Behind every successful CEO is an incredible executive assistant, and the CEO knows it. They’d be the first to tell you they couldn’t have reached the level of success they have without the help of their assistant.
Master of organization and prioritization, an assistant keeps track of meetings and other important tasks, leaving the CEO to focus on moving the needle on the big plans and decisions.
As CEO of YOU, you need to find the best executive assistant. You need an assistant that will have your back and won’t let things slip through the cracks; that will reliably provide structure and organization. The executive assistant you need is a personal daily planner. With a planner in your hand or by your side, you’ll move through your days with ease.
In my previous blog post “Why a Planner Is a Must-Have,” I share reasons why you absolutely need to have one to live your best life. If you still need convincing, take a look. If you’re ready to dive into the world of highly productive days and life, keep reading. You’ll find everything you need to get started in creating your ultimate planner.
Choosing a Daily Planner
One of the toughest decisions I faced was whether to go with a disc-bound system or a ring-bound system. It may sound trivial, but it matters. Your planner is meant to make life easier to navigate. Picking the style that best correlates with your life is imperative. They each have their own highlights. Figure out what is best for you, and run with it.
Disc-bound systems allow you to quickly add or remove pages from your planner. You’ll also find a variety of fun (rainbow, tortoise shell, gold, metallic…) discs that you can switch up or mix-and-match to fit your mood. Some days you may feel mellow and decide to go with a cooler tone like blue or green. Some days you may feel super motivated and ready to take on the world. Days like those might call for something bright and fiery. Other days you may feel classy and choose to go with a rose gold. Whatever your vibe, you can match it.
The one challenge with a disc-bound system is that the inserts can become loose, causing pages to bend or easily fall out. If you’re a mover and a shaker, this may not be the best option for you. If you’re more sedentary with your work, this might be a perfect choice as you can easily shuffle through pages and lay them out next to each other with ease.
My personal preference is a classic ring-bound system. With this system, pages are more secure. I take my planner with me everywhere. And I mean everywhere. It is an extension of me. I need to know I’m not going to have papers slipping out as I move through my day. A classic ring-bound system feels safe and secure to me. It’s also the most widely used system. Due to its popularity, you’re able to find a lot more insert options.
When it comes to sizes, there is no shortage of options. Ranging from something small that you can slip into your pocket, to large letter size, you’re sure to find the right fit for your life.
I prefer the classic A5. This size is widely used as it conveniently fits nicely in an average size handbag, laptop bag, or simply in your hands as you carry it around.
Now we start the fun part, material. This is where you can get into your personal fashion and style. Are you a leather, canvas or vinyl kind of woman? Durability is a key point when it comes to picking the right planner material. There are a couple of things to consider when deciding. Are you a one and done kind of person who will carry one planner all year? If so, I suggest leather for its longevity.
Or maybe you like to mix it up. Maybe you only need it to last a season, in which case, take your pick.
Luxury designers such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel know the value of having a daily planner and have their own lines. Their designs can run you upwards of $1,000. Yes, that’s a lot of money to spend on a planner. Do you NEED to spend that much? Not necessarily, but think about it. Much like your phone, you’ll carry your planner everywhere. It’s a functioning fashion statement. And quite frankly, your cost per use of that luxury planner may be lower than say your designer handbag or shoes.
If a designer luxury planner is what you seek, but don’t want to break the bank for it, you’re in luck. Preloved planners are available from sites such as Fashionphile and Poshmark. If you search hard enough, you’ll find some that look brand new. Just be sure to have it authenticated by the site from which you purchase it.
Personalize Your Planner with Accessories
The last thing you want to see as you open your planner each day is text that is scratched, scribbled or whited out. This goes against the planner’s purpose of being neat, organized and easy to use. But things change. That’s a given. You’ll need to adjust your planner accordingly. Enter the erasable pen.
You may be thinking I’m crazy. Erasable pens are a mess. Not only do they create and scatter eraser chips all over your desk and floor, but the ink smears to the point of it being illegible. Pointless!
Friends, hear me out. We have entered a new era where erasable pens have come a long way. I don’t know what kind of witchcraft they use these days, but they have cracked the code, and these new and improved erasable pens are a game-changer. No planner life is complete without one.
Inserts are the all-stars of a planner. They are the most important part of creating a system that works best for you.
With so many to choose from, it can sometimes become incredibly overwhelming, especially for beginners. Trust me. I’ve been there. Using my experience, let me simplify getting started for you.
