Weekly Planner: an Effective Way to Get Organized

Imagine someone who is so organized they don't need to write anything down. Not one task. Not one appointment. Their pen doesn't touch paper for a single detail or reminder.

That person isn't me.

And I image, dear reader, that person isn't you either.

Wouldn't it be boring to be completely perfect anyway?

With that said, before you whip out your pens and post its, napkins, or scrap papers - ask yourself:

  • Will I find this note later when I need it?
  • How many times before have I written something down only to empty my desk, drawer, backpack, wallet or purse in hopes I find it?
  • Isn't there a better way?

There is a better way, and I believe you can benefit from having a system to organize your week.

The Weekly Spread

The weekly spread is very much the same as your typical "week-at-a-glance" in a day planner, but with some extra tools to get you going. Here I'll guide you through using one.

To get started, I like to plan my task list for the week. First, I look at the previous week's list to see if there are any items that didn't get completed and move them forward. Second, I check my backlogs.

If you're unfamiliar with a backlog, it's a list of tasks that need to be done, but don't have a date assigned to them. For some people, it's a living document that just keeps growing. Personally, I have one for each month, one for crafting, one for my blog, and one for work. However, that's another post.

Weekly tasks are much the same in that we know we want to do them this week, but haven't picked a day to get it done yet.

Take a look below to see what that looks like.

Like any other to-do list, I recommend choosing a manageable number of tasks and not continually adding items to your list as you complete them. To do so is like continually moving the goalposts.

Also, you're going to want to save room for other tasks that might come up as well as your daily tasks.

Daily Tasks

Daily tasks are ones you want to get done on a specific day that week. While my example below doesn't show a lot of space, it's done so intentionally as the idea is to only choose your top 5-7 tasks for that day (it can be less too).

Repetitive tasks like check emails and wipe the kitchen counters don't go here because they're automatic.

Some examples in the home setting are:

  • appointments
  • errands
  • tasks that aren't routine
  • bill due dates
  • events and occasions
  • reminders

In the workplace setting some examples are:

  • meetings and appointments
  • tasks that aren't routine
  • due date reminders
  • general reminders
  • events and occasions

If you do have a really full day and need to get down to the specifics of calls to make, reminders, and appointments here's an example of a daily layout that can be used alongside your weekly spread.

Sometimes it helps when we break larger tasks into smaller ones!

Notes, Menu, Goals, and Blank List

The notes section in a weekly spread is exactly that. I recommend having one. It's an excellent place for you to put ideas and reminders that don't really fit anywhere else. If you use sticky notes, it's a great place to put them so you can find them again and give yourself more space to write.

I find it handy to have a menu on hand when planning the day so that dinner can be planned as well. Having the goals here as well simplifies things rather than having to flip to another page. It also allows goals to be adjusted weekly.

The blank list with no title is for any extra list that might be needed. I also added it as a place for others who are using it to track things or add lists that are unique to them.

All of them are filled out in my example below.

Things to consider

In creating your own day planner you can be as creative as you want with your weekly spread. However, when I used to draw mine and I'd add cute doodles, I'd get lazy with it after a bit. In my opinion, it's better to have a simple layout that works for you. Which makes my next point a lot easier. It's best to draw or print your weekly layouts in advance so that you can write in appointments and reminders for later.

A monthly layout comes in handy for occasions and events as well.



Weekly Menu Planning

If you're like me, you still haven't figured out how to cook "whatever" or "I don't care," but let me tell you there is hope. In that fifteen minutes spent going through every cupboard in your kitchen or going back and forth with your spouse (maybe both) deciding what to eat, dinner could have been well underway.

What it comes down to is a bit of planning ahead.

No, I'm not talking about meal planning. I'm talking about menu planning. This doesn't mean we have to become short-order cooks in our own kitchens. It's a lot like meal planning except that we don't commit to cooking a certain meal on a certain day of the week. Everyone eats the same thing where possible. The goal is to simply narrow down your choices.

We're no longer asking "what do you want for dinner?" We're asking what would you like out of these options - knowing we have what we need in order to follow through.

This helps with three things: planning a grocery list, saving time around mealtime, and reducing food waste.

