It seems like paper planners are “the thing” to have right now. I see people on Instagram all the time talking about how organized they are because of ____________ planner. You fill in the blank – there are tons out there!
But personally, it just isn't for me. If having a paper planner keeps you more organized, more power to you! Keep on keeping on. But I tried it for about 6 months and couldn't do it. Several years ago, I took the blogger bait and tried out an Erin Condren planner. It was “the” planner to have at that time, so I just had to see what all the fuss was about. It certainly was pretty and had a great layout. But, a few issues I had (and really would have had with any paper planner)…
-It was bulky. I hated having to keep up with this massive planner.
-It got messy for me. The big issue is that, with blogging and blog design, flexibility is key. I found myself constantly scratching out/reassigning tasks and to-dos, and I ended up with more scribbles on a page than words. That made it really difficult to use.
-If I left it at home, I didn't know which way to go! 🙂 I like having my planner/to-do list available at any time. I've said it before – if I don't have these available at all times, I might not remember to wake up in the morning. I'm seriously dependent on a calendar/to-do list.
-Those planners aren't cheap! I wanted a method that didn't require a big purchase.
So, after a few months of really giving the paper planner a chance, I decided to try another organizational method. Believe it or not – I don't use a single sheet of paper or a single pen to do this! This has worked so well for me for a few years now, so I thought I'd share it with y'all.
The two main things that really make this work are my calendar app on my Macbook Pro/iPhone and an app called Wunderlist. I've mentioned this one before – it's a free, simple, no-fuss to-do list app that I absolutely love. The reminders app the comes standard on iPhones is good too, but I prefer Wunderlist because of a few features it has (the ability to prioritize to-do list items being the big one). Of course, any calendar app and to-do list app would work…there are tons of great free ones out there no matter what smartphone/computer you use.
For my calendar:
I kind of consider my calendar app the “big picture,” whereas Wunderlist is how I organize the smaller day-to-day details (more on that below). As events, work projects, and other scheduled items come up, I put them on the Mac calendar. Also, as I think of ideas for blog posts or schedule sponsored posts, I put them on the calendar in a tentative date. If it's just something that needs to be completed at any point that day, I make it an all-day event (right click your event, select “get info,” click the date, and select “all day”). If it's something that needs to be done at a specific time that day, I set it for that specific time.
Here's what my calendar looked like as of yesterday (I've erased a few things for privacy reasons, but you get the idea). I have a color code on here: blue is blog posts, red is blog design, gray is for our rental condo, purple is for sponsored social media posts I've agreed to do, and green is for home/personal events. If an item is yellow, that means I've completed it. This is kind of my version of having colored pens for your paper planner. 🙂
This method is so great if you need a flexible schedule. A lot of times I don't get finished with a certain blog post or a sponsored post launch gets moved – so I pick it up and drag it to the new day. Simple as that – no scratching out or rewriting. It's also so easy to look at this and see what I've got on my plate for a current week. By making all of the finished items the same color, I can quickly see what's left for that week.
For my to do list:
Like I mentioned, while the calendar is my “big picture,” Wunderlist is how I organize the smaller details of each week. I have kind of a Sunday night ritual: I sit down with my calendar and add each item to be done that week (blog posts, blog designs) as an item on my to-do list. I also add cleaning projects for that week (from my cleaning schedule post…I actually pull up that post on my blog every single Sunday to make my list for the week!). I organize all of these tasks into what needs to be done each day. Then, I star the items that need to be done Monday. That way, it's easy to quickly look at the list and know what needs to be done that day.
I check off items as they're finished. Then, at the end of each day, I take a look at my to do list and star what needs to be done the next day. So on, and so forth.
I usually try to overbook my Monday-Thursday to make sure I have everything done before the weekend. I rarely finish everything that's starred on those days, but it gives me a little bit more motivation to really get a lot accomplished. If it doesn't get done one day, I keep it starred for the next day. Friday is my overflow day – anything that doesn't get finished Monday-Thursday is a Friday project.
Of course new things get added as the week goes on. Wunderlist makes it so easy to quickly drop something else in (and I promise this post isn't sponsored by Wunderlist…I just really like the app!). I just pop it into the list where I'd like to get it done. Way easier than having to jot a note out to the side of a paper to-do list.
Both the calendar app and Wunderlist sync to both my phone and my computer…so, even if I'm not at home, I always have access to both. No need to remember to bring an additional planner since I always have my phone with me. I have the Wunderlist app on my computer too, which sinks effortlessly with my phone. And, since Mac Calendar is an app on both my phone and computer, it's just a click away too.
So there you have it. It is possible to stay organized without a fancy schmancy planner, I promise! This method is totally free (given that you already use a smartphone and computer), doesn't require extra paper/pens/cleaning-supplies, and really just does work better for me than a paper planner. Hope it helps some of y'all out there, too!