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Stuck? Unfocused? Overwhelmed & Unmotivated? Here’s Your Remedy

How to get unstuck fast when you're feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated- free tutorial and printable.

I’ve been feeling super unmotivated lately. Have you ever felt like that before? I have all these grand intentions to do all these wonderful and ambitious things with my life, but as soon as I get home from work all I want to do is sit on the couch with a bowl of ice-cream and binge episodes of my latest Netflix-obsession. Sound familiar?

Or, the times that I actually DO find the gumption to get up and attempt to be productive, I sit in front of my computer and get lost in the swarm of emails I need to address, projects I want to complete, and files I “still” haven’t completely organized. It seems like my “projects” list grows exponentially everyday, while any attempt to dive into it is thwarted by circumstance or my own self-indulgence.

I’m telling you, this kind of thing happens to us all- motivation seems to come in waves for most people. One day you’re feeling fired up and like you’re about to conquer the world (or at least your own personal dreams!) and the next you’re down in the slums with the rest of us. If your days seem like they’re more often in the latter, please don’t stress- you’re certainly not alone.

So what can we do? Certainly you’re not content with just “waiting it out” until your next good mood, right? Of course not! I highly doubt you’d be here reading this if you were.

Easy Trick When You’re Feeling Unmotivated

I suppose the good news that stems from the knowledge that I’ve lived this pattern so many times before is that I know there’s a simple fix to get back on track. Instead of waiting around for life to “get better” for you in that area (which, let me give you a little hint: it never does!), by doing this one thing, you can begin to take your future plans and life goals into your own hands and YOU decide where you’re headed.

What is it?

It’s a simple thing called “Weekly Goals”, which sounds so mundane, I bet you’re thinking: “That’s it? That’s your magic formula?”

Well it’s certainly no magic formula (unfortunately those don’t exist, but don’t I wish they did!), but it IS something that has helped me immensely when I’m stuck in a slog just like this.

I used to think that lack of motivation stems from laziness or lack of drive or initiative. And yes, sometimes it does. But I’ve found that quite often when I’m feeling my very familiar “avoidant” thoughts, it’s actually more often due to general overwhelm and a lack of clarity of my next steps. So even though I’ve had plenty of “lazy days” recently, I don’t really consider myself a “lazy” person. Once I can address the cause of my stress and overwhelm, I know my work ethic and drive will return- and probably, so will yours.

What does this look like?

Truthfully, it’ll look different for everyone, and rightly so. Everyone’s lives, goals, paths, purposes, missions, and priorities are all different. One person is not going to exactly fit inside the box of another. I’m going to share with you MY process and what it looks like for ME, but I encourage you to adapt it to fit your own needs and lifestyle. There’s no point in living a system if it’s ineffective in helping you become a better version of yourself.

Note: All of the steps below are outlined in the FREE video training “Weekly Goals”, along with printables you can use to complete the steps I outline in the training. Click on the link below to access the free training and printables, and watch your overwhelm & lack of motivation begin to fade.

Step 1: Determine Categories

Click the link above to download the printable. Once you confirm your email and receive your download link, you’ll be able to choose to download either a traditional printable (if you’re a pen and paper girl like myself), or a fillable PDF you can save over and over. (Really you can download them both, in case your needs adjust over time- this is also a common tactic).

Once you have your printable in hand, read the five life categories it lists in the boxes. If any of these categories don’t apply to your life, feel free to use the second page to fill in your own categories. My philosophy is to “make it work for you” – there’s no point investing time into something that won’t bring you closer to where you want to be.

Pick a couple areas of your life that you want to focus on for now. Remember: this choice is not permanent! You only need to live with it for a week. You may be tempted to try and pick a bunch of categories in your life (I’m describing myself here!), but I promise you, doing so will only bring MORE overwhelm and guilt to your life, not less. Instead, just pick a couple areas for now. Yes, I’m fully aware that you have a bajillion things you think you need to work on. But has trying to do them all at once ever worked for you? It definitely hasn’t for me! But starting off with a couple definitely HAS worked for me. This is how.

Step 2: Set Goals

For each category you chose in step 1, think of a small goal you can work on during the week. Don’t make it too big, or you’ll just set yourself up for frustration and guilt- neither of which are motivating, and both of which will make your overwhelm even worse.

