Life Organization

How To Set Up A New Planner

Learn the right way to set up a new planner so you’ll stay organized all year long.

Getting a brand new planner is so exciting! It’s like a fresh start and a clean slate. You can finally become that organized mama you always wanted to be. You’ve got dreams of perfect pages, well-scheduled weeks, and never forgetting to send a birthday card ever again. But before you jump in feet first, follow these important steps to set up your planner (and you!) for success.

Setting Up A New Planner

how to set up a new planner

1. Get the right pens and markers. 

The wrong pens will ruin your planner before you even get started, so it’s super important to arm yourself with the proper writing utensils before you even write your name on the first page. I prefer to use Sharpie Pens and Midliner Highlighters in my personal planners, but there are lots of great pens on the market.

I consulted the Passion Planner’s Support Site (the planner I’m currently using) and this is what they recommend:

What we do recommend for use are water-based pens. A few of our favorite water-based pens are:

(Quoted from

setting up a new planner

2. Decide on your writing and organization style.

There are SO many ways to fill out a planner, and every way has it’s pros and cons. Take a moment to scroll through the official Instagram page of your planner or search “Hourly Planner Ideas” (or whatever type of planner layout you have) on Pinterest to get ideas for layouts. Some people box off apointments, while others draw lines, and others indicate travel time, and so on. Find a method that will work for you.

Bonus Tip! If you have multiple ink colors, you can color-coordinate your categories to even further organize your day. Use one color for appointments, one for to-do’s, one for work, and whatever else you need to separate. I do recommend sticking with 5 or less categories. More than that will be confusing and look really cluttered. **Make sure you also add a color key to the front of your planner for easy reference, especially during the first couple of months.

3. Add contact and return information.

You don’t realize how important your planner is until it’s lost. Every planner has a page in the front with contact info, so make sure you fill it out. My Passion Planner even has a “reward” line on it’s front page to entice someone to return it even more. Who wouldn’t send a quick “I found your book” text in exchange for their fave Starbucks latte?!

how to set up a new planner

4. Add birthdays, anniversaries, and recurring annual events.

This is a major priority to knock out before you start the fun stuff, but a lot of people skip this step. Until you’ve forgotten to call your grandmother on her birthday, you don’t even realize why this is such a biggie… So go ahead and add in this info from the very beginning.

Bonus Tip! Keep a Master List of birthdays, anniversaries, and annual events somewhere in your house so you can reference it as you’re filling out your new planner. It’ll save you the trouble of flipping through old calendars playing Birthday Scavenger Hunt, or having to text your mom and get all the dates again. I supply master lists in my Organized-ish Home Management Binder, but you can definitely make your own.

5. Add appointments, upcoming events, and commitments you’ve already agreed to.

Go back through and add in anything you have scheduled already, like dental cleanings, vision appointments, pet wellness exams, school events, vacations, and anything else that’s important. Dump out your purse and wallet, just to make sure there aren’t any appointment cards stuffed down in the bottom, and check your kids’ schools’ Facebook pages for upcoming events that have slipped your mind.

Once you’ve added this, you can begin plugging in the rest of the planner however you’d like, and you can fill out the fun extra pages with lists, goals, doodles. I’ll be making a blog post soon with a whole slew of ideas for those extra blank pages in the back, so stay tuned!

6. Set a reminder on your phone to build the habit of looking at your planner daily.

If you’re new to owning a paper planner, it can be hard to remember to actually look at it and use it. Until you get used to it, set an alarm in your phone to remind you to check your calendar every morning before work and every evening before bed. I like to put my planner beside the coffee maker at night, open to the next day, so it’s right there waiting for me when I wake up.

7. Plan your week on the same day every week.

I do mine on Sunday night, but any day of the week is fine, as long as you do it religiously. Make it fun by brewing a cup of your favorite tea, wearing your comfiest PJs, and telling Alexa to crank up your favorite playlist. You can set a reminder in your phone to keep you on track until it becomes a habit. This is also a good time to write out your weekly meal plans and to-do lists.

Still Shopping For The Perfect Planner?

Check out this post to help you find the right planner for your lifestyle. And follow me on Instagram @lelaburris for more life organization tips in my daily Stories and IGTV videos.

Updated January 2021

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