How to Set Up Your Planner for a Successful School Year


paper planner

I know I’m not the only mom who feels like the project manager of life in my household. And using a paper planner – yes, a physical planner – is the key to things running smoothly. Having school-aged children means lots of schedules to keep up with and important dates to remember.

I’m pretty sure I have used every type, size, and style of paper planner out there over the years. I love all things stationery. After all that trial and error, the one I’ve found that works best for my needs is The Happy Planner. They are disc bound and so easy to customize. This has been so helpful for me because my planner functions as a catchall. I use it to manage our home, to save special memories, to track goals, and more. And some years I have planners dedicated to very specific tasks such as a separate journal for budgeting or journaling. This year (so far) I’m only using one.

disc bound planners in a small stack

My favorite places to shop for planner products are Michaels, Joann, Etsy, and straight from The Happy Planner.

No matter what sort of paper planner works best for you, here’s how to set up your paper planner for a successful school year.

There should be one section of your paper planner dedicated to long-term projects, specific assignments, and goals for the school year. This may be one page at the front of your planner for quick reference. I recommend having a page at the start of each month for quick reference for the month as well. This is a helpful way to see your progress too.

I’m a fan of lists and my planner is always full of to-do lists. I’ve got pages dedicated to tracking bills and savings. I have a section for tracking personal goals and big household projects. As a mom, one of the most important functions of my planner is keeping up with important dates and events for my children.

You will also want to put special reminders in at the start of each month. These include reminders about upcoming events, book fairs, tests, school photo days, teacher appreciation gifts, deadlines, field trips, etc. I always add these to the start of the month as I learn about them. I like seeing what is coming up for the month, so I can get ahead on things rather than letting them pile up or sneak up on me.

This can be helpful for shopping trips too. One year I got the Valentine’s for both kids done several weeks early. I was so grateful when there was a family emergency the day before Valentine’s Day that year. I didn’t have to rush to try to prep the gifts at the last minute. They were already done. All I had to do was put the bags in their backpacks. My planner goes everywhere I do. I’m rarely without it because having it handy makes me feel better.

I love color coding my to-do lists, but I don’t color code my planner. It’s just a personal preference. My husband and I have a shared digital calendar which is color coded by family member. Our dog even gets his own color. And it works for us. If color-coding in your paper planner works for you, do it.

I’ve know some people only use pen in their planners. Again, this is a personal preference. And while I don’t color-code, I do love a colorful planner page.

Having a creative outlet is so important. And my paper planner is one of my favorite creative projects. Actually, it’s the only creative project I get to do most days. I am a huge fan of including stickers, photos, funny or sweet quotes I want to remember our children saying. Some of my planner pages look as much like journal entries as calendar pages.

I check my planner quickly either first thing in the morning or right before I go to bed. This reminds me of what I’ve got coming up over the next few days and motivates me to be proactive and productive.

Tracking all of this and being able to look back at it also shows me how much I get done. If I’m feeling especially worn out, I may see that over the last week or two I’ve been doing tons of house projects. So rather than beating myself up about having a lazy day or worrying that I’m getting sick, I’ll know it’s simply time to rest.

Using my planner is fun. And this is key to making the school year a success. If using my planner feels like work, I’m not going to stick with it.

Keeping it fun and creative is what keeps me using my planner every day.


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