Time Management: Choose and Use the Right Planner

One of the topics we’ll talk about here during G.O. with C.G.O. month is Time Management. There are a lot of tips on Time Management, but the best way to start is to talk about what it really IS. Here is *MY* definition of that term:


time management saying


There are people out there who are great at Time Management, and some who aren’t.  But what we know is that the people who are good at it all practice some similar habits, which we’ll talk about each Tuesday here during G.O. with C.G.O. Month.


First up: Using a planner is one of the top habits that people who manage their time well do consistently.  


choose and use planner


Why is it such a great habit?


1) You designate one place for all of your obligations to live

2) You develop a regular habit of looking there to see what’s going on in your schedule

3) You can survey what’s on your plate, and create a plan on how to achieve things

4) You can identify problems in your schedule that need to be solved

5) You can make plans without worrying that you’re overbooking

6) You can reduce missing appointments


Doesn’t that all sound great?  Sure it does!  So, how do you go about figuring out what kind of planner is right for you and whomever in your home you’re tracking appointments for?

You may or may not know this, but there are some well-known planners out there.  People often think, “If I just get the right planner, I’ll be so much more organized!”  Sometimes that’s true, but sometimes, it means you have an attractive, expensive, paperweight on your desk or in your drawer, and you feel like you failed another attempt.

It doesn’t matter WHAT kind of planner… you just need to know what works for YOU and what doesn’t.   How do you know what works for you?  Well, let’s walk through this together!



First, you need to answer the age-old question: Electronic or Paper?

This one is probably the most important one.  And you probably already know what you FEEL your answer is, but think about some of the factors that go into this one:

  • Do you need to have access to it ALL THE TIME? (Probably electronic is your answer)
  • Do you have a great memory for things like “this is what the note I wrote looked like” and you rely on that memory style to find things in the past?  (Then Paper is probably your comfort zone).
  • Do you tend to change plans often?  (This one could go either way… an electronic one is easy to move plans around with a click and a drag, but if you use a paper planner with post it notes, it could also be easy to achieve.)
  • Do you have a need (not a desire) to be able to look back and leaf through the past?  You’re more likely to achieve that with a paper planner than an electronic one.
  • Do you need to make sure more than just YOU have access to the information?  Then, not only is electronic your best option, but there are options within that to make sharing the best situation for you.
  • Do you need to be reminded that you have an appointment, or that you have something to do?  An electronic planner can help keep you on track. 
  • Do you feel like you have more control if you hold your schedule in your hand? Then paper will give you that satisfaction, for sure. 


So, you’ve decided on Paper, have you?  Well, the questions are just getting started! 





1)  What do you need in there? 

  • Paper Planners today can have so many different sections to them, either bound in there, or optional adds, depending on the kind of planner you get.
  • How do you need to look at your time? Do you just need some space over the course of a month, with one or two things written into an occasional box in the month? A good planner may just be a month-at-a-glance for you.  But maybe you want to look at days in a detailed way, by the hour.  You’ll want something that has an option for more space on each day.
  • A planner doesn’t have to be just about the calendar. Maybe you need note pages in there?  Or a goal sheet? Lists? Think about the kinds of additional items that would either make your planner feel complete, or alternatively, think about what would distract you and make you feel like you’re ignoring sections, and opt for something different


2) Size matters

  • If you’re opting for a paper planner, how does size factor for you?  Do you want something that will fit in the purse or briefcase or backpack you use every day?  Or do you want it to feel like it is the most prominent (and unignorable) part of your desk, and when you’re reviewing it, you’re in command of your whole life.   You can go small (4×7 or 6×9) or large (8×10 that opens up wide) or other sizes.


3) Binding options

  • If you’re going with paper, you can pick from options with different bindings.  The most common are:
    • There’s a traditional book binding (with a smooth edge), sometimes harder to lay flat and look at a left and right page at once. Maybe a leather or a moleskin planner would be good. 
    • a spiral bound (nothing’s removable),
    • a comb-bound (things are removable, if you deconstruct the whole thing,
    • loose-leaf, allowing for removability, and the rings are a fixed size, or
    • arc/disc bound, where things can be removed and switched around, and the width of the book can change, depending on the size discs you use.


4) Writing style. How do you plan to use the space INSIDE the planner?

