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 multiple, one for to-dos, one for things that aren't a priority, one for creative projects, one for house projects, and a completely separate 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.

Conclusion

I hope you've found my post on weekly planning helpful! Personally, I found getting away from traditional day planners and following this method have helped me feel a little less "busy."

Keep in mind when planning your week, the idea isn't to cram as many projects, tasks, and chores in there as you can. The goal should be to find a balance. Get things done and have some time to sit back, take part in a good hobby, or get in some recreation.

Happy planning!

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If you are interested in checking out my printable planner layout bundle that includes the daily, weekly, monthly layouts, as well as a backlog - here's the link.

You might also like my post on budget inspiration for your monthly planner.


Day Planner: the Backlog

Some might refer to it as a "mind dump" and others a "backlog," myself included. Simply put, it's kind of like a master list of everything you know needs to be done - but 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 - and that plan isn't to get it all done at once.

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 really I've put them off. When I think about it honestly, I know they're not going to happen.

Sometimes we have to assess whether 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.

With all that said, continually adding to your to-do list is much like moving the goal post. By doing this we won't feel we got much done; possibly the opposite, 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 and 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.

Happy planning!

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If you want to learn more about how to inventory your to-dos, I wrote a post about it here.


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 in fact only two dollars and you only buy one.

The point of me sharing this article is not to shame anyone 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. 

Why include a budget in your monthly planner?

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

This might 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


Note: the numbers in this post 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.

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

2. Monthly budget 

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

A budget tracker is exactly as it sounds. I like to keep mine 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 that month altogether. I also categorize my expenses (using the categories in my budget) to see how much I spent in each area.

Using highlighters is helpful for distinguishing the categories when adding the numbers. A sheet like the one below is helpful too:

Conclusion

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 printable finances package on Etsy - here's the link.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like my post on weekly menu planning, which can also help with your budget!

 


Daily To-do List: for Your Monthly Planner

How many times have you picked up a new notebook, day planner, or 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.

It's 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 so I'm not scrambling mid-semester. However, that plan goes out the window a month in and mid-semester we're swimming!

If you've done this, you're not alone. I was the queen of this in my late teens and early twenties. I'd get excited about a new planner, use it for a while, get "too" busy, and forget about it for a few weeks at a time. During that time I was basically flying by the seat of my pants. Mistakes were made. Tasks snuck up on me last minute. While I still performed well at work, and on college assignments, inside it felt like chaos.

I simply didn't the time to plan my days properly and I was paying for it in stress.

Things got better when I started creating my own journals. I found the custom layouts more intrinsic and less limiting.

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 and I hope it will help you too.

1. First things first

This 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 your day, and plan the next. Alternatively, do it in the (early) morning, reflecting on yesterday.

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 also recommend creating a “later” list to place things you need or want to do but aren’t a priority now.

If it's not too much at once, project lists are handy too. For example, I have one for creative projects and another for projects that need to be done around the house. I pull from the creative list when I'm feeling creative and know I have time for a project. I pull from the house list when my spouse and I have the capacity to take one on.

Once I select a project, I break the project into smaller tasks on my backlog that I can work into my day.

If you're really feeling behind, this process might help you feel less overwhelmed. It's also a good time to take inventory of your tasks and decide which ones you might be able to drop from your list. I have another article about that that I'll leave at the bottom of this one.

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

Some of us like the pre-made day planners that offer time blocking or 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 planner 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 created the next (been there). 

It's important to note, as beautiful as they are, creating layouts with intricate calligraphy and cute illustrations is hard for some to keep up so I recommend keeping it simple; especially if you already can't find time to plan your day.

I've created planners that simply have the days of the week and a notes section spread across two pages. In the case of smaller book sizes, I've also done a day per page. 

Here's an example of a daily layout as well. If you'd like to keep it even more simple, keep it blank and list your to-do's in point form using symbols to categorize tasks.

4. Start planning

Here are 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 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 or you might forget
  • 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” every day might actually make day planning more of a chore

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.

While putting dates to tasks might work for some, I'm not the best person to cover the topic.

Note:

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

Conclusion

I hope you found this post helpful. Here's the one I mentioned about taking inventory of your to-dos.

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

Happy planning!