How To Use A Digital Planner Effectively To Slay Your Goals

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Digital planners are the latest craze for getting your life together and slaying your goals. If you are still doing your planning old-school way, it’s time to put down the pen and paper and embrace the digital world!

In this article, I’ll show you the ins and outs of how to use a digital planner to its full potential, so you can finally conquer your to-do list and achieve your wildest dreams. We’ll look at how digital planners work, exactly what you need to start, and how to make the most of your new planning system.

Even if you are not tech-savvy, I’ll walk you through the initial setup and day-to-day usage so you’ll never feel overwhelmed by your digital planner!

As someone who purchased lots of paper planners over the years and hardly used them past the first few weeks, I find digital planning solutions much easier to stick to. (I’m also fascinated by the powers of AI day planners lately.)

Ready to dive into the world of digital planning with me? Let’s start with the basics.

What is a digital planner?

digital planner example in use at home office

In today’s fast-paced world, a digital planner has become a popular tool for staying organized and keeping track of your big projects and daily tasks.

A digital planner is essentially an electronic version of a paper planner, designed to help you manage your schedule, goals, and to-do lists. It allows you to plan and organize your life with ease, from planning a daily agenda to setting yearly goals, using various features and tools available on the app or platform of your choice.

To make sure we are on the same page from the beginning, I have to clarify that there are two kinds of digital planners:

  1. A digital planner that you use on iPad or Android tablet to write and draw with an Apple Pencil or other stylus. It usually comes as a pre-designed PDF and is very similar to using a paper planner but has quite a few benefits compared to it.
  2. A digital planning app that is basically a project management software system you use on the computer. It syncs with all your devices and you can usually access it online. It’s a more comprehensive tool that offers a wide range of features and is much more flexible.

Digital planner vs digital planning software: which is better?

Digital planners and digital planning software are both tools designed to help you stay organized and productive in the digital age. There is no right or wrong way to plan your life: I suggest you play around with both and see what works best for you.

At the end of the day, the best way to plan is the one you are consistent with, the one that actually helps you go through the obstacles and stay motivated until you achieve your goals!

When deciding whether to use a digital planner or digital planning software, it’s important to consider your specific needs and goals.

If you simply need a tool to help you stay on top of your schedule and keep all the lists in one place, a digital planner may be more than enough. It is usually used for personal projects, lifestyle ideas, and day-to-day management, but it can also be of good use if you have a one-person small business.

On the other hand, if you are managing complex projects or working with a team, a more robust planning software solution may be necessary. A digital planning app can include features like time tracking, deadline reminders, team collaboration, and more.

Another thing to keep in mind is the mechanics of digital planning. If you prefer handwriting, a digital planner for iPad is your best bet, and if you are tech-savvy like me and prefer typing, go for an app instead.

Regardless of which planning tool you choose, the key to slaying your goals is understanding how it works and taking the time to learn how to use it effectively.

In the following sections, we’ll explore how both types of digital planners work and go through some tips on how to use them effectively to keep your tasks in order and your productivity high!

How do digital planners work?

Digital planners work in a similar way to traditional paper planners, with the added benefit of convenience and flexibility. They typically include various features such as customizable templates, daily, weekly, and monthly views, task lists, reminders, sections for note-taking, and more. Many digital planners also offer the ability to sync across devices and platforms, allowing you to access your planner from anywhere at any time.

What supplies do I need to use a digital planner?

What supplies do I need to use a digital planner

1. A device to use your digital planner on

The most common setup that dominates the digital planning world is an iPad + Apple Pencil. Personally, I use the 11-inch iPad Pro with 256 GB storage and Apple Pencil 2nd generation.

Frankly, you don’t need such an expensive setup for planning and day-to-day tasks. The only reason I have it is that I dabble in digital illustration and graphic design a lot as a hobby and it requires a lot of resources to function properly. If you only need it for planning, note-taking, and entertainment, the basic iPad (not Pro) is totally enough.

Finally, choose the size you prefer. I have an 11-inch version but I know many prefer the 12.9 version to have more space for writing and drawing. If you are practical and compact devices are more your thing, consider an iPad mini.

Alternatively, you can use an Android tablet. It’s not as high-end but it’s a great way to get into digital planning without breaking the bank. For example, this Samsung Galaxy Tab is almost 10 times cheaper than an iPad Pro (but don’t expect the same level of performance, of course).

1.1. A case and/or screen protector (optional)

You might want to have a cover and screen protection for your device, especially if you are planning to write a lot on it.

Personally, I don’t use additional protection since I’m usually very careful with my electronics. If you are clumsy and tend to drop your devices a lot, a screen protector might be beneficial.

As for the cover, I use a trifold stand one that covers the screen, stands upfront in two positions, and has a magnetic place for my Apple Pencil.

2. A compatible stylus

Whichever you choose, make sure that you get a compatible stylus. There are two Apple Pencils: first generation and second, and not every iPad works with both.

As for Android tablets, there is no uniform stylus. When you decide which device you are going with, look up its name + stylus on Amazon and read the reviews. This is the most popular one I know that works with most tablets.

3. A note-taking app

GoodNotes is by far the most popular note-taking app used for digital planning. The closest alternatives are Notability and Microsoft OneNote.

4. A digital planner itself

There is a great deal of wonderful digital planners available today! Depending on the complexity, they usually range from around $9 to $35+.

Some of the best digital planners in 2023 are:

If you don’t want to spend money on a planner just yet, I’ll recommend several free planners in the FAQ section at the end.

How to use a digital planner

When you are ready to join the digital planning world, these are general steps to get started:

  1. Pick a digital planner that matches your personality – you’ll be spending a lot of time together! Would you rather choose one with an aesthetic look, cute stickers, or a clean minimalist feel?
  2. Download and import the planner PDF into a note-taking app, and get excited about breaking down your first goals!
  3. Personalize your planner to your liking: remove the pages you don’t need and rearrange whatever you want. Often you can even make a bunch of customizations before downloading the planner (OnPlanners is a good example of this).
  4. Start by filling out initial big-picture pages, including yearly goals.
  5. Break everything down and plan the next month, then break down even further and plan the next week.
  6. Add your daily tasks, appointments, and other important information to not miss anything.
  7. Take advantage of all the nifty features