Here are some basic goal-setting tips:

  • Your goals should be small and manageable. This should be something you can tackle in a week.
  • Think about how you’ll measure results and progress for your goal. How will you know if/when you’ve achieved it? Think in numbers, lengths of time, etc…
  • Phrasing your goal like a habit is a great way to ensure you can measure your goal and progress over time.
  • Your small weekly goals should be directly related to the larger goals you’re working toward in your life. How will accomplishing this thing help you move forward in your future? How will this make you a better person for yourself or your family?
  • Pick goals that allow you to fail. This isn’t the place for “critical” tasks that MUST be completed this week or you’ll be subjected to dire repercussions. For that type of planning, please reference my daily planner set. These are goals that you’re working toward, but that you’re willing to give yourself grace on if you happen to fall behind. Please don’t ever forget this next tip: Working on your goals is all about PROGRESS, not about results. Sure, seeing fabulous results moving forward regularly is a wonderful thing, but how many of us ever achieve every goal we ever set? Does that mean we should stop setting them? Definitely not! The purpose of goalsetting (and achieving) is to help give us direction on the path we want to walk to help us reach our desired destination. This process takes time, and there will certainly be a whole lot of bumps on the road along the way. But even if it’s just one step forward all week, progress is progress, and you’re further ahead than you were the week before. And THAT is achievement.

Working on your goals is all about PROGRESS, not merely the results.

Step 3: Track Your Progress Through the Week

Keep your weekly goals sheet handy during the week, either in your planner or by your bed at night. You’ll want to check off each day you accomplished your goal, and there’s a space on the bottom of each category box to do that.

It’s perfectly ok to miss some days- don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it done everyday. Remember: the idea here is to build momentum and progress. To be a little better today than we were yesterday. You probably won’t accomplish every goal everyday, but be sure to celebrate the ones you do.

Step 4: Evaluate, Review, Adjust

At the end of the week, think about your overall progress on your goals and fill out the “evaluation” box under each category you selected. What did you do well at? What can you improve on?

This is actually a weekly pattern for me. Once a week I set some time aside to do a short “weekly review” of my goals and plans- looking back to what I accomplished the week before, as well as looking ahead to what’s coming up next. Analyzing your progress on your goals is an important step of this process, and if you skip it, you’ll lack the information you need when setting your new goals.

Some helpful things to look for during your “Weekly Review” are:

  • Which goals were you most successful in? Least successful?
  • Did the progress you made this week propel you forward in your long-term goals? Are they helping you become who you want to be?
  • What patterns do you see? Maybe you’re great at accomplishment on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but Wednesdays are just too busy for you to think about anything other than your committed tasks and appointments. This could be important information as you modify your goals- maybe Wednesday becomes a “bonus day” of sorts, or a type of “wildcard” feature for you (substituting it for a different day you might miss in the week)? I’ve done that before, and it pushes me to attempt the goal if I can, but allows me to give myself grace if it just doesn’t happen.
  • Are there different categories/areas of your life you’d rather focus on in the coming week? Have your priorities shifted, even temporarily based on the circumstances in front of you this week? (This is completely normal- life priorities will often sway in response to what’s happening in your life. It’s usually temporary, and when the circumstance is addressed, life will return to “normal”.)
  • Do you want to change or alter your goal for the coming week? Think about things like how often you think you can fill the task (more or less often than last week?), or the measurement of the goal (10 pages of reading versus 100?). Changing these numbers based on last week’s progress is recommended to keep yourself both engaged and motivated. Goals that are too easy are uninspiring, and goals that are too challenging become a frustrating chore. Finding the “happy medium” between these two extremes can be difficult, but if you can, you’ll find far more positive success than leaving it at one or the other.

Concluding Thoughts

Setting weekly goals (and then tracking and evaluating them later) is an essential step in your personal progression. It’s also one of the easiest, fastest, and most encouraging steps I know of to give yourself “quick wins” and positive reinforcement. It’s not about berating yourself when you fail or giving up in frustration- it’s about seeing progress in action.

If you go into the process with a positive attitude of “I cannot lose”, you’ll see yourself gain momentum each and every day. Celebrate your successes and evaluate the days you don’t get as much done as you’d like. Track your progress and modify your goals as you go. Set aside time each week to review your progress and make the changes you need to ensure you’re on the path that will get you to where you want to be.

