4 Things to Include When Setting Up Your New Planner

One of my favorite days of the year is the day that I set up my new planner for the new year.

Yes, I’m a nerd but I’m also a HUGE planner addict. I love sitting down and flipping through the blank planner pages that I had carefully thought through before purchasing.

The beginning of the year welcomes a fresh start & these can't miss tips to include when setting up your new planner for the year are a must! Taking time to do some intentional planning now will pay off all year long!

I love how all the blank pages represent a fresh new start, a new year and new possibilities of things to come.

I also spend some time choosing the right calendar to use.

There are so many fun and useful planners out there, from free (that you print yourself) to expensive, everyone can find the right planner system to fit their personal needs.

Once you choose and select your planner, though, you need to spend some time setting up your planner for the New Year.

After all, unless you make the planner work for you, it won’t do you any good at staying organized and on top of things.

Every December, I set aside some time to sit down with my current planner, along with my new planner and with some fun tools (see below), to get ready for the new year.

A little intentional planning can really help set you up for success going into a new year.

Sure, things will always come up that were unplanned but the dates, events and other important information you place in your planner now will help reduce your stress when the unexpected does come up.

So are you ready to set up your new planner? I am! Let’s get started…

4 Things to Include When Setting Up Your New Planner

Supplies Needed

Some of these things are optional, like the fun pens and stickers (although I personally think they make the whole process much more fun!) But the two non-negotiables are obviously your current calendar and the new one, plus at least one pen.

A New Year brings a new calendar and there are 4 things to include when setting up your new planner for the year. Taking some time to do some intentional planning will pay off all year long. | CreativeHomeKeeper.com

Current Planner

New Planner

Fun, colorful pens (these are my favorites)

Colorful stickers or Washi tape

Ribbon (this is a super easy tutorial) or another bookmark

So now that you have all your fun supplies gathered, let’s get down to business and start adding the useful information that will be helpful all year!

To Color Code or Not… That Is the Question

Some people like to color code the information they write in their planners to match a certain theme, for example, all the kid’s events in one color, your events in another, home-keeping tasks in another.

I don’t personally do that because I never know if I’ll have the correct color pen on hand when I need to write something down and if I wait then I will ultimately forget. So I just use whatever colors I have.

If color-coding is your thing, then go for it. If you think it will stress you out too much, then don’t worry about it. Remember you want to use the system that will work for you! 

If you do love to color code, these are great color coordinating stickers.

Step 1: Add All the Important Dates

To start, write the dates of all the previous year’s doctor, dentist, eye exams or other health/important appointments down that you will need to schedule in the new year.

Sometimes when you have a yearly or bi-yearly doctor appointment they tell you to just call and schedule since they don’t schedule that far out.

But if you are like me then you can easily forget when you last had an eye exam or physical.

To make it easier on myself I always write a small note of when my last appointment was and when I should schedule my next appointment at least a month in advance.

The 2016 Simplified Planner
For example, I had my last eye exam this past September which means I will need to schedule another one for late September or early October of the next year. To help me remember, I write a small note in August so I have plenty of time to schedule and get a time that best works for me.

Don’t just do this for yourself either. If you manage your kid’s or spouse’s appointments, write those date reminders down as well.

Next, write down any appointments you already have scheduled. If you already have appointments scheduled then obviously you want to transfer those to your new calendar.

Don’t forget the school calendar!

If your child is enrolled in daycare, preschool, elementary, or high school you probably have some sort of calendar the school sends home periodically with important dates.

I always scan the list and write down the dates the specifically apply to us, including holidays, no-school days, tuition due dates, enrollment dates and the last day of school.

Finally add in birthdays, anniversaries, weddings or other special days. This is when I refer to the perpetual calendar that I keep in my home management binder.

One of my personal goals is to get into a habit of sending cards on special days to family and friends. If I have those dates included in my calendar, then I can easily scan the calendar at the beginning of the month and know who I need to send a card too.

