Organizing Tips

Jan 08

The Anatomy of an Effective Planner

How many calendars do you have? How many to-do lists, Post-Its, half-used planners, and random scraps of paper litter the bottom of your bag or your workspace? Maybe you’ve got electronic planning clutter: unused apps, multiple calendars, or a whole lot of time-wasters disguised as productivity tools. Whether you’re a paper person or prefer to keep everything electronic, there are three essential elements to an effective scheduling/productivity system: a calendar, a divided to-do list, and a place to take notes. That’s absolutely all you need!

A calendar

Have only one, and have it be portable. If you’ve got kids, you may also want a family wall calendar to highlight school events and appointments, but your personal calendar should either be in your phone or a size that fits easily in your bag. If you don’t have it on you, you can’t use it, and if you have more than one, something’s going to get lost in the shuffle.

A divided to-do list

Electronic or paper, you need to have a place to record your to-do items. You can divide it in to sections like “calls/emails,” “work tasks,” “home,” and “errands.” The idea is to group like tasks so you can knock out several in one go to use your time more efficiently. Check out this article I wrote for Design*Sponge about how to effectively tackle your to-do list, and download my free Get 2 things Done template to help you prioritize.

A place to take notes

I like Evernote for organizing my notes and ideas, but I also have extra paper in the back of my planner in case I need to jot something down quickly.

My Planner

I’ve pulled from a few difference places and assembled my own planner that includes all of these sections in one neat little binder. It’s been working well for me for the past couple of years. Most of these link to the specific products I use (on my Amazon store page), but you can find these components at pretty much any office supply store.

Mini binder that holds 5.5 x 8.5 inch paper









Day-Timer Dual View for the calendar pages: I tear out the pages and 3 hole punch them to put in the binder.







Oilcloth cover to make it pretty and durable! These are from rbt bags on Etsy, and I have the yellow one on the right.








Tab dividers to divide the calendar, to-do, and notes sections








Filler paper for the to-do and notes sections









Binder pockets for coupons or any papers that I need to take with me









Have you found any planner apps or tools that help you stay organized?

2 Responses to The Anatomy of an Effective Planner

  1. Sam says:

    I love my Filofax as my planner. But I do have the problem of having too many calendars and to do lists etc. My goal is to just use the Filofax and perhaps one electronic calendar - probably just iCalendar on my phone for when I don’t have the Filofax.

    • Caroline Clark says:

      I think that’s a good plan! I mainly use my paper planner, but I do put some things into my phone’s calendar if I want a pop up reminder.

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