READY TO SET SOME WEEKLY GOALS AND START SEEING SOME REAL PROGRESS IN YOUR LIFE? DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE WEEKLY GOALS PLANNER BELOW AND LET’S GET TO WORK!

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Ultimate Productivity Bundle 2019

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PRODUCT LIST

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The BONUSES!

The bonuses make it even easier to keep yourself focused, measure your progress, and save time with practical tools.

In addition to the 46 resources in this bundle, you also get bonuses worth $69.95 from companies who can help you become more productive.

Here’s are the bonuses you get:

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You can pick and choose which bonus offers you want to redeem. Sanebox and ListPlanIt are digital bonus offers available to anyone in the world – with no shipping costs! The goal setting sticker book ships anywhere in the world (customer is responsible for shipping costs). The Maca Team bonus ships only to US addresses (again, customer is responsible for shipping costs).

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Bundle FAQs!

If you still have questions, keep reading!

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Question: This sounds like a scam. Can you prove it’s not?

Answer: I know it seems too good to be true. Pay $37 for $1,506.90 in resources? Doesn’t that mean someone’s losing big time? Or the prices are inflated?

I totally get your concerns. I’ve been a customer of Ultimate Bundles for years and I can tell you that these bundles are truly a great value. Even though a blogger may be including their product in a bundle that costs less overall than their individual product, creators get exposure to new potential readers, which can pay off in big ways later. And when you buy a bundle through your favorite blogger (hopefully me!), you’ll support them, too! Plus, the bundle is offered for such a short time that they can go back quickly to selling their product at full price.

In short, it’s a great deal for everyone. Ultimate Bundles is a reputable company, so if you try the bundle and don’t like it within 30 days, just ask their friendly, helpful customer happiness team for a refund.

I hope that fully answers your questions!! If not, contact me anytime and I’ll sort it out for you!

In my opinion, you really don’t want to pass up a deal this good. But I’ll leave that up to you. Just don’t wait too long, because the sale when the timer runs out!

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Why Mindfulness is NOT (Just) Meditation

Mindfulness is seeing yourself in the moment for who you are and tracking areas you’d like to improve. It’s focusing on the present and letting go of the things that don’t serve you. Mindfulness allows us to get more done, accomplish more goals, and live a more healthy life.

The Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at Maharishi University has reported that “Leading medical experts estimate that 90% of disease is caused or complicated by stress.

That is an astounding number. Stress is an epidemic in our country. In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 77% of respondents reported “regularly experiencing physical symptoms caused by stress” and 73% “psychological symptoms.”

Are you one of the three-fourths that are plagued with regular stress, overwhelm, exhaustion, burnout or extreme frustration?

I am. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle that can never be won, but I promise- you do have tools at your disposal. One of my favorites is: Mindfulness.

Now before you start thinking of yoga poses and breathing techniques, let me stop you. Those things CAN be a PART of mindfulness, but it’s not the entire concept. Mindful living is so much more than that!

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS ANYWAY?

I love the definition given at mindful.org: “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Does that definition say anything about yoga or meditation? It certainly doesn’t!

Mindfulness is an ability that everyone already possesses. It’s a state of mind. It’s something you can do anywhere, anytime. You can develop and evaluate your mindfulness in different ways (which is what I like to teach about here at V&B), but it’s not a “skill” that only some possess.

Put most simply, mindFULness is really just the opposite of mindLESSness. Having a mind FULL of things that will make you a better person and lead you to a more satisfying life, instead of allowing yourself to make “mindLESS” choices on a whim.

I like to think of it as awareness. Being aware of the things around you so you can act accordingly. Paying attention to the moment at hand. Being intentional with your time, your actions and your thoughts.

It’s about making specific choices based on positive life goals, instead of letting life control your path.

It’s about constantly working toward those goals, while still being kind to your spirit and giving yourself lots of grace. It’s about loving yourself for who you are, but knowing your great potential and pushing yourself to be better. It’s about recognizing the positives you have to offer, but knowing you can be So Much More!

Focus on the Present

We have a tendency to focus on things that occurred in the past and anticipating too strongly the things that might happen. Though joyful memories and excitement for what is to come can be great things, allowing them to take the majority of our mindspace is detrimental to our progress.