This is also where you can add fun, pretty and colorful stickers or Washi tape to serve as visual reminders of special dates.

If your calendar is filled primarily with writing then it can be easy to overlook a birthday or anniversary, but if you have a bright sticker or color jumping out at you, it’s harder to ignore.

Step Two: Seasonal Planning

Add notes to plan for seasonal activities, events, and projects. It always seems like the holidays sneak up on us but the truth is they are pretty much the same time each year (except for Easter, that day just can’t seem to decide if it needs to be March or April causing all sorts of havoc!)

In November, with the help of my Your Intentional Holiday Planning Toolkit,  I include notes about gathering my Advent books and resources for our Advent calendar so I’m not scrambling the weekend before December 1st to gather and wrap everything I need.

Using your calendar to remind yourself to plan for special days and seasonal activities can help you be intentional with the time you spend with your family creating memories and traditions. 

I also like to schedule in monthly field trip activities with my kids.

There are certain activities that happen in our city every year around the same date so I can write little notes a few weeks in advance to help me remember to research the exact date and time the event will take place.

Or perhaps I purchased a Groupon to the children’s museum, I always write down the date it expires at the beginning of the month so that I make sure we use it and don’t let it go to waste.

Don’t forget your spouse too!

Try really hard to schedule in some date nights once or twice a month if your budget allows. Sometimes it hard to nail down specific dates but if you include a note at the beginning of the month then it will be a good reminder to plan a date once the time rolls around.

Step Three: Home Keeping Tasks

I like to include in my planner some home-keeping tasks that need to be completed throughout the year. While I do have a monthly and annual cleaning checklist, sometimes if certain chores are not glaring right in front of me, they don’t get done.

Think through any chores you hire someone else to come in once or twice a year to complete such as an exterminator, electrician, carpenter or another service to help keep the interior and/or exterior of your home in working order.

For example in May, and again in September, we always schedule the HVAC tune-up before we switch to the air conditioner for the summer or the heater for the winter.

Schedule in de-cluttering or home improvement projects or goals too.

Most people like to spend January and February doing a major purging of their home but if you just write down “PURGE HOUSE” on your calendar that will probably overwhelm you before you even begin.

Instead, you could write down one de-cluttering task a week, like “CLEAN HALL CLOSET” one week or “SORT THROUGH ALL UPPER KITCHEN CABINETS” another week.

When you break it up into weekly tasks, you are much more likely to actually complete those projects.

If you and your spouse are planning any home improvement projects this next year, it’s also a good idea to write down some goals and tasks that need to be completed before the actual project begins.

Monthly, weekly or daily... are you picking the right planner for your planning needs? There are pros and cons to all the different formats making it crucial to understand how you prefer to plan and use your planner. Come learn how to pick the right planner for you!

For example, two summers ago we had the outside of our house painted. We spent February and March researching and interviewing potential companies and getting bids. Once we chose the company and scheduled for a June paint job, we spent April and May testing paint samples and choosing the colors we wanted.

Most home improvement projects require some planning and you don’t want to wait until the last minute to try and schedule the job to be completed as well as making design choices.

That’s why I like to use the calendar to plan out in advance the steps that need to be taken to complete the job and get the best product for our investment.

Step Four: Personal Goals

The last thing I like to write down in my calendar are dates for when I would like to accomplish personal goals.

If you already have your yearly goals planned out, write some completion dates down.

Why go through all the work of thinking through and writing down goals if you don’t actually hold yourself accountable to complete them?

There is grace, just because you write down a date you would like for it to be completed, doesn’t mean that you have to break your neck and burn yourself out to complete it.

With that being said, do try to hold yourself accountable to try and complete them. Don’t just move them around because you procrastinated.

Write down mini-tasks to help remind you what you are working towards and when you want to have it completed by.

Taking some time to sit down and including some of these things in your new planner for the upcoming year can really help set yourself up for success.

