I am always a little surprised when I read comments on my Instagram about my planner. When I first bought one, I intended to decorate it beautifully like all of the ones I saw on my own Instagram feed. However, I soon realized that function was important to me. As a result, but planner is a mix of a few things: part scrapbook, part bullet journal, part traditional datebook, and then some. Because I’ve really made my planner my own, I thought I would make a post sharing how you can create that perfect journal or planner that is both fun and functional.

1. Find the planner or journal that works for you.

There are tons of different planner, notebook, and journal brands out there. Take a trip to the craft or office store, or browse online for ideas. You might choose to use a branded planner like the one I use, a more generic datebook, a dotted journal, or a traditional college-ruled notebook. There are a ton of options out there. Think about what you want to create with your planner, whether you may want to add more pages later, etc. Size matters too, at least in this case! 😉 Will this planner fit into your purse or backpack? Is there room for it on your desk? Do you need something extra large to track all of your kids’ activities, or something tiny and discreet to write all your secrets in?

I chose The Happy Planner for a few reasons. 1) I think the price is reasonable. 2) I like the different size options. 3) You can easily add and remove pages. 4) I like the stickers from the same company. 5) It’s available on their website, Amazon, and at my favorite craft store.

2. Create your sections.

What do you want to log in your planner or bullet journal? Think about what types of pages or sections you might need to create, and then do so. I have a traditional planner, so of course I use the weekly and monthly spreads. Flip through your notebook or planner and see what pages are already available. How can you manipulate them to make them work for you? I saw that my planner had a year at a glance section, with one line for each date. I decided to log my shows and movies watched and books read on those pages.

This plan can continue to change as you use your planner. If a new interest or idea emerges, you’ll want extra pages or room to add pages. Some Etsy shops sell additional inserts for different branded planners, like the address book pages I put in the back of my Happy Planner.

3. Decorate and accessorize!

How you decorate is up to you, but I recommend taking to Instagram for ideas. You can check out the hashtag associated with your notebook or planner’s brand, as well as hashtags such as #bujo, #plannerspread, #weeklyspread, #bujoinspiration, and #plannerinspo.

Decorating might lead you to buying stickers and markers like it did for me. If you have something branded like a Happy Planner or Erin Condren planner, you can decide if you want to stick with that brand’s accessories or if you want to shop around like I do. Etsy sellers also create unique stickers for your planners and journals, and some even size them appropriately for your exact planner! You might also choose to tape or glue in tickets, pictures, and other items from your life to save memories.

4. Make your planner work for you.

If you’re using your planner or bullet journal to map out your days, analyze what the page layouts already look like. The Happy Planner I use comes with three rectangles per day. Some use these to represent morning, afternoon, and evening. I use them to represent work, personal life/home, and blogging/social media. It’s up to you how you use your planner and the sections within it.

5. Get rid of what isn’t working for you!

Don’t be afraid to take out extra or unused pages and repurpose them, to stop using trackers that no longer interest and inspire you, etc. Your planner is a place to keep you sane and organized. Don’t let it drive you crazy! You can tear out pages you hate, or just stop using something for a while before coming back to it.

6. Don’t give up.

There are so many times I’ve fallen off planning and had a week that was basically empty. Or a month. That’s okay! It happens to the best of us. But if you like the organization that planning brings, or the creativity of bullet journaling, don’t get discouraged by a slip-up. You can always start again next week, next month, or next year!

7. Cross things out. It’s okay to mess up!

Sometimes you won’t complete the task on our to-do list. I know crossing things out might look ugly or make you feel bad, but there are so many creative ways to do it. (Or you can just draw a messy scribble or arrow like I do sometimes.) You can even invest in fun stickers for cancelling or postponing events. Or, if the scratches and scribbles frustrate you too much, you can always buy a new planner, like I did when my original 2020 planner turned into a giant book of cancels.

8. Have fun!

I’ve been planning for about half a decade now and I get more and more into it each year. I develop new ideas for how I want to use my planner every month, and I love shopping for a new planner in September or December (and heck, sometimes June). Buying new stickers and pens can become an addiction, or at least a fun way to reward yourself. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get planning!