Instead, it is far more healthy to focus on the things of the present. Mindfulness is paying attention to what’s happening right now: your actions, your thoughts, your environment. It’s not letting your mind get carried away with thoughts of the past or worries from the present. It’s letting go of anything that doesn’t serve your current goals and refocusing your mind if you get off track. It keeps you grounded in the here and now.

Mindfulness is Internal

Mindfulness focuses on the inner self, rather than the outer.

Being mindful allows us to see into our spirits- to the place that nobody else gets to see. It helps us to dig deep into our soul and pull out the aspects of ourselves that really define us. It’s letting go of how the world sees you, and allowing you to see yourself for who you really are. Your true self.

Being mindful has been huge in my development of self-confidence and self-esteem. It helps me to see that it doesn’t matter what people think if I know the real truth.

Mindfulness is freeing. It’s letting go of what doesn’t serve you and allowing yourself to focus on what does.

Benefits of Being Mindfulness

Mindfulness is not just a “fad” or “new-age trend.”

Incorporating mindfulness into your life has many tangible health benefits, including:

  • Decreased stress and increased capacity to work through life’s challenges
  • Increased clarity, attention, and brain function
  • Lowered anxiety and depression
  • Improved general well-being

Mindful.org explains: “When we’re mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind, and increase our attention to other’s well-being.”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the struggles and trials of our everyday lives and miss the wonderfully good things that happen around us. Constant pessimism is like poison to our spirits, but stopping to see the positives can provide us with much needed positive energy, which can be incredibly uplifting.

The beauty of true mindfulness is in the huge impact it brings to our spirits. Being fully aware of your mind and your surroundings can help you to see the good within life’s challenges.

It doesn’t erase the difficulties of life; it simply allows us to work through them calmly and realistically, instead of with fear and negativity. It turns them into opportunities for growth and progression, rather than tragedies and misfortunes.

This is quite a different view of mindfulness than merely relying on meditation and yoga, am I right?

Mindfulness is a Choice

“But how can I just ignore all the bad things in my life?”

You can’t. And doing so wouldn’t be healthy anyway. Those negatives influence who you are. They are a part of your past, but they don’t have to define you.

You get to decide what you focus on. You get to choose what you let matter. It’s your choice where you put your energies.

How do I Practice Mindfulness?

Let me be clear: “being mindful” and “practicing mindfulness” aren’t entirely the same.

While, as stated above, you can be mindful anytime, anywhere, “practicing” mindfulness is an intentional action that you must set aside time for.

It can look different for everyone, but for me, I find that spending time each day (usually at night) physically tracking my mindset is very beneficial. This is the procedure I facilitate at Vibrance & Bliss.

In a specific place in my planner I track things like:

  • my moods
  • gratitude
  • water intake (and other health concerns)
  • goals & progress: daily, weekly etc…
  • intentional routines & schedule
  • choosing the right tasks
  • small (or large!) daily wins, improvements, achievements & successes
  • memories
  • positive choices
  • future goals & improvements
  • daily evaluation

It Can Be A Challenge

So I think at this point we agree that being mindful has its benefits, and we have a basic outline of what it entails and how to put it into practice. But does that mean it’s easy?

Hardly!

Living mindfully can be a very difficult thing to do.

Yes, it is relatively simple in theory, but living mindfully requires you to address some things in your life that may be uncomfortable or upsetting.

Though it’s easier to ignore the challenges we face, it is much healthier to deal with and work through them. That’s where mindfulness can help. It takes you out of the negative headspace and helps you see what positives you can draw from the experience.

How do I stay motivated?

So how do you keep on track if you’re feeling the pressure and challenge of mindfully evaluating your day each night?

Just like any new habit or routine, it will take practice and consistency. Do it every night if possible. If you miss a day, no big deal. Just pick up again and keep going.

But always, ALWAYS be kind to yourself. That’s really the most important part. I like to think of it as “giving myself grace.” Don’t beat yourself up over a missed day or two. You’ll zap away all your motivation to keep trying.

Instead, cut yourself some slack. Don’t give up. Realize that perfection will not ever be possible.

