I get so excited about new planners and digital calendars. I love opening them up and setting them up for myself and my family. And then… nothing.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who struggles with finding (and sticking to) a planner, household binder, or even a calendar!

Planners are an essential part of running a household and keeping everyone’s schedules straight. I love how they can help me stay focused and organized. However, finding and sticking to a system isn’t always easy.

If you’ve ever struggled stay organized, even after trying the latest and greatest system, try these tips.

How to Use a Planning System Effectively

Find a system that works for you

Try using different planning systems to figure out what you need in a planning system.

Whether you use a paper planner or a digital planner, finding a planning system that works for you (and your family) is crucial.

Look for a system that’s flexible enough to change as your needs change, but that’s complete enough to hold everything from your calendar and to-do lists to your cleaning schedules and bills. You also want to find a system that helps everyone in your family stay organized and know what’s coming.

While it’s possible to have more than one system, like using a digital family calendar and a personal planner, make sure that nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

I used to schedule appointments in my phone’s calendar and then set a reminder, but I would inevitably forget to write it in my paper planner. After getting too many “surprise” reminder phone calls from doctors’ offices, I decided to just schedule appointments when I had my planner handy so that I could see exactly what was happening on each day.

Capture everything

Doing a brain dump daily or even weekly to get all the things out of your head is so helpful. If you’ve had an especially stressful day or if you need to remember something, write it down.

A planner is a great place to store your brain dumps. Once you’ve finished your brain dump, take the time to organize it. Some items may be tasks, while others may be appointments or things that need to go on your calendar.

Spend a few minutes transferring tasks and appointments into their appropriate place in your planner so you don’t lose or forget anything.

I like to write my brain dumps, but there are programs, like MindMeister, that allow you to create digital mind maps. Some programs, like Evernote, allow you to create lists, as well as scan and search physical paper.

However, if you use a digital tool to create your brain dumps, be sure to transfer important information from your brain dump. Even if your content is scanned, you should still take the time to record any upcoming appointments or tasks in a place where you’ll be able to find them quickly.

Review your time regularly

One way to make the most of your planner is to review your time regularly

Spending some time reviewing your schedule and looking ahead at upcoming events and tasks will help you to be more organized.

This is where I always fall off the wagon, especially if I’m using a digital system that automatically schedules my tasks. Make sure that your tasks are necessary and can be completed within the allotted time.

Also, make sure that you review tasks that you’ve already completed (is there anything else you need to do?) as well as upcoming tasks and events (Is it marked on your calendar? Is there anything you need to do in preparation?).

There are several times that you should review your planning system. It’s a good idea to check your schedule on an annual, monthly, and weekly basis. But many people also find doing daily reviews helpful, too. I like to plan my days the night before, but then I use my planner during the day to keep me on task.

Reviewing your week is a great way to make sure you’re remembering everything and creating a solid plan for the upcoming week. Try creating a meal plan and making sure that everyone’s schedules coordinate during your weekly review.

Tweak your planning system

Maybe your schedule changed or maybe your current plan just isn’t working. That’s ok! Seasons change in life (literally), and your planning system needs to change, too.

If you find that your system isn’t working, try something different. You might catch a lot of the issues during your weekly review. At that point, try switching to a daily or weekly planning system.

If you’re using a paper planning system, you might even want to try a digital project management system to manage your home (I’ve tried Evernote, Asana, and Trello with varying degrees of success).

If your system isn’t working, keep making minor changes until you find something that is simple to use for everyone in your family.

Use your planner (or digital calendar)

When you're trying to get organized, doing a brain dump and writing down your tasks is a great way to be more productive (and free up space in your head).

A planner is only as effective as the person who uses it. If you set up a system only to abandon it, it may have been too complicated.

I’ve tried to use so many different types of planners, and each one has its perks. The key to using a planner/organizing system is knowing yourself (and your family members), making sure it’s not too complicated, and sticking with your new system.

While you may need to tweak your system in the future, your system should be flexible enough that it continues to work for you, even when you make changes.