  • First, do you have large handwriting? You’re going to feel more comfortable with larger spaces on the pages to work with.  
  • Do you like lined paper, or just blank boxes? 
  • Is color important to you?  Like, do you want the pages to look pretty, or just plain?  Some people like the design of it all, and some people are all about the page. 
  • Do you like additional tools, like bookmarks, rulers, pockets, post-it notes? 


5)  And of course, price

  • You can spend almost nothing, well, a dollar, for a planner at the dollar store of your choice. It may not be beautiful, but it will be an accurate calendar, which is the main thing it needs to be. 
  • You can spend a LOT of money, on a custom designed, high-end planner, offered by a few places with well-known names. 
  • Whatever you want… make sure you know your budget before you go shopping, so you can get the right one for you!
  • Or… best secret yet… wait until the end of January to buy your new planner; they’re will be plenty of sales! 🙂


Finally, do you REALLY NEED to BUY a planner?

Maybe you don’t need to glance at the whole year right now, but what you want is a template you can use for a week at a time, a month at a time, maybe a few months at a time. Think about something you can design for yourself in Word or Excel that meets your needs, print out a few to have around. If you want them in a book, because that feels more gathered and in-control for you, consider an arc or disc planner, that you can expand and add to when you need it.   Sure, they have pre-made options for pages you can add as needed, but I spent a little more money on mine and bought an arc punch, that lets me create my own templates and punch them when I need to add more.



 Wondering what Clever Girl uses?

First and foremost, I have an electronic system. It allows me great flexibility (repeat appointments, and different types of calendars — personal, shared with Handy Boy, one for Clever Girl appointments, etc.  Being able to have them all together on one view, on every device, has really been great for me.  

However, I also have an arc notebook from Staples, which I don’t use as a planner, but could. It allows me to have some other materials, like working on my blog ideas or other business items, and taking notes with clients, that allows me to customize what I keep in there, and create my own templates that work best for me.  

And, I have a Blue Sky Planner, that I use purely for plotting out my business, my blog, etc. It helps keep the RUNNING of my business on track, and I ONLY visit it when I’m in that space, and I don’t want THAT calendar to be distracted by other things.


So, my answer?  A little of each! 



So, do you know some of the styles out there? 

Here are a few ideas:

Blue Sky Planners.  These come in a variety of styles / layouts, and some attractive designs.  I have my own for some aspects of planning for Clever Girl blogging, and I like mine.  

Plum Paper Planners. These are available on an Etsy shop. and  also have a variety of options on sizes, styles and colors

Franklin Planners.  These are likely going to be the most professional looking planners on the market, from the people who really invented the customizable and flexible planners for the workplace. 

Erin Condren. I feel like Erin Condren turned planners into a high-end fashion statement, with custom designed, custom printed options, and people look forward to opening their box from Erin Condren like it was Christmas.  They’re beautiful, colorful, and they’re worth looking at. They’re decidedly not MY style, though, so it’s not one I ooh and aah over, but I get why many people do. They’re also going to be on the highest end of the budget, so keep that in mind. 

The Arc Customizable Notebook from Staples. This is really such a favorite for me, and I love having my own punch to create my own templates. If you like flexible options that let you change up what is in your organizer on a regular basis, you’ll want to check this out. 

Moleskine planners.  Another option that can lend itself more easily to a business/corporate setting, and works well for more masculine styles. 


SO many great options… but remember, the most important rule: 


Use it, and use it consistently, for better management of your time!




  1. Billtheartist (William Phillips)

    I am Billtheartist (William Phillips), I am just starting my profession as an organizer. My company is Artfully Organizing. I have read other blogs and books on this subject. Thank you for sharing. I use Evernote, Google Calendar, and Google Keep. Evernote is for my business/personal notebooks. I have my templates for the business as well as research and blog drafts/ideas. The tag system that I learned for ProBlogger is invaluable. I can access it from any device. Google Keep is my digital Post-it note system. I love it for To do lists and jotting notes in a hurry as well as schedule reminders on notes as well, which sync with Google calendar. What can I say about Google Calendar other than it is great. I have three calendars working along with tasks for both personal and work which can be viewed altogether or separately. Wow!!! I have really noticed a difference in my time management. As soon as my website is up and running, I have a blog post about my life right now. Thank you again for all the great posts.

  2. Zachary

    Best pros and cons list to paper vs digital I’ve ever seen. Nice work. And I’m ready for the follow up post on how to choose your digital planner.


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