Being intentional with how you live also includes being intention with your personal planning too.

The beginning of the year welcomes a fresh start & these can’t miss tips to include when setting up your new planner for the year are a must! Taking time to do some intentional planning now will pay off all year long!

What are some dates or events that you’re like to include when setting up your new planner? 


The beginning of the year welcomes a fresh start & these can't miss tips to include when setting up your new planner for the year are a must! Taking time to do some intentional planning now will pay off all year long!

Want more resources to aid your intentional planning?

Goal Setting

Want to set goals that actually matter and create a realistic action plan to help you actually accomplish them? Powersheets is the resource you need! A complete, grace-filled goal planning system that works!

The Simplified Planner

Emily Ley, Simplified, Simplified Planner

The Emily Ley Simplified Planner is my personal favorite because it’s simple, versatile and helps me plan out my days with intention and purpose.

The CHK Seasonal Meal Planner

CHK Seasonal Meal Planner

Ready to be more intentional and organized when it comes to meal planning? The CHK Seasonal Meal Planner is an all-in-one customizable seasonal meal planner to help plan meals while focusing on your family’s traditions!


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  1. That planner is adorable!

    I’m a sucker for calendars and planners. And markers and stickers. Office supply and craft stores 🙂 I don’t know what I’d do without my calendar and planner.

    (Hi from SITS Sharefest!)

    1. Thanks! I’m the same way with office supply stores too. My husband groans when I tell him I have to make a quick run to Staples 😉

      1. Me too…. I would rather spend 2 hours going around a office supply store than at the mall or any other clothing store. I really do not like shopping for clothes.. 🙁

    2. Sharon White says:

      I Agree! I love all those things as well, and I find it comforting to know I’m not alone! That there are others who have that same affection!

      I’m really glad I found this site!

  2. Ronnica, Striving Stewardess says:

    I don’t use a paper planner anymore, but sometimes I miss it! I love writing with colorful pens!

    1. I think that’s the biggest reason why I haven’t completely converted to using my calendar on the phone, I would miss color coordinating to much! 🙂

  3. I am a huge nerd!! My husband always teases me because I love office supplies. Seeing your pictures made me want to run out and buy a planner right now. I used to be so organized but got away from it, but you have motivated me to pull my home binder back out and get to work for 2015! Visiting from Mom2Mom linkup.

    1. My husband rolls his eyes at me too! 🙂 Glad to have inspired you! Thanks for visiting Stephanie, Merry Christmas!

  4. I love this post. I am naturally not a planner but since becoming a special needs mom (5 years ago) I have learned to embrace planners. Your tips are amazing and I am going to have to start writing my goals into my planner!

    1. They really do help organize all those important dates and I am sure you probably have your fair share of appointments for your child. Writing down goals in my planner has really revolutionized my life and has helped me keep track of actually accomplishing them 🙂

  5. Amber Kristine says:

    I love your system! It’s really cute 🙂 Those are also really incredibly important tips. I never even thought to include my goals in my planner! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Thanks! It had definitely revolutionized the way I approach goal planning and accomplishment by adding in some mini-tasks and completion dates.

  6. Ashley Wells says:

    The ribbon tip and video? Awesome!!!

    1. I know! I can’t believe I didn’t think to do something like that sooner but I’m pretty sure I am going to enjoy moving a ribbon around much more than trying to keep a paper clip in my planner. Plus it’s so much prettier! 🙂

  7. Love these tips! I try to do each of these when I start a new planner (though I’m usually on the academic year since I used to teach), but inevitably, I’ll forget something. I’m pinning this for when I get my new planner for my blog and etsy shops.

    So I have a weird question. It’s a long shot, but I’m desperate! Is there any chance you would be selling your Martha Stewart discbound planner? I can’t find it anywhere, and I want that one in that size. If so, please let me know.

