The summer before my sixth-grade year, I was walking through Target with my mom as we embarked on one of my favorite annual shopping trips: school supply shopping. This is the time of year when I’m at my nerdiest as I pick out all of my notebooks and folders (color-coordinated of course), my favorite Paper Mate pens and a brand new backpack that says, “I’m cool and trendy without even trying to be cool and trendy.”

However, this particular trip was a milestone for me because as I made my way down the aisle full of notebooks, binders and journals, I came across the section with all of the planners. At that moment, my eyes were opened to a whole new world. I picked up a purple and white leather planner, flipped through the pages and smiled. I had to have it. This item was going to be the difference between success and failure as I started the new, nerve-wracking journey that involved switching classes, after-school sports practices and social events. So I tossed that sucker in the shopping cart with a brand new sense of excitement and confidence.

Since then, I haven’t gone a single year without a planner. Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve finally found a planning system that works for me. I have my color-coded key down to a science. I set aside time to fill in and check my planner every day, and I’ve learned to never leave home without it.

However, it hasn’t always been that easy and habitual. It’s taken a few years for me to figure out what works best for my schedule and my lifestyle. With that in mind, I want to share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that might be helpful to all the planning junkies out there or even the wannabe planners who are trying to get their schedules in order. I hope these make your life a little easier and a little more organized. Happy planning!

1. Find a setup that works best for you.

There are so many different options when it comes to choosing a planner. You might be more of a traditionalist and like to physically write things down. In that case, you might prefer a day planner. I’m currently using a Day Designer this year, and I’m in love with it! Personally, I remember things better after I write them down, so this works great for me.

Or maybe, you’re a little more tech savvy and prefer to have your schedule on your phone or computer. In that case, you can use Apple Calendar or Google Calendar. This way all of your devices sync automatically, and your daily schedule is always easily accessible.

If you’re not as detailed oriented but still want your schedule somewhere that you can see it, a wall calendar could be the route you need to take. This gives you a simple overview but is still effective.

If you’re like me, you might incorporate more than one of these into your planning routine. My day planner is my go-to, but I keep my Apple Calendar updated as well so that I can receive reminders of upcoming meetings, appointments and events on my mobile devices. All in all, pick the option you’ll check most often, because having a planner is no good if you never look at it.

2. Start the week in your planner.

Whether you prefer to do this on Sunday night or Monday morning, choose a time at the beginning of your week to sit down and update your schedule with everything you have planned for the next seven days. This includes work meetings, nights out with friends, doctor's appointments or even a block of time for you to be by yourself. If you take control of your time, you’ll keep your time from controlling you.

3. Color-coding is your best friend.

Learning to color-code has been my saving grace when it comes to planning. I’m a very visual person, so being able to look at my calendar and assess my schedule based on the color of each event is super helpful. I would also suggest if you use more than one calendar like I do (i.e. a day planner and a digital electronic calendar like Google Calendar), use the same color-coding scheme. For instance, if you use the color yellow for activities with friends in your day planner, don’t use blue for activities with friends in your digital calendar. Keep the pattern the same to make things easier.

4. Make daily to-do lists.

As important as it is to keep your schedule in order, daily checklists are key to having a high level of productivity and practicing effective time management. This is one of the main reasons I love Day Designer because it has a column for your day’s schedule and a column of things to do that day. This is also a perk of having a physical planner because your schedule and your checklists can all be in one place. This can be a little more difficult to do with a digital calendar, but it is still possible. Again, do what works best for you. Either way, having a daily to-do list is going to keep you from getting overwhelmed during a busy week and helping you accomplish as much as possible.

5. Keep your planner handy.

Whether you’ve decided to use a physical day planner or your mobile device, keep it handy where it is easily accessible. Throw it in your purse, your backpack or your pocket before you leave for the day. Don’t spend time filling in your schedule to just leave it at home on your desk. The more visible your planner is, the more likely you will be to actually follow it. Leave it open on your desk at work or keep it open on your computer screen so you can refer to it whenever necessary. The first thing I do when I sit down at my desk is open my planner to the current day and open my calendar on my laptop. It’s just easier that way.

I hope these tips and tricks help you get a little bit closer to a more organized schedule, and in turn a more organized lifestyle. For more information on some of my favorite day planners, digital calendars and planning apps, check out the links below!