That said, here are some suggestions for how you can simplify your planner and clear it of clutter:
[Note: Most of these suggestions are for ring binders (or any kind of planner where you can add and remove pages) but I have included a few ideas for those of you who use bound planners.]
- Remove any loose papers. I tend to stash loose papers in the back of my planner or in the pockets in the front and back covers, thinking that I will refer to them later, but I never do and they just accumulate. Take these out and recycle them. If the information on them is important, transfer it to a page in your planner or act on it.
- Take out old sticky notes. I sometimes use sticky notes for important reminders and short lists. Take these out when you no longer need them to cut down on unnecessary bulk.
- Minimize the number of past and future monthly, weekly, and daily planning pages that you keep in your planner. If you use a ring-bound planner, you don't need a year's worth of weekly planning pages in your planner. I try to have no more than 6 weeks ahead and 6 weeks back in my planner at a time. Decide what you need, and store the extra blank pages in a separate binder until you need them. Also make sure that you set aside a time every few weeks to clear out the used pages and insert more blank pages. For monthly pages, you probably only need to have the last 3 to 4 months and the next 6 to 8 months in your planner. I don't use daily pages, but if you do, minimize those as well.
- Consider whether the monthly, weekly, and daily layouts that you're using suit your needs. Are you making full use of them? Are some pages or parts of pages going unused? If you use a ring binder, can you buy different inserts that will work better? If you use a bound planner, what other planner formats are available? If you can't find an ideal format, consider a DIY planner to customize your planner to your needs.
- Re-write your to-do lists. This step may not clear out any more paper from your planner, but it does help to reduce visual clutter. Go through your to-do list item by item, checking off completed tasks and taking out items that you do not truly need or want to do. If some tasks have been sitting on your to-do list for a long time, consider whether you can break them up into smaller tasks or re-write them to make them more do-able. If your to-do list is starting to look messy at this point, re-write it entirely.
- Take out unneeded reference pages (and any other page you don't use regularly). If you don't refer to a page at least once a week, it probably doesn't need to be in your planner. If you use a ring binder, take out any reference or project pages you no longer need. If you use a bound planner, how many pages in your planner do you rarely use or look at? If you have a lot of unused pages, consider trying a different planner, or switching to a ring binder or a DIY planner.
After going through these steps with my own planner, these are all the papers that I took out:
I knew my planner was getting cluttered, but I wasn't expecting it to be that bad! Although I'm usually good at taking out old weekly pages, a lot of reference pages that I never looked at had built up, and I had stuck a bunch of loose notes in the back of the planner one day because I didn't know what else to do with them. Now that all of this has been removed, my planner looks thinner and feels lighter, and it's easier for me to find what I'm looking for.
Here are some useful links:
- D*I*Y Planner - This is the site to check out if you're interesting in making your planner, or if you just need some custom inserts. You can explore their official D*I*Y Planner templates (in several sizes) and their beginner's guide or browse the directory of user-submitted templates. The site also includes a lot of great articles on different topics, so is well worth visiting even if you're not interested in DIY planners.
- Browse through all of my planner-related posts to find out more about how I have designed my DIY planner, and how my use of planners has evolved in the last several years (I've used at least 4 different planner systems since I started this blog, and many more - both paper and digital - throughout my life).