    1. Actually, scratch that. I thought that yours had the pen holder on the side, but it doesn’t. Don’t mind me, I’m just over here being awkward haha

      1. Ha! 🙂 No worries, I’m actually planning on keeping the discbound system and just placing notebook paper in the middle and using as a journal/idea notebook. \\\\

  8. I look forward to planning every year as well. I just got my 2015 planner in the mail and am excited to sit and reflect on 2014 as I ponder new goals and activities for the new year. Thanks for the great tips!

  9. one other thing i write in my planner weekly is my prayer list. that wah i see it every day when i open my planner. even if i dont intentionally remember individuals i see everyone’s name

    1. Dawn that is such a great idea! I never thought to include my prayer list in my planner but that makes so much sense, especially since I look at my planner several times a day. Thanks for the idea 🙂

  10. This is great! I am about to sit down and plan out my calendar so this is a great resource!

  11. Hi! I’m also a planner addict… Maybe you’d like some of my ideas that I developed over time.

    I combine mine with a diary (pages that I take out and make a book of monthly) and my permantent lists (in the back I keep lists of books I want to read, projects I’d like to make, goals for my life, movies I like to see, future names for my cats, songs that make me cry,…). I just like adding all kinds of stuff between the diary pages like wrapping paper of gifts that I got, letters from my friends, embellishments of my favourite tea… And I write on all kinds of paper that I find, like those postcards you can get for free, to make it very vivid. In the planner part I mostly write on stickers (labels), they give it an instant nice overall view. Or when I’m not sure I will finish the task that day, I write it on post-its and then I can just replace the post-it to the next day.

    Greetings and good luck with your planning!

    1. And I forgot to mention, very important to put in your planner:

      -expiration dates of foods/medicine
      -opening hours of shops/facilities you visit often
      -maps of places where you keep getting lost

  12. Can you recommend any similar planners that aren’t out of stock (other than the free printables)?

  13. This is my first year using a planner since high school! I am looking forward to having somewhere to write things down. I’m hoping it will keep me accountable to my to do list. I completely forgot to add seasonal items in. Guess what I’m spending some time on today.

  14. if you want to use the disc system, it’s still available at Levenger.com. I just saw it in the catalog I received this week. I used it for 4-5 years and had thought it was gone forever!

  15. Maybe I don’t understand because I’m not a mom yet, but I am a full time college student who has many of things going on in my life. I honestly cannot see how on earth someone feels the need to be THAT organized about every little thing in their life… It almost seems manic. Sure, I can write doctors appointments and people’s birthdays on a calendar on my fridge, but my goodness gracious this is ridiculous! Maybe I’m just an ignorant college kid and I’m sure most of you moms see me in that light… But 70% of this is unnecessary (and washi tape? what the… why??)

    1. Hi Sara, thank for commenting. I admit that I may be a little crazy when it comes to being organized 😉 It’s just how God made me. I know these tips won’t apply to everyone but for me personally when I spend the time to make a plan like this I find I am much more intentional and purposeful in my days. I think what is important is to find a planning system that works for you and you can certainly take or leave any of these tips. Best wishes to you as you continue on in your studies.

    2. Sara for a long time I was just like you. I saw no reason to be so crazy about schedules and planning. Now I am a full time college student attending year round, a veteran with a lot of Dr appointments, a mom of 4 kids ranging from 12 to 2, and we have 5 pets with all the various vet and grooming that entails. , I handle the bills, the menus, the grocery shopping, the appointments, the housekeeping, and the planning for our family of 6. Did I mention we are also currently building a house from the ground up? My planner may seem manic but in reality it is my sanity in written form.

    3. I think if you had more going on you would understand the need to have on spot everything is written and scheduled. I have two kids on five hockey teams and a rodeo princess! I can’t keep those schedules all straight in my head. Not everyone is crazy with the washi tape and stickers, (but I do think they are fun). I get so much more done with a plan! If I write it down it is like a commitment that I have made instead of just an idea.