Standard pages every planner should have include month-at-a-glance, daily pages and blank pages. These are the bones to your planner.
Things you need to consider when choosing these pages are whether you prefer dated vs undated, gridlines vs no gridlines, and a week on one page or spread between two pages. The same goes for the calendar. You may be wondering, “How am I supposed to know?” If you’re a little lost, don’t worry. These decisions don’t have to be permanent. Find something to start with. If it doesn’t work for you, you can toss it and try another type. Inserts are generally inexpensive so you won’t break the bank with your trial and error.
Other inserts to consider are of a specialty variety. Do you want to add financial, academic, projects, lifestyle or selfcare inserts? These are nice to have, but proceed with caution as they can bulk up your planner, big time.
Still not sure? To get started, I highly recommend a set of two-page monthly calendars, one-page undated daily pages, and fill in with blank pages. This will give you a solid start in planner life.
Keep it simple when deciding how to section your planner. You don’t want to over-do it and create unneeded clutter. As you get into the swing of things, you’ll better figure out how many sections best suit you. I recommend starting with blank dividers. You can use a sharpie, label maker or tab divider stickers to label each section.
To take your dividing to the next level and stay even more organized, try using side tab dividers for personal sections and top tab dividers for work. Also consider using color dividers or stickers to differentiate sections.
Dashboards can be used as decoration or as section dividers to inspire and delight each time you open your planner.
Choosing dashboards is where you can completely let your creativity run wild.
Imagine, you open your planner to a vellum sheet with your name beautifully written in script across the page, a famous inspirational quote or a scenic image of your favorite vacation spot.
The great part is you don’t have to choose just one dashboard. I have 6 dashboards in my planner, one for each clear tabbed section divider. As I flip through my planner, my personalized dashboards pop out and bring me joy.
Etsy is hands down my go-to place for dashboards. The site offers a wide variety to choose from that you can personalize for each section.
Another fun way to decorate your planner is with journaling cards. Commonly placed in either the front and/or back inside pockets for easy access, these cards help spark creativity and remind you to stay focused.
You’ll find quotes, affirmations or even relaxing pictures on these cards. Feeling drained and in need of a pick-me-up? Pull out a journaling card for some quick inspiration.
Be sure to swap them out often (once or twice a month) to keep your daily planner looking refreshed.
Sometimes when you order planner inserts directly from manufacturers, they’ll send you journaling cards as freebies with your shipment.
Highlighters, Stickers and Sticky Notes
Stickers, who needs them? Everyone! There’s a reason why teachers and parents use stickers with children to train, reward and reinforce good behaviors. It works. It’ll work for your planner too.
When planning, use highlighters, stickers and sticky notes to call attention to important tasks, appointments and notes.
Stickers are also a great way to avoid writing out every task in your planner. For example, if you plan to go to the gym three days a week, you can use a sticker to identify gym days instead of having to write it out on your calendar. This is also a great way to help you look back and quickly identify behavioral trends and patterns. It’s your own rewards & recognition chart to mark your achievements.
Personally, I use small dot stickers to call out important tasks and meetings that I’ve prioritized for the day. I use highlighters to differentiate between work and personal tasks and meetings. And I place sticky notes on my inbox dashboard so I can quickly jot down new tasks and ideas to be placed on my calendar when I have time to plan.
As you begin to use your new planner, while you’re on the go, you’ll have appointment cards, receipts and other little papers that you quickly need to insert into your planner. This is where OLIBLOCK clips come in super handy.
OLIBLOCK clips range in different sizes, colors and patterns. These ultra-strong super fashionable magnetic clips are always good to keep in your planner. Order a clip or two or three to keep on hand to use when you need to keep things together or even to jump between your calendar month page and current day page.
Maybe you’re a visual person or just want a bit more guidance when creating your daily planner. Luckily for you, there are people who have mastered the art of personal planning and want to share their expertise. You can find videos that will walk you through planner hacks, show you flip throughs and provide tutorials.
Subscribe to their channels, read the comments, like their videos and watch on. You’ll be amazed by all of the ideas and endless possibilities a planner’s life holds.
Did I mention the first rule of planning? Don’t wait! Get started now.
Remember, nothing is permanent. You can change things as you go, so dive into the more orderly, productive, beautiful life of a daily planner today. You won’t regret it.
For more tips on how to update your planner, check out my planner picks!