I love putting pen to paper! Even in a digital age, there is something so fulfilling about physically checking off boxes and writing out to-do lists. But the world of planning has exploded in recent years and is much more involved than the simple notes I used to take on a relatively plain looking calendar. There was a simple joy brought on by my perfectly color-coded, pen only system. Now, it has ignited creativity in new ways with seemingly endless possibilities of not only organization, but also expression. It truly has become a hobby. And with new people diving in every day, there are so many people questioning how to get started. Instagram #hashtags and Facebook groups can be overwhelming for a newbie, so here are my tips to help you get started!

1. FIGURE OUT YOUR WHY

Why do you want to plan? What happened or has been nagging at you that you finally decided to commit to this planning thing? What parts of your life need organizing? For which things do you need to keep records? Will you use a planner for specific parts of your life or your life as a whole? Do you need it to be functional? Do you want to use it as a creative outlet? Do you want it to be a collection of memories? Or are you taking it on as a hobby?

There are so many options when it comes to brands, styles, methods, layouts and types that it will seem nearly impossible to narrow in on a starting point without knowing how you want your planner to function. There will likely be some trial and error if this is your first go-round, but the objective is to not spend hundreds of dollars trying to find planner peace.

2. SCOUR YOUTUBE & TAKE NOTES

Since you’re getting ready to fall down the planner rabbit hole, it only makes sense for you to fall down the YouTube rabbit hole as well. I know you probably don’t need another thing to be addicted too, but this is for research purposes. And the better of a student you are, the more likely you are to save money (and sanity) in the long run. 

“Google it,” has become the go-to answer when lacking knowledge. The last few years, however, I have transitioned more and more to “YouTube it!” And fortunately for all of us #planneraddicts, there is no shortage of planner videos on YouTube. A quick search will populate a ton of “plan with me” videos, but avoid these for now. You want to watch videos that compare different styles and brands of planners. Here are a few to get you started:

Planner Sizes: The Ultimate Guide

Planning 101: Choosing a Planner

Planner Collection: How to Choose a Planner

3. TEMPLATES & FREE PRINTABLES

Now that you have a few (hundred) videos under your belt, I hope you have a better idea about the style (spiral, disc, rings, traveler’s notebook, bullet journal, etc.) you desire. This leaves you to envision what size and layout would work well for you, allowing Google to become your BFF again.

Search for the PAPER size that correlates to the binder style you are contemplating. Making sure the search is for the paper size is critical, because the binding/cover of a planner is often different dimensions than the actual paper it holds.

Once you have the measurements, cut some scrap paper to those dimensions to try out for size. Things you want to test for: how it fits in your hand, do you have enough room to write all the things, does it fit comfortably in your bag (if you’re planning to tote it from place to place) and does it look and feel pleasing to you.

I would also recommend doing a search for free templates. This will help you get a feel for the size with a corresponding layout. You might want a pocket-sized planner and love a vertical layout, but find that those two combined don’t provide you enough writing space. Now you’re tasked with either changing your size or changing your layout. This is vital intel to avoid spending money on a planner only to realize after a week or two of use, it doesn’t work for you.

4. TEST RUN

The time has come to invest in a planner. Yay! But pro tip: go cheap! Start with a more cost effective version before you splurge for the planner (seemingly) of your dreams. Steps one, two and three have given you an educated starting point, but nothing compares to real life application.

For example, if your dream planner is a spiral bound planner from one of the more popular brands (i.e. Erin Condren, Plum Paper, etc.) pick up a Recollections spiral bound planner from Michael’s when it is on sale or when you can use a coupon. You can always get your dream planner at a later date. You will feel better about potentially wasting $10 as opposed to $50.

5. DON’T GET CAUGHT UP IN THE HYPE

Disclaimer: The more groups you join and the more planner people you follow online, the harder this will be.

I like to equate the planner industry to the fashion industry. Even planner bloggers and fashion bloggers are one in the same. There are YouTube channels and Instagram feeds that have made individuals #plannerfamous. There are established brands with cult-like followings and a very loyal customer base. And there is no shortage of PR teams ready to entice you to #buyallthethings. They will use an ostensibly endless supply of sticker books, washi tape, pens and accessories to make the most beautiful spreads and have the most well-crafted set-ups you have ever seen. You, my friend, do not NEED all of those things…especially before you really get settled into this #plannerlife. Like fashion, every planner trend won’t work for you. And that is okay. Most collectors of anything will tell you it took time for them to accumulate their goods.

Sometimes diving right in is a good thing. But I would argue PLANNING your attack in this situation is the better option. After all, you want your planner to “spark joy” and help ease some of the stressors or chaos in your life.

I hope these tips help you get started. Let me know in the comments! Happy planning!

P.S. My Instagram feed isn’t planner focused, but they do make an appearance here and there and I would love for you to join me on the ‘gram!

P.S.S. Planners use a ton of hashtags and a # search on Instagram will give you a ton of inspiration. If you didn’t notice, I included a few in my post to get you started!