I track in the Notes section of my daily Simplified Planner:
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 2018! Here’s to simplifying our lives and making room for what matters most.