Try changing your routine. Perhaps see if a mindfulness app can help your motivation levels. Whatever you can do to improve your consistency, the better you’ll be. If you can see you’re making progress, you’re more likely to stick to your budding routine.

How Positivity Influences Productivity

So why does all this matter? How does being “mindful” help me to get more done?

Have you ever sat down to complete a task and find yourself flooded by memories of a past negative experience? Or maybe you start to worry about an upcoming deadline you’re not sure you’ll hit?

If you’re anything like me, these thoughts probably continue running through your mind and keep you from completing the task, and twenty minutes later you’re feeling frustrated and defeated and your task is at the exact same place you left it.

Sound familiar? Trust me, I’ve been there.

The human mind loves to wander. We are easily distracted, and have a habit of allowing our minds to run over the place. This is mindlessness. You may be thinking of something, but it is certainly not what is going to further your present goals.

This is where mindfulness really shines! Constant and intentional consideration of your desired goals helps keep you on track as your mind naturally wanders.

Mindfulness IS productivity! It is the driving force that helps you get things done!

It allows you to step away from the negative thoughts that destroy your motivation and focus, and into a peaceful place where you feel positive and energized.

We are so focused on accomplishing our goals and tending to our to-dos, taking the time to contemplate life’s intangibles doesn’t always seem practical. But recognizing the boon to productivity that mindfulness provides tells us it’s well worth the “sacrifice.”

Quick Review

What Mindfulness IS:

  • Staying in the moment
  • Recognizing yourself for who you are, but not being content to staying there
  • Addressing the negatives but choosing to focus on the positives
  • Tracking areas of desired improvement

What it’s NOT:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Yoga poses
  • Ignoring what’s going on around us
  • Obsessing about the past or worrying about the future

HOW DO I DO IT?

Daily tracking the aspects of your life you’d like to see more positive results in: your gratitude, moods, health, energy, goals, routines or

HOW IS MINDFULNESS DIFFERENT FROM MEDITATION?

Whereas meditation is something you DO, mindfulness is a state of mind- an awareness that your life is made up of more than the events in your life. Being mindful is a constant choice, and though meditation can be a great avenue to improve your mental health, it does not define mindfulness.

Why does all this matter? What’s the point?

Mindfulness:

  • Increases your focus
  • Improves motivation
  • Stimulates work ethic

Simply put, mindfulness allows us to get more done, accomplish more goals, and live a more healthy life. And who doesn’t want that?    

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  3. Join the Discussion: What does mindfulness mean to you? Leave a comment below!

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Mindfulness is seeing yourself in the moment for who you are and tracking areas you’d like to improve. It’s focusing on the present and letting go of the things that don’t serve you. Mindfulness allows us to get more done, accomplish more goals, and live a more healthy life.

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How To: Add a Background to a PDF or Printable

Downloaded that perfect printable but think it’s just a tad boring? Did you know you can add a background to any PDF using Adobe Acrobat in less than 5 minutes? Watch below for a step-by-step tutorial.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of my links, I get a small compensation at no additional cost to you. See my full Disclosures page for more details. Thank you for supporting Vibrance & Bliss.

Can’t view the video? Here’s each step as discussed in the video.

STEP 1: FIND YOUR PRINTABLE

Make sure you have the rights to modify printable you’ve selected. If you aren’t sure, always err on the side of caution! Contact the owner of the printable if you don’t know. Most printables you’ve purchased will allow you to make this small adjustment for personal use only, but I’d always contact the seller to be sure. Note: All free B/W printables from my site allow for basic modification for personal use only. If you’d like to try out this tutorial on your own, you can find this printable and many others in the free resource library, which you can access after signing up for the email list.

STEP 2: SELECT YOUR BACKGROUND

Find your desired background image. There are many free & paid places to find digital paper and backgrounds. Spend some time finding a few patterns you really like. If you’re wondering where to find some great resources, I’ve got a whole list here.

STEP 3: PLACE BACKGROUND ONTO PDF PRINTABLE

Open up Adobe Acrobat Pro (not Reader. You must have a subscription to Adobe CC) and click Edit PDF.

Click on the white background to delete.

Click “Add Image” on the ribbon on the top and find your desired background image.

Click somewhere near the top left corner to place your background

STEP 4: ADJUST BACKGROUND

Click on the bottom right corner to adjust the size of the background image. Drag to one side and stretch down, or drag until the background reaches the bottom of the page.

