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I’m one of those people that just needs to write things down on paper for it to feel real. It’s been like that my whole life – from tracking school assignments, to menu planning, to creating packing lists. Each year, I get a gorgeous paper planner from Lilly Pulitzer, and use it to track all the details of my days: blogging, life, food, and more. Here are some fun tips I use that will help with your own planning.

Make It Fun, Not Precious

This is a struggle for me, and I’m sure that’s the case for plenty of you as well: whenever I get a new planner, notebook, or anything like these, I get nervous about messing it up. What if I spell a word wrong or use the incorrect color? That fear can create a paralysis that causes many a notebook to sit untouched on my shelf for years.

For your planner, it’s important not to let yourself fall into that trap. The point of a planner is to make your life easier. If it’s causing you extra stress, then it’s not working properly. One thing I like to have on hand to help is stickers. If I really mess up, I can add one in to cover it or distract myself. I also like to use lots of colored pens to make it feel fun!

Also, I love that the Lilly planner doesn’t let you focus too much on being overly consistent. Each month and week, the gorgeous illustrations are slightly different. The theme of each month introduced a new color palette. This makes it easier to make mistakes. It can be pretty and functional without being perfect.

Design and Refine Systems

So now you’re using your planner. You’re not afraid to mess it up. We’re in a good place. However, it’s still a good idea to develop some sort of system to create visual organization. In the beginning of the year, it’s a great time to think of how you like to visualize your thoughts. Are you the checkbox type, or more of the crossing items out? Do you like color coding, or a neutral palette?

Then throughout the year, let yourself have the grace and flexibility to mess it all up. If halfway through May, you decide you hate checking boxes, and want to scribble out tasks, go for it. If you introduce a new hobby and your color code falls apart, adjust it. The best part of a planner is that once the dates go by, you don’t need to go back and make sure it was consistent. It just needs to work going forward.

Track What’s Important to You

I tried a bullet journal once, and it failed. Part of the reason it didn’t work for me is that I was trying to track everything. I had pages for media I watched, read, and listened to, and special designs for food and water I consumed. It started to feel like every time I accomplished any small detail in life, I had to track it or it wasn’t real. It just wasn’t sustainable.

With a planner, the main structure is already built in, but there’s freedom to track exactly what matters most to you. I don’t need to check a box every time I have a glass of water (but maybe you do!) but I do like to keep notes of when I am expecting online shopping orders to arrive, so I know to look out for them. It may take some time, but if tracking feels like it’s worse than the task itself, maybe it’s not worth the hassle.

Utilize the Extra Pages

One of my favorite things about the Lilly Pulitzer agenda is all the fun additional pages they come with (and of course the bright colors and fun stickers)! I like to use the full month spreads to visualize longer term projects, and produce seasons. There are travel pages I can use for packing lists, and notes pages where I can track ideas.

This year, I have a seventeen-month planner, but I’m only using it for twelve. A perk to that is five extra months where I can ignore the dates and plan general concepts. What would my dream week look like? How about a hypothetical vacation? I can sketch it out using a spare week. It’s okay to break the format.

Do you use a paper planner? Let me know how you like to use yours, or share some of your struggles.

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8 thoughts on “My 2020 Planner and Agenda Tips

  1. I truly don’t think I could function without a planner. When my 2019 one ended, I realized I didn’t have another on hand for the beginning of January, and the first few days before I purchased a new one were torturous haha! It was so challenging to keep track of everything when I couldn’t write it all down and check it off when finished. My planner holds my whole life – business and personal! I love the point you made about keeping it fun. That’s really important. The planner I have gives a space each day for gratitude, which I love, and on the weekends it has a checklist basically saying “hold up, it’s the weekend. What will you be doing for fun?” So great!

    1. I totally agree! I’ve used a planner for years, and usually put it on my Christmas list. One year I didn’t get it as a gift and had to order my own, so I was without it for a few days. It was awful! I love the idea of a dedicated space for gratitude and weekend fun. It sounds like you really found a planner that works perfectly for you!

    1. My favorite are the spreads for each month, which have gorgeous hand painted designs. Then the weekly pages uses the color scheme and elements from those designs. It really is a gorgeous product!

  2. These are great tips and suggestions! I’ve struggled with maintaining my planner throughout the year and tend to switch back and forth between a digital version and a physical one. Right now I’ve been relying on Trello because it has been hard for me to maintain both.

    1. I like to have both for different reasons. I use my Google calendar to organize major events and make appointments on the run. I use Trello to organize thoughts, but not really for scheduling. Then I use my planner for day to day things like meal planning. You have to focus on the systems you love that work for you!

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