How to make a weekly menu

There really is no one size fits all solution to making a weekly menu. However, here are some suggestions on how to get started:

  1. Grab a pen and paper - or phone with a notes app if that's how you work best
  2. Look at what's currently in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. What needs to be used up? Are there any meals you can make from these or other ingredients you have? What are you missing?
  3. Next, grab some inspiration from your local flyers! Do you see anything on sale that you can incorporate? If you don't have flyers on hand - you can download a free app called Flipp
  4. Using your list of current ingredients, the flyer, and household favourites create your menu. Personally, I add seven meals to my list so that I can choose one for each day of the week.
  5. Add any missing ingredients to your grocery list. Bring! is another free app I love! They have categories similar to the departments you'd find in your local grocery store. All you have to do is tap items to add them to your list - which can be shared with someone else.
  6. Put the menu somewhere visible so that you can see it. That way it's not lost or forgotten. If living with others, you can also put it somewhere central in the house where everyone can see it such as the fridge.
  7. When planning your day, choose what meal you'd like ahead of time in order to give yourself time to thaw, marinate, brine etc.

Other Tips

  • Plan meals where leftovers or extras can be used back to back - example BBQ chick and the next day chicken fried rice
  • Prioritize meals with ingredients that are due to go bad sooner
  • Create a go-to list of your / household favourites for inspiration. While this may seem trivial, it really helps when planning
  • Avoid including everyone in the process as it may end up taking longer than it needs to - it depends on the dynamic of the household of course. Personally, I run mine by my spouse once I've drafted it in case there are any objections, but I do the planning on my own
  • If needed you can include others by asking them to contribute to the favourites list so they don't feel their favourites will be left out


Using this method, we tackle three things at once - our menu for the week, our grocery list, and hopefully avoiding food waste in the process. It helps our budget a great deal as well by reducing the urge to order takeout or making unplanned trips to the store (whilst hungry).

Hopefully, you've found this helpful! Maybe there are ways you can make it fun for yourself and your household!

Day Planner: the Backlog

Some might refer to it as a "mind dump." My preference is "backlog" as it's exactly that. Simply put, it's a list of everything that needs to be done. However, don't let that idea scare you away!

Creating a Backlog

As overwhelming as it sounds, it can be helpful to write down every to do in one place. Remember, it's somewhat like taking an inventory so that you can make a plan to get things done. That plan isn't to get it all done at once.

Assess the items on the list. Often when I've created a backlog there have been a few items that I can immediately cross off the list. These are things that I thought I would want to do, or thought I should do, but have been putting off and just know it's not going to happen. Sometimes we have to be super honest with ourselves that suggested book, complex recipe, or even an invite to an event just isn't our thing, and that's okay!

Purpose of a backlog

Think of the backlog as a base list for all other to-do lists. It can be tempting to want to be productive and go through your backlog directly. Personally, I keep my backlog close by for when I'm planning my day, and my week. It's easily accessible when I need it so that I can move items over.

I treat my weekly notes section as a weekly backlog sometimes when I have a task that I'm not sure where to place, but I'd like to get it done that week. Daily, I pick around 5 - 7 tasks a day and work away at them. Those are what I focus on and I start with the higher priority items. Check one off, move to the next.

Continually adding to your to-do list is much like moving the goal post and by doing so we won't feel we got anything done - just that we have so much to do still.

The details

The details are really all about preference. Backlogs can be on paper or electronic. They can be ongoing, weekly, monthly, or even used on an as-needed basis when getting started with day planning, or getting caught up when tasks have piled.

The list doesn't need to be beautiful or categorized, but can be. It can also be specific to a project or contain everything that comes to mind. As I often mention with day planners / getting organized - you can be as creative, or not, as you want to be - as long as it helps you simplify and create less stress.

The To-Don't List: for Your Monthly Planner

Much like how our to-do list is a reminder of what we need to get done daily, a to-don't list is a list of things we do that we'd like to let go of. Our to-don't list allows us to reflect on what we'd like to change and reminds us to make those adjustments. It can include things that don't add value to our day and we wish to stop entirely. It could also be things that do add value that we'd like to ask for help with. 

Even if we aren't making those changes in the moment, we're jotting them down for a later time when we can visit them and make and action plan. Personally, I also like to list items on mine that I want to look into later and might be a distraction at the moment. 

1. Changing or Eliminating To-Don’ts

You can do whatever works for you of course. I designed my own day planner to have a monthly to-don’t list. That way I’m jotting down items that come to mind monthly. As a result, if I haven’t already addressed them during the month, the list will be there as a reminder for next month.

For example. You might find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your social media news feed. You realize it’s the third time that day you’ve done that for ten minutes. That’s a half hour! You write it down in your to-don’t list - “stop mindlessly scrolling of social media. It’s a waste of time.” By the end of the month if you haven’t addressed this yet, make it a goal for next. For instance, check in on your newsfeed once in the evening when you have time, or even less depending on how much you want to reduce your screen time. 

