The Tools That Keep Me Organized

With just a little over a week left in this crazy year, I’m so excited to toss out my 2020 planner and start all over. This year has been tough for so many reasons, but a big one for me has been having to get rid of the idea of having things all planned out. I seriously wonder if I’ll ever get that muscle memory back for when things were scheduled so tightly, but maybe it would be better if I don’t.

That’s definitely something I need to noodle over more, but I don’t think I’ll ever really shake the need of having structure around my days. For me, a plan has always equaled purpose and direction. And this year, even when everything else seemed up for grabs, I was so grateful to have my two planning tools to keep me on track. I thought I’d share these with you today, thinking you might like one or both of them once we can finally turn the page on 2020 for good.

Everyday Planning: The Day Designer

I’ve made no secrets about being someone who loves her routine. And a few years ago, I discovered a paper planning system that not only keeps up with mine, it anticipates them. This is my fourth year using a Day Designer planner and I’m completely hooked. This system is simple, travels well, and is very pretty (you just can’t underestimate the pretty factor). I’ve tried very hard to convert my paper ways to the magic of the 21st century digital world, but it just doesn’t work for me. There’s nothing more satisfying than literally crossing something off a list!

Day Designer has two formats–daily and weekly. I’ve used both and liked them the same. The only real difference is that the weekly planner is not as wide as the daily, making it just a little more compact if you like to bring it with you when you’re on the move. So now having tried both daily and weekly, I just pick the planner with the cuter cover–super scientific!

I chose this daily format from Day Designer for 2021 and I can hardly wait to crack it open.

Day Designer really encourages its users to do some goal setting for the year in its upfront pages. It has some wonderful tools you can use if this is helpful to you. I definitely incorporate some of their teachings in the numbered list I put together for myself at the beginning of the year. I then just tape it inside my planner as a reminder of what I’m shooting for. (I’ll plan to share this list with all of you later next week!)

I love being able to see a full month at a glance and Day Designer has this for me. On these pages, I typically record all of my meetings, Zoom calls, appointments, kids’ days off of school, etc.

Then, on the daily pages is where all of the list-making magic happens. On Sundays, when I do my planning for the week, I’ll transfer any relevant meetings or appointments from the monthly page to the daily page and I can then write down all of my to-dos until my heart is content. The top of the page is great for pulling out my “top 3 must-get-done items,” as well as a place for me to write down what we’re having for dinner.

Speaking of dinner, this is a very hot topic in my house all of the time! At night, instead of kissing me before he goes to bed, my 12-year-old asks me what we’re having for dinner the next day. I feel so much better when I can give him an answer!

Day Designer has free downloadable planning sheets that you can use to supplement your planner. The only one I use religiously is the Weekly Meal Planner. I start my Saturdays with these printouts, where I outline what we’re having for dinner on the left side and what we need from the grocery store on the right. Having my dinners for the week figured out has been a game-changer for me…that, and also doing all of the grocery shopping on the weekend. I’ve also found that by doing this planning, my kids can have more input, and I’m better at avoiding the rut that I sometimes fall in of making the same things over and over.

One question I do get asked a lot is about the Day Designer’s spiral binding. I was nervous about this myself, but it’s the most durable planner I’ve ever had. It never gets snagged on anything and I love that it allows the planner to lay flat when it’s open.

This little system doesn’t work miracles, but it does help me tackle what I have coming day-to-day. When I feel overwhelmed, just getting it down on paper makes it all seem manageable.

Also, my daughter Grace started using the Day Designer Academic Planner three years ago when she started college. Needless to say, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. She is hooked, too!

My Blog Content Planning Tool

As much as I like to have all of my lists and calendars in one place, I’ve found that I need to have my blog’s content calendar separate from my Day Designer.

This summer when I was lucky enough to work with Kristin George and Sara Meadows from The Edit Effect, a Milwaukee-based communications consulting firm, they introduced me to their Content Planner. Their content planning calendar is super simple and in my favorite format–month-at-a-glance.

But it’s the planning tools and suggestions around their calendar that are incredibly valuable to me and have proven to be so effective, even in a year like 2020. Kristin and Sara are all about keeping things simple and consistently getting ideas down on paper (or into the digital format of their Content Planner that they also have available). There’s an emphasis on batching your content and brainstorming thematically that is so helpful when I’m feeling stuck. It’s amazing how these small shifts have created a lot of momentum for me. If you’re a blogger or a small business, I can’t say enough about The Edit Effect’s tools and their terrific founders.

This post is so much longer than I thought it would be, but I hope that it’s helpful! These tools have organized me so much, and when I find things that work, I can’t help but share them.

I’d love to know how you’re doing your planning for 2021. I know it seems funny to even think about things like this after the year we’ve had, but it keeps us moving forward. Let’s go!


P. S. In the spirit of full disclosure, Day Designer has given me an affiliate link. Should you decide to purchase a planner from them, I will make a small commission. Please know, however, that I would never support a product that I didn’t try for an extended period of time and fully enjoy. I purchased my own planners from Day Designer and am a huge fan!

Photo of me by Jenn Marie Photography

My name is Ann Marie Scheidler and I'm thrilled you've decided to check out my blog. I'm a pearl-loving yogi with a thing for travel, a weakness for beautiful bags, and a passion for storytelling. In this space, I'll be sharing stories about my family, go-to recipes, my wellness journey, fashion and beauty favorites, and my love for Chicago’s North Shore. I find new inspiration wherever I go. Thanks so much for coming along for the ride!


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