  16. Pingback: Weekly Reads - Articles and posts I have found helpful this week
  17. Now why haven’t I thought of making a bookmark for my planner!? 🙂 One thing I like to add to mine is a reminder to send a card about a week before an anniversary, etc. Otherwise, I have a habit of not remembering until the day of. Also, when I add a doctor’s appointment, I jot down the co-pay as a quick reference for budgeting.

    1. Those are such great tips Suzanne, especially about the co-pay! It’s good to know what expenses we have coming and if I write them down then I am prepared. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Fabulous planner! I have a helpful hint to help with your goal f sending personal cards. I glued a top loading mailing envelope (9×5) to the inside cover. That way I can keep cards and stamps n my planner so when the special day comes around you just address it and plop it in the mail. If you are really feeling organized, you can write the addresses on envelopes ahead of time. I mainly do this for business thank you notes but I’m sure it will work for personal mailings as well. Keep up your awesome work!

    1. Taryn that is such a great idea! The Simplified Planner actually has a little pocket in the front cover so I may have to do that to keep myself on top of notes and cards. Thanks for the tip!

  19. Victoria, your ideas are great! I live alone and have a slow schedule compred to other women! I have a simple schedule & a simple life. I thank God for what I do have–including my planner!

  20. Love this! Thanks for the tips!

  21. I recently went from a digital calendar to ring bound calendar, and I must admit, it’s much for fun. I enjoyed reading your input about goals and planning for holidays additions to the calendar. I found your post via pinterest, Thanks for sharing.


  22. This was a great post! I enjoyed it. I am way behind on this year’s planner, but there are so many choices. I thought I had it down but now, I am not so sure…sigh. I recently found the printables on Etsy and there are some really cute ones as well. One thing that makes it so hard is that I want the one planner to rule them all, lol, and to arrange homeschool, home business, home stuff and everything else. It’s hard to find one that gives me as much space as I like on the daily pages!

    One thing I do to help me keep up with mailing cards is I use an online service that sends me reminders 10-14 days in advance of the occasion. I then click on the link in the email and it takes me to the correct part of the card catalog (birthday or anniversary), so that I can choose from those cards. A few clicks and my card is sent for me! I LOVE it. That is the ONLY way I get cards sent these days.

  23. Thanks for the great advice. I love planners too. One of the things I do is to list all the birthdays in a month on a sticky (name, date) and put the sticky on the previous month’s page. For example, I’ll have a list of all the June birthdays on the May page. Not only do I take the sticky with me to the card store to purchase the cards (a once-a-month task), but I transfer the stickies to the next year’s planner in December.

  24. Eva Wachter says:

    So, I know I’m late to this one, but I love the tips. I currently am using a “reusable” type planner system from Staples, the ARC one they carry. I love that I don’t have to pay out a fortune for a new planner every year and I love that they have their calendar refills academically so, I can fill them in for the school year vs. having to purchase a new planner before finishing out a year of school info.
    Also, I love using colorful pens and I do try to use a color system for everything. like, one color for each of my kiddos as they all always have so much stuff going on. one color for my own things like household work and errands. and then a I have a small line on the bottom of each day that I write “wfd”-what’s for dinner, and fill it in at the start of the month. so I don’t have to scramble to think of a dinner last minute or ultimately order a pizza. ha.
    Glad I’m not alone in my love for “pretty stuff”.

  25. Michael’s sells the disc organizers. This is my second year using one. The company who makes them is Create 365.

  26. One thing I find helpful in remembering annual appointments is to book them the same month as my birthday. The same for my son and husband as well. That way, we remember that it has been a whole year. The other thing I do for more frequent appointments is to write a reminder in my planner to book another appointment on “x” date. For example, when I get back from the dentist, I set a reminder 6 months later to book my next teeth cleaning. I use a Moleskine 18-month planner and it is really helpful.

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