Some other examples might include:

  • Avoid listening to gossip. It isn’t helpful to anyone
  • Don’t say yes to be nice. Unless it genuinely works for me, I end up giving half-arsed help
  • Stop beating around the bush. Because others can’t guess what you want - tell them


2. Getting Help with Your To-Don’ts

On the other hand, you might be doing tasks that are too difficult for you, you simply don’t have time for, or you’re just plain sick of. 

If it’s work/business related you could use your to-don’t list as sort of a wish list of tasks you would delegate to someone if you were able to make a hire or outsource to a freelancer. Not only will it help you to decide or make your case when it’s time, but it will also help you create a better job description, and ensure you have enough work to make it worth the employee or freelancer’s while. 

If it’s not work-related, maybe there are things you can ask your spouse or a family member to take on. Maybe there’s a task or two a friend, or neighbour can help you get off your list if it's not too much of an ask.

Also if you’re a parent, your to-don’t list might help you decide on some chores your children can help with.

Some examples here are:

  • Ask for help with email marketing. It takes me a while since I’m not an expert
  • Ask for help with meal planning. I’d like opinions before not after the meal
  • Ask for help putting away the dishes. It’s not a complex chore, but I’d like some extra time to relax after dinner



While you won’t be able to let go of every task you dread, keeping a to-don’t list will certainly help you reduce some of the things that don’t add value so you can fill that time with things that do.

Why not give it a try? Mine is a simple list I keep in the back of my monthly sections of my journal. That way I know where it is. If you need some help getting started with your monthly journal, I have a printable version available on Etsy.

Thanks for reading!


Monthly Planner : Budgeting Inspiration

What's the cost of a cup of coffee? You might be thinking around two dollars. So every morning on your way to work or school you grab a cup of coffee because "what's two dollars?"

Five days a week for four weeks is $40, and that's if that cup of coffee is only two and you only buy one.

The point of me sharing this article is not to shame you for buying a morning (or second) cup of coffee. It's to help you think about spending with intention. Maybe you want to include $40 a month in your budget for coffee because it's important to you, maybe you had no idea you were spending that much and want to start bringing a travel mug most days.

Whatever works for you. I just know how helpful it is for me personally to include a budget in my monthly planner so I thought I would share some ideas for inspiration. If you've ever asked yourself "where does all my money keep going?" - this one might help you find some answers.

Why include a budget in your monthly planner?

Have you ever asked yourself, "where does all my money keep going?"

This will help with that.

By no means am I an expert in budgeting or finance. My math skills are average at best, my accounting skills basic, and the system I put together in order to track my finances is nothing more than simple addition and subtraction. 

The reason these pages work for me is that they create structure beyond glancing at statements and balances. They give a bit of perspective having everything all in one place. Tracking spending can also be a bit of an eye-opener. 

Below are the pages used in my monthly planner for your use as inspiration for you to create your own. You can also download them in my monthly planner package on Etsy you don't feel like making your own.

1. Monthly bills checklist

These numbers are made up for the example.

I believe a bill checklist is an important tool for anyone to have. A week before the beginning of a new month I gather my bills (mostly emails) and fill mine out. If it's different each month and I don’t have the amount yet I use the average amount and adjust later. I then total the amount of all bills due that month and move the number over to my budget sheet.

Note: this might seem obvious, but it’s helpful to use this list to put due dates in your day planner.

2. Monthly budget 

Note: these numbers are made up for the example.

On my monthly budget sheet, I include how much income I expect to come in as well as how much I expect to pay toward common categories like bills, groceries, entertainment, gas etc.. Sometimes it’s helpful to think ahead here. Do you have any events to attend, gifts to buy, or maintenance to schedule this month? Write down what it is, and how much it will (or you think it will) cost. Once you have all items in there, total all the amounts and that will be your budget for the month.

3. Budget tracker

This is exactly as it sounds. My budget tracker is simple. It includes a column for date, description, and amount. I write down any purchases made that month. At the end of the month, I total the amount to see how much I’ve spent in total. I also categorize my expenses (using the categories in my budget) to see how much I spent in each area. For this layout, using highlighters is helpful for distinguishing the categories when adding the numbers. I found it blended together simply writing the word.