You can click and drag the image anywhere to adjust where it’s placed in comparison to the printable content. For example, if the pattern isn’t showing exactly what you want, you can adjust its placement to see different parts of the background.

STEP 5: REORDER LAYERS

Click off of the image to deselect all elements.

Right-click on the background layer, hover over “Arrange” and click “Send to Back.”

That’s it! You might want to repeat step 4 if the background isn’t placed exactly how you want to. If the colors I like aren’t showing up under the printable the way I like to, I’ll fiddle with it for just a second to get it the way I like it. Feel free play with it until it’s how you want it.

GET THE PATTERNS!

Love the patterns in this set? They can be purchased HERE.

DOWNLOAD THE PRINTABLE!

Don’t forget to download the free printable to try this out on your own! You’ll find it in the free resource library after signing up!

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DIY Planner for Under $5

DIY your own planner for less than $5 with a combination of things you probably already have, free printables, and a quick trip to a discount store.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of my links, I get a small compensation at no additional cost to you. See my full Disclosures page for more details. Thank you for supporting Vibrance & Bliss.

Trying to get organized but limited on funds? Have a million random pieces of paper and sticky notes flying everywhere and no system to process them? Did you know you can DIY your own planner for less than $5 with a combination of things you probably already have, free printables, and a quick trip to a discount store? Create your first simple planner in 3 easy steps:

1. COLLECT YOUR ITEMS:

Gather what you already have and make a list of the essentials you need to get started. Don’t go crazy at first! Your primary goal is to create a basic system to keep your notes, responsibilities, and tasks organized to increase your productivity and efficiency. The Dollar Tree is a great place to shop for starter planner supplies. Until you know what kind of system will work for you, I don’t recommend putting a lot of money toward different planners. Here’s my pick of absolute essentials when setting up a planner system for the first time.

BINDER


First, you’ll need something to hold everything together. My recommendation for starting out is a simple 3-ring binder. You probably already have one of these laying around. It doesn’t have to be fancy- a simple one will do! I’d start with about 1-inch if you have one. Pocket folders on the inside covers would nice, but it’s not critical. I do always prefer hardcover since I like the option to use it as a writing surface if necessary. If you don’t have a binder, you can most likely find a super cheap one at the Dollar Tree or another discount store (Walmart/Target for instance.)

PAGE-SIZE

Page-size is a hot topic in the planner world, but I’d recommend starting with standard letter (8 1/2 x 11 inch) until you get more comfortable and know what you want. If you’re looking for a more portable/smaller size, half-letter (5.5 x 8.5 inch) is still pretty uncomplicated, but the starting supplies (binder, paper, pockets/tabs etc…) are non-standard and will be slightly more expensive to start you out. This is a great starting set in half-letter size (AKA “Mini Binder”) for only $10 and includes a binder (though not hard-back, unfortunately), a pocket, divider tabs with pockets and lined paper.

POCKET FOLDER

Especially if you don’t have pockets on the inside of your binder, I find this item to be basically essential. There’s nothing worse than having loose papers fly everywhere whenever you open your planner. I hold a myriad of random notes/scraps of paper that I want to keep with my planner until I can process or file them. Finding a cute pattern or color is also a great way to add some personality to your planner if you are using a plain binder or don’t have a view pocket on the front (or even if you do!)

Your pocket folder will also serve as your “dashboard,” which is a fancy planner-term that just means a place to store stickies or other random notes for later processing.

TABS

Tab Dividers are great for separating & locating separate sections in your planner that you want to use for different purposes. I usually have sections for daily, weekly, and monthly schedules, personal, household, business, tasks, and general notes. You can purchase a cheap set of tabs for $1, but there are obviously many other variations that could cost a bit more.

If you don’t want to purchase a set of tabs, you place a sticky note on any page to make your own tabs. I like these sticky tabs in 1-inch or 2-inch, but any sticky will do. (I love to make my own covers with a pretty art print or just colored paper/cardstock and place it in a clear page protector. You can then put your sticky tab on that if you wanted.)

PAPER & PUNCH

I always keep some blank paper in my planner for quick notes, lists, and ideas etc… I like to keep some lined sheets and some blank, and I know many people like grid paper as well (which I personally don’t do). I found a cute set of designed paper in a pack of 40-sheets at the Dollar Tree. (See photos below.)

Odds are, you probably already have either a 3-hole punch somewhere, or at least a single hand-punch. If not, I know they sell a “single” punch at the Dollar Tree. Either way, I would definitely recommend having a hole puncher of some sort, as this is the easiest way to set up a practically-free planner (by using free printables).

The beauty of using a standard binder is that if you’re really starting out and don’t have a punch, you can purchase a pre-punched pack of basic lined paper for $1, so there’s really no excuse to not have paper in your planner. If I haven’t said it enough, paper is essential for planning!

PENS/PENCILS

I could speak volumes on the different types, variations, colors, and brands of pens you can use for planning, but honestly just start with anything you already have. Of course I have my favorites, but if finding the “perfect” pen is stopping you from getting started, anything will work. When push comes to shove, a pen is really just a pen. (Though I will be the first to admit: not all pens are created equal. But that, my friends, is a topic for another day.)

2. PUT IT TOGETHER:

Now that you have all your materials ready, here’s comes the fun part!

Place your folder & tabs inside the rings in the order you’ll find most useful. I like to have my folder in front, but do what works for you.

Decide on the sections you want and label them. Some great starting sections are: daily, weekly, and monthly schedules, personal, household, business, tasks, and general notes. If you want, you could even get more specific: Meal planning, budget, cleaning schedule, kid’s schedules, personal study, goal planning and/or inspiration. Really the options are limitless here- just decide what you most want to keep track of and create a section. You can always adjust this later! Note: I’ll sometimes just use a sticky on the divider’s front if I’m unsure of how I want to categorize something.

Punch & insert your paper. I recommend having a “notes” tab, but many planners just stick their blank paper in the front or the back and find that quite useful. It’s really up to you.

3. INSERT YOUR FREEBIES:

You could literally spend hours on Google or Pinterest searching for the perfect free printables to start out your planner, but if you want to keep it simple while starting out (which I definitely recommend you doing), I have a whole collection of freebies you can download and print right now.

The pages/layouts I would recommend starting with are: (note: all these pages are available in my free printables library).

YEAR AT A GLANCE

DIY your own planner for less than $5 with a combination of things you probably already have, free printables, and a quick trip to a discount store.

MONTHLY

DIY your own planner for less than $5 with a combination of things you probably already have, free printables, and a quick trip to a discount store.

WEEKLY

DIY your own planner for less than $5 with a combination of things you probably already have, free printables, and a quick trip to a discount store.

DAILY

DIY your own planner for less than $5 with a combination of things you probably already have, free printables, and a quick trip to a discount store.

BRAIN-DUMP

DIY your own planner for less than $5 with a combination of things you probably already have, free printables, and a quick trip to a discount store.

NOTES – LINED & UNLINED

DIY your own planner for less than $5 with a combination of things you probably already have, free printables, and a quick trip to a discount store.

Don’t forget to Download the Printables

Decide on the printables you want and then print, punch & insert.

Voila! You now have the perfect basic planner that fills all the requirements of a standard organizational system. The really amazing thing is that now, as your needs grow or change, you can update your planner until it’s working exactly the way you like. Remember – it’s easy to get caught up in the “fun” aspects of planning, but always make sure to keep functionality in mind. Anything will work as long as it helps you get & stay productive, organized, and using your time as efficiently as possible. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

A NOTE ON PRODUCT LINKS

*Note: the links to products on this page are to Amazon where I purchase most of my supplies from, and most of the items I link to are above $5. I stand with my belief that you can create a planner for under $5, but these products are going to be much higher quality than items you’ll find at the Dollar Tree, and as planners tend to receive a lot of “abuse” (read: “loving use”), I recommend investing in some quality supplies once you know what your needs are. Until then, while you’re still experimenting and building your “system”,  Dollar Tree supplies work just fine and will help you get started.

Though I link to Amazon products to give you an idea of what to look for, you do not need to purchase the item from Amazon, as you can find almost all these things (or a version of them) at any Dollar Tree or discount store for a $1 or less. 

NEXT STEPS:

  1. Download the Freebies!
  2. Join the Discussion: What are your absolute planner necessities? Leave a comment below!