A daily planner can be great for tracking small details of each day, right down to the hour. But that often means the planner is thick and has so many details that it can easily become overwhelming.
Daily planner pages are broken down into hours, which is great for writing down meetings, appointments, and reminders. They frequently include additional space which can be used for planning meals for the day, to-do lists, exercise routines, gratitude log, journal writing, and daily habit trackers.
For more detailed information on what to put into your daily planner for a more successful day, keep reading below.
What Should I Add to My Daily Planner?
Many daily planners already come with plenty of space to track your appointments, meetings, to-do lists, and more. But if you are wanting to track something extra, consider adding some extra sheets, stickers, or your own designs.
Since daily planners are typically broken down into hours (or even half hours in some!), you can really track anything. They provide much more possibility to track everything in great detail and keep yourself accountable.
It is great to write appointments down in a monthly view so you can see at a quick glance when you have something planned for that day.
However, daily planners allow you to track what is planned each hour. So you may have a doctor’s appointment in the morning, but you could squeeze in another appointment in the afternoon.
Having your appointments written down by the hour gives a great visual for your entire day. This way you can see how much time you have to work, or play with your kids, or plan for other events. You can also check off what you have completed as the day goes on.
2. Journal writing
Daily planner pages don’t have a lot of space for journal writing. However, you can write a few short notes about something fun, important, or memorable that happened that day.
These notes can be really motivating and lift your spirits and are great to look back on.
You may even choose to include a picture from a special moment from that day.
If you enjoy journaling, consider buying a planner that includes plenty of lined or blank pages so that you can write a full page for each day.
I have another post that talks about the difference between journals and planners and how to use a planner as both.
3. Meals for the Day
If you like to plan out your meals, I would highly suggest planning for the entire week before the week begins. Then, once you have your meal plan, you can fill out what to prepare in each daily spread.
Since dinner takes the longest to prepare, make sure to write down the ingredients that you need, what the meal is, what sides you are going to have with it, and what time to start preparing the meal.
The time may be the most important part. Figure out early in the day (or earlier in the week) what time you would have to start preparing the meal in order for it to be ready by dinner time.
On your daily page, write the meal name next to the hour that you will need to start preparing dinner. This will take out the guesswork later on in the day.
Breakfast and lunch can also be written down if you prepare a large meal. Otherwise, just schedule what time you plan to have breakfast and lunch.
Reminders can be for play dates for your children, phone calls you have to make, ingredients you need to pick up for a meal, gifts you have to buy. Anything that doesn’t need to fit into an hourly space in your planner, but that you still need to prioritize for the day.
Create a reminder section right on the daily page so that you can brain dump at least a day before. Trying to remember everything last minute likely won’t happen and you’ll forget something that you needed to get done that day.
If you are using your daily planner for work meetings, the hourly spread is great for marking a block of time for your meetings.
Write down what the meeting is, how long the meeting is scheduled for, and leave some space to jot down some notes while in the meeting.
Planners are especially useful when working from home or running your own business. This is because you can’t rely on other people to remember the meetings. You are fully responsible for keeping track of these times yourself.
The notes section can be used for writing down future meeting times that are discussed in the current meeting.
If you regularly exercise, come up with an exercise plan for the whole week. Maybe you want to ride your bike one day, run, weight train, and run on your treadmill.
Determine exactly what you want to accomplish and which days you want to do those exercises. Then fill in the exercise right beside the hour on the daily spread that you intend to complete that exercise.
You are much more likely to exercise if you write it down and actually schedule that time into your daily plan. Then you won’t accidentally plan anything else for that time.
Writing one to three statements of gratitude each day has been a huge lifesaver for me. It is easy to get lost in the tasks that must get done each day and just be exhausted and feel frustrated.
However, if you take just 5 minutes to think about and write down one to three things that were great that day, it can really lift your mood and help you to see the positives more often.
This could be something as small as sitting in the sunshine for 10 minutes that day. It could be something as big as your child saying their first word, or organizing a large space in your home.
Don’t take the small moments for granted though. They are still important and overall can add up to make a huge improvement in your mood and your thoughts.
8. Quotes for the Day
This would work well next to the gratitude section as quotes are often motivational and are related to things happening in your life.
Try to include an uplifting quote on each daily page. These can be found simply by doing a quick Google search and typing in a few words that match your mood or tasks for that day.
Look for a quote that makes you happy, makes you think, or that can help you improve something in your life.
Not only are quotes great for that day, but they can also trigger positive emotions when looking back through your planner.
Create a section to write down what you spent, bills that were paid, or income you received that day.
Tracking these daily will help you stay on top of your spending, rather than trying to gather all of the information at the end of the month.
You can even color-code them based on the type of expense (categories). Then you can easily pull the information at the end of the month and calculate expenses based on the category to see where most of your money is going.
If you have a budget prepared in advance, then you may have set $150 for groceries for the week, for example. If you managed to only spend $130, then you could write the grocery savings right into the daily spread. Then at the end of the month, you can easily add up how much you were able to save, similar to the expenses.
Read more about tracking your monthly expenses, savings, and income here.
10. Cleaning Tasks
If you prefer to plan a whole cleaning day or maybe you do several rooms each day, then you can put your cleaning tasks right into the timeslots.
If you don’t need the tasks broken down in detail, you could just block off several hours on your daily spread that you could dedicate to cleaning.
I personally like to write the cleaning tasks right into the hours with checkboxes so that I can check everything off as I complete the tasks.
11. Water intake
Adults should be drinking eight 8oz glasses of water every single day and most people don’t end up drinking enough.
It’s really hard to tell how much you are drinking if you don’t keep track.
Many daily planners have a section for tracking water already, but if it isn’t included, you could draw 8 boxes, or 8 water droplets, or whatever will make it easy for you to track, which you can then fill in each time you finish an 8oz glass of water.
You may find that you were drinking enough all along but otherwise this is a great motivator for getting enough water each day and becoming more healthy.
12. Posting to Social Media for Business Purposes
If you are a blogger, youtuber, etc, then you may need to keep a schedule for when you post to social media. This is a great thing to put directly into the hour on your daily pages so that you know exactly when you need to set aside time for posting.
13. Daily Habit Trackers
A habit tracker is usually a small grid that you can color in the boxes or put checkmarks when you have completed the tasks.
I have already included exercise in it’s own category, but the habit tracker could work for showing how long you exercised for. If each box represents 10 minutes, you may be able to color in 6 boxes, which looks really impressive!
This could also include your step count for the day. Your boxes could be 500 or 1,000 step increments with 10,000 steps being the daily goal.
You could also track sleep. If you are wanting to get 8 consecutive hours of sleep each night, you could make your boxes either half an hour or an hour and then fill in the boxes to equal how many hours you slept.
Healthy Eating / Ditching Bad Eating Habits
Tracking healthy or not so healthy eating habits are great for reaching your weight loss goals.
Keep track of calories, meals/snacks eaten, healthy drinks, etc.
If you are trying to remove something from your diet, like pop or chips, start with several boxes and as the weeks progress, keep filling in less and less of the boxes (only if you are truly having less of the bad foods). Eventually, you should see a beautiful graph showing how you went from 5 cans of pop per day to only half of a can.
Having a visual like this will make it more likely that your weight loss goals will be accomplished.
Do you often feel angry, sad, or really happy? These are all things that you may want to track to see if there are any patterns.
Being able to see patterns will help determine what typically triggers the anger or sadness so that you can make changes.
If you are often really happy, see if you can determine what is making you happy so that you can do that more often!
Are you an avid reader? Track how many minutes you read per day in increments of 5-10 minutes. Fill in the boxes either as you go through each 5 to 10 minute time or write down when you start and finish so that you can accurately fill in the boxes when you are done for the day.
Each day see if you can fill in more boxes than you did the day before.
Social Media Scrolling (Wasted Time)
Maybe you are trying to lower the time spent scrolling through social media. Track in 10 minute increments to see how long you are truly spending on these applications. It may shock you how much time you are wasting in a day! As the weeks go on, make it a goal to fill in one less box.
For more information, I have another post that provides 25 ideas for what to track in a paper planner.
Making Your Planner More Effective
Before buying a planner, first, sit down and determine what exactly you want to track and how much detail you need. This will ensure that you buy the perfect planner for yourself and don’t end up with a planner that you only use for a short time.
Everyone has different needs, likes, and styles. So just because a planner works well for one person, doesn’t mean it will work well for you. Make sure you are buying the correct one for you.
Find a planner that meets at least 80% of your requirements. I say this because it’s hard to find a planner that fits everything you want. Keep in mind that you can always add your own touch.
I would recommend finding a planner that has a lot of extra lined or blank paper to be able to make notes, add your own touches, or journal if you want.
One downside to a paper planner is that it doesn’t have an alarm that goes off to remind you of what you wrote in it. You need to be very diligent about checking your planner at least once every single day, but preferably multiple times per day.
In order to make your planner more effective, you need to find out what will make it more exciting to keep returning to your planner.
Some people find that using planner stickers can make it more fun, plus stickers provide a great visual aspect. This will in turn make it much more likely that you will actually open up and use the planner.
Other people like to create their own beautiful sections with pretty writing and artwork.
Your planner should be a reflection of you and your style. So whatever you can add to make it more enjoyable to look at, go ahead and do that. Then you will be naturally be drawn to it.
This is the biggest stumbling block to how effective a daily planner can be.
Daily Planner Suggestions
If you are still searching for a great daily planner, I would highly recommend the following planners. They all have different layouts, so one of them should fit many of your planning needs.
Erin Condren Daily Duo Planner
Daily planners may seem like way too much detail when looking at empty pages, but it can be really great for planning out your day by the hour and keeping you on track to have a much more successful day.
Make the pages work for you, based on your activities, appointments, to-do’s, etc. If you need more visual cues to help you get everything done, consider using drawings, pictures, or stickers. Making your planner more fun to use and look at will make it more likely that you will actually use it.