At the end of the month, I compare my budget to my actual spending. I look to see how I did overall as well as in each category. While your numbers might be way off the first month you try, I found by tracking how much I was spending each month, I was able to set a baseline. This helped me set better and more realistic budgets for myself later. Personally, I find tracking helpful in itself as you’re holding yourself accountable. Since everyone is different, it’s a matter of finding what you’re comfortable with.

If you'd like to check out my monthly planner on Etsy - here's the link to my store - Autumn Smith Creative

If you enjoyed this post you might also like my post on goal tracking using your monthly planner.


Daily To-do List: for Your Monthly Planner

How many times have you picked up a new notebook, day planner, or even an app with the intention of getting things better organized? You get it all set up, only to stick with it for a couple of weeks and forget about it. I think of it kind of like the first day of school. We tell ourselves, this year I’m going to be on top of my assignments, and take tidy notes. However, a month in and that plan goes out the window.

I’ve done it many times. In my late teens and early twenties I was particularly bad for buying a day planner and forgetting about it for a few weeks at a time. During my time away from my planner I was basically flying by the seat of my pants. Mistakes were made. Tasks fell between the cracks or snuck up on me last minute. I still performed well at work, and on college assignments, but inside it felt like chaos.

I simply wasn’t taking the time to plan my days properly and I was paying for it.

Things got better when I started creating my own journals. I found the layouts I created were less limiting than the day planners that were available to me. 

I also changed the way I planned my day. Certainly, I’m still not perfect, nor do I strive to be, but I think this method is what has kept me planning consistently for the past few years.

1. First things first

The method means nothing if you don’t dedicate a little bit of time each morning or evening to planning. I’m not talking a half hour. I’m talking ten to fifteen minutes tops. Take a look at your journal in the evening, reflect on our day, and plan the next. Alternatively, this is done in the (early) morning, reflecting on yesterday, and an action plan is made for the same day.

2. Create lists to pull your daily to-dos from

When you’re first starting out, this will take a bit more time, but it will be worth it. Start by creating a backlog of items you need to do. I typically give it a time-frame of one month so that it isn’t just one continuous blob of text. You might also want to create a “later” list of things to explore later that aren’t a priority now. A “to-don’t” list is another one I recommend if you’re feeling ambitious. It’s simply a list of tasks that you would like to phase out or explore doing differently. It can also become an inspiration when goal setting.

3. Find a daily/weekly spread that works for you

Some folks like the pre-made day planners that offer time blocking / appointment slots, others like plenty of blank space. Be as creative or not as you want. It’s all about preference. If creating your own from a notebook or binder, I recommend completing the layout for at least the month in advance, if not the entire year. That way you can plan ahead a little. Also, you might lose some gusto when it comes to the end of the week and you haven’t yet drawn the next (been there). Mine is simply the days of the week and a notes section with space to write underneath.

4. Start planning

Here’s some tips and tricks:

  • Put appointments under the proper date as soon as you can - write it elsewhere or text it to yourself if you don’t have your planner on you
  • Pull daily items from your mind of course, but also refer to your notes and backlog 
  • Pick five to seven priorities for the day - if you don’t have that many or want to focus on less that’s okay too! 
  • Also, pick one or two activities that will get you active, or that you find relaxing and put them in as well

5. Task management

  • Avoid simply putting the project name such as “build fence” or “PowerPoint presentation” - break it into tasks like “pick up supplies for the fence” or “write presentation copy”
  • You might also want to avoid including tasks that are too small or simple like “email Jeannie,” unless emailing Jeannie is a task that’s going to take a considerable amount of time you may want to simply jot it down in your planner as a reminder
  • Carry incomplete items to the next day. Alternatively, you can move them to the next week or cancel them completely.
  • Don't include items that you do every day. Writing things like “do the dishes” or “make dinner” daily will result in boredom

But what about weekly?

I have tried to plan my week out in advance before, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans. It honestly made for a messy bullet journal as I had to keep moving this around. It also came with undue pressure - I’m not done this yet or I can’t do that yet.

If I have an appointment or due date, I write that out in advance under the date absolutely. If I have something I want to get done that week, but I’m not sure which day yet, I add it to the notes section in my weekly spread.


Also, I thought I would add. When you finish your tasks (work, projects around the house, chores, homework etc.), don’t keep adding onto the list and burn yourself out. The idea is to remind yourself to keep a proper work-life balance. Enjoy yourself. Get active. Relax. 


I know I’m more productive and motivated when I have an action plan each day and I’m hoping you will too.

If you’d like a head start on your planner layouts, I have a printable version available in my Etsy Store.

Happy planning!