How to create a consistent planning routine

Nearly every week I get a new message or an email at the top of my inbox with questions about creating a planner routine. I love when people ask for help about this, because I struggle with routines as well! I’ve become fascinated with creating a planning routine that sticks and I’m passionate about helping others find a routine that works for them. Often we’ll say “I love planning, I love planners, but I can never stick to one. Or even “I can’t stick to planning every day.” First and most importantly, you don’t have to plan every day. I think the premise that routine is only valid if you do it every day is false. That being said, there’s a method to the madness: Habit formation is easier with repetitions. You get more repetitions when you complete a behavior every day.

I have a planner routine I’m proud of. I start and finish it every night before bed. I’ve done it every night for more than a year now, even through the darkest days of the pandemic. My planner routine is cathartic and quick and, critically, it’s completely baked in to my day now. My planner routine helps me process everything that happened today and mentally set myself for everything due to happen tomorrow. If you’re in search of the same, I’ll share my process with you. I call it the when where how method of planning. I cover all of this in this video as well!

When you plan

This is the key piece of the equation. If each of your days follows the same general rhythm and cadence (schedule), it’s easy to pick and commit to a time of day when you can sit down and plan. If your schedule varies considerably, it’ll be more challenging. So I encourage you to pick an anchor point in your daily schedule. An anchor point is a time in your schedule you can count on happening day in and day out.

An anchor point could be your lunch break, it could be the moment you pour your first cup of coffee or tea in the morning, it could even be while you’re in the shower. I complete my planner routine in the evening before bed. I choose this time because, listen, I’m terrible at mid-day routines. My daily schedule is pretty different from day to day. But I know I’ll do two things every day, without fail: Wake up, and go to sleep. So I use these as my anchor points for completing my planner routine. It takes me a while to get my synapses firing in the morning, so I plan at night.

Where you plan

Once you’ve picked a time in your day to plan, you’ll need a place for your planner. I’m all for switching up the place where you plan. But your planner needs a “home.” Start by identifying the high-traffic places in your house. Put your planner in one of these places. If you plan in the morning after making coffee, put your planner next to the coffee pot. I plan right before bed, so guess where I keep my planner? On my bedside table! Even if your planner travels with you throughout the day, make sure it has a “home” to go back to during the day until you pick it up again for tomorrow’s routine. Highly trafficked places work well because you have the constant visual reminder that your planner is there. It exists. And it can’t wait for you to pick it up again. Even subconsciously, seeing your planner will spur you to crack it open and make sure your day is tracking according to the plan you made for it.

How you plan

Part of your routine necessarily involves different tactics and strategies. Do you like how you plan? If you answer “no”, you’ll struggle to stick to your routine, I’m sorry. You have to find a way to plan that you enjoy and you’re proud of. I focus on attainability above all. If you’re a list person, for example, try a different method for creating your to-do list. Above all, keep your day-to-day planner routine under 10 minutes if possible. Because unless you’re the President, your schedule shouldn’t be so complicated that listing your appointments and top priorities for tomorrow takes more time than that. I aim for 5 minutes of focused effort! If you use stickers and washi in your daily plans, accept that it may take longer to polish that spread. That’s OK! How you plan is a personal process.

If you need more guidance, I co-created a bundle with the team at bloom daily planners. The printable bundle takes you step-by-step through the process of creating a consistent planner routine! Hopefully, the when-where-how method helps you create a consistent planner routine that you love.

planner routine bundle

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