You're Probably Using Your Planner Wrong...This Is How To Fix That

Updated: Jul 27

I love planners. I buy them constantly, which kind of defeats the purpose.


But until recently I hadn't realized that you have to learn how to use a planner. Just like you learn how to type or how to enter data, you have to let your brain learn that process of using a planner. Only then will you get the full benefit of having one.

Most people have never learned to use a planner correctly. So they get a new planner, tell themselves "this is it! I'm going to be organized!", and then two weeks later the planner is in the bottom of their desk drawer. They were using it wrong, and it did nothing for them.


If you're one of these people and you're looking to change, I know exactly what your struggle(s) is.


Here are three problems I commonly see with new, or simply untrained, planner users.


1. You're not writing things down.


A counselor told me once that people with ADHD spend a lot of time telling themselves they're going to remember something that they're really not going to remember. I think that applies (although to a different extent) to people without ADHD too.


We have a lot going on. A lot. And we make plans with friends or family, we get calls from the dentist to make an appointment, or we're stopped in the school hallway by a teacher who needs us to bake cookies for tomorrow. You have the time. But you don't write it down.


The big issue with this is we typically don't remember the commitment until our chance for relaxed project completion is over. In other words, you just spent two hours taking a bubble bath and you suddenly remember you only have 2 hours until that teacher needs those cookies. You still have time. But you will be rushed.


Writing things down saves you from the rush. It also saves your brain from having to constantly store and retrieve information faster and more often than it should have to (the reason people with ADHD have this problem is because they're brain doesn't know where to store the information, so it simply doesn't get stored). Learn to write things down.



2. You're not checking that you're free.


Once you get in the habit of writing things down you might find yourself with a different problem: overbooking yourself.


This is a frustrating stage of planner training because you've been doing "all the right things". You're writing down everything from grocery lists to kids softball games. But you're not going back to check and make sure you're free. You're just writing down commitments in empty spaces, or you're going back after making the commitment to write it down. Check first. It will save you so much hassle and embarrassment in the long run.


This is something you should do EVERY TIME, even if you know for a fact that you're free. Because knowing you're free is pretty close to thinking you're free, and sometimes your brain doesn't know the difference. So maybe this time you won't double-book, because you know you have nothing going on this Saturday. But next Saturday is a different story. You have to train yourself to check by checking even when you don't need to check. Check. Just Check.

3. You're not writing down and checking off to-dos effectively.


When you're done with a project, mark it off. When you've started a project, note that. When you've hit a wall with a project, take the time to note that you started the project, and the project now has more steps. Write down those steps. Then when you finish them, check them off.


I run into the issue of finishing half of a project, but not marking it at all. Then I feel like:

a) I didn't accomplish anything and

b) I didn't even try.


But I did try, and the project was too much to do in one piece. There are a few ways you can fix this:


~Write smaller to-do lists for bigger projects with bite-size bullet points.

~Use one page for your project and write the date, what you accomplished, and what you'll be working on next.

~Schedule and spread out deadlines for smaller pieces of a project (this works well if the project can't be broken into bite-sized pieces).


Be kind to yourself and stop expecting yourself to swallow a dozen frogs in a day. One frog is enough.


What issues have you run into with keeping a planner? Leave a comment below!