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How to Plan for 2020 Using the Simplified Planner

Reading time: 7 min.

If you find yourself just a little bit nosy about how other people plan, I think you’re going to like this blog. Back by popular request, I’m walking you through how I set up my Simplified Planner every year. 


I’ve been away from corporate life and working for myself as an entrepreneur for almost four years now, and I’ve used the Simplified Planner every single year that I have been in business. 

They’ve taken me from being completely on my own to building a team and bringing in more than seven figures with my copywriting business. 

But probably more life-changing, they have taken me from being a wide-eyed newlywed and having no idea what I’m doing to now being a mama bear to a sweet little one … and still have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. 🤣😉

Here are the six tips to breaking in, simplifying, and enjoying your new paper calendar, whatever tool you may use.


No. 1 | Get a tool.

The first thing you’re going to do is get a tool. Like I’ve mentioned my go-to is the Simplified Planner from Emily Ley. 

In this week’s episode on my Youtube channel, I’m taking you behind the scenes of how I set up my Simplified Planner every year—click here to see an in-depth look over my shoulder and into my Simplified Planner

Now, I’m super digitally minded and tech-oriented. I live and die by my Google calendar and I use a tool called CoSchedule for our content calendar planning in my business, but I love a good paper planner. I need something beside me during the day to use as a scratchpad to jot ideas on and get my messy thoughts out best on paper.

I’m curious: do you use a paper planner or a digital planner, or are you like me and use somewhat of a hybrid approach? Go ahead and comment below and let me know what kind of planner you use, especially if you’ve got some planning tricks up your sleeve for how to use it best! 

This’ll be my fourth year using the Simplified Planner. I think I like paper planners because there’s something nostalgic to it. I definitely was the kid who got a planner every year for Christmas in the 90s growing up—and I loved it. #nerdalert 

I know you’ve heard the statistics where research shows when you actually take the time to slow down and mindfully write something out, you tend to remember it more. 

That’s why I like paper.

I get asked a lot which Simplified Planner I use. I like the daily one because I tend to need a lot of space, especially since I use mine for home and business. (I can’t keep my life separate!)

I also use a tool called Powersheets., which is my goal-setting planner. I use these two things in tandem but they are different, you can visit last week’s blog or Youtube episode to see how I use those! You will never come into my office and not see these two things sitting on my desk side by side.

Related: How to Set your 2020 Goals with Powersheets

While Powersheets help me understand and see the monthly big picture, I use my Simplified Planner to jot down my day to day tasks and cross them off.

If you are torn between which Simplified Planner to get,  click here to take a quiz to figure out which is the best fit for you. The idea is to customize your planner to fit YOUR life and figure out what YOU need out of a planner.

No. 2 | Do the prep work.

Right about the time I’m doing my Powersheets prep and annual planning, I start the prep work in the front of the Simplified Planner. 

By the time I’m pulling out my planner, I’ve processed a lot about what I want to do in the new year thanks to my Powersheets

If you don’t use a tool like Powersheets, there is space in the Simplified Planner to work through what worked last year and what didn’t work.

The team at Simplified talks about routine and rhythm all the time so I really appreciate that there is space for you to write down ideas for new routines.

The last part of the prep work is gold. (Hint: I show it to you in my Youtube video.)

Every January I go through all 30 of the tasks listed in The Simplicity Challenge section of the planner. You just do one simple task a day and they put you in such a great mood at the beginning of the new year—you’ll clear out things, throw things away and get your year started with a little bit more of a minimalist approach. 

No. 3 | Set up the front pocket.

The first thing I put in the front pocket of my Simplified Planner is my time stewardship vision statement and my dream work schedule—I create these myself, and I teach all about them in my productivity course, The Art of Efficiency™ so if you’re a student of mine, you’ll have these, too!

This vision statement is where I’m reminding myself that I do have enough hours in the day to get things done that are actually important to me, I just need to remember how to prioritize well. 

These two tools correlate with the overall time batching and blocking system that I have set up in my business. Which, at this point, is a well-oiled machine.

No. 4 | Add standing events.

This means digging into the monthly pages. I add in standing events, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, regularly standing meetings and our launches or marketing promo periods. 

 I add in birthdays and anniversaries first. I write each date on the monthly calendar and then on the day itself so that I don’t forget. Growing up, my mom always wrote birthdays and anniversaries in a different color—I adopted this idea. She used red and I use green.

While I’m doing this I typically go ahead and use ink for the things that won’t change and pencil for things that are not set in stone.

Then I look at any trips or vacations that are already planned and I’ll add those in. 

I like to use Washi tape to block out vacations. I just ordered some neutral colored Washi tape from Appointed and I can’t wait to get it in.

Next, I add in my work schedule. 

My students inside my Primed To Launch™ program know I love my quarterly Champagne Campaign system. Basically that’s a fancy way of saying I like having one big marketing promo period every quarter.

Using that system, and the countback technique that I teach, I add in all of our marketing promo periods for the upcoming year—which are all figured out at this point. 

You may know that I batch days:  

  • Marketing Mondays
  • Client work Tuesdays
  • Product development Wednesdays
  • Meetings on Thursdays 
  • Finance Fridays (with a little bit of education thrown in) 


Related: How to Batch and Organize with Theme Days

Like I said ** well-oiled machine** at this point. 😉

Something new I’m going to try in 2020 is to pick a focus for a week, like a certain product or a client system, and I’m going to spend five days focused on that project within those batch days.

If you’re like me, your entire life is digital. You track your schedule with an online calendar and to-do list app. On Sundays, I make sure all of these things are transferred over from my digital calendar to my paper calendar for the next two weeks. To see how I plan out a specific week, watch this video!

No. 5 | Commit to monthly and weekly check-ins.

You never know what’s going to come at you in a day, a week, or a month. 

One thing that is helpful, no matter if you’re using a Simplified Planner or a different planner, is committing to monthly and weekly check-ins to assess if your system is working.

This is when taking out my Powersheets and my weekly planner for a rhythm I call my “weekly examine.” I also do this at the end of every month.

Here’s a bonus tip:  if you’re not overwhelmed with notebooks and paper yet, I love the prayer journals from Val Marie paper. When I’m going through my monthly planning and my weekly planning periods, I usually take out my prayer journal so I can see answered prayer requests, lessons learned, etc.

No. 6 | Actually use it.

My last tip is to actually use your planner, put it to work and make it messy.  I’ve said this before, but the trick to any system, whether it is a piece of software or a paper planner, is to pick one and make it work. 

I always say, “Don’t just dip your baby toe in—jump in, get your hair wet and try to make it work for you.” 

The best system or tool is going to be the one that you use.

 For me, it’s been my Simplified Planner year, after year, after year.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the rhythms that I have in both my life and my business, be sure to check out my free masterclass: Time Well Designed, How To Get Freed Up To Focus As A Creative. 

If you’re ready to go ahead and get your hands on your very own Simplified Planner and see which one could be a fit for you, you can start shopping here. 

I hope this was helpful and make sure you click here to watch my goal-setting video so you can see a bit more in-depth how I use Powersheets to plot out what I fill these pages with


Reading Time: 6 Minutes Reading time: 7 min. If you find yourself just a little bit nosy about how other people plan, I think you’re going to like this blog. Back by popular request, I’m walking you through how I set up my Simplified Planner every year.  I’ve been away from corporate life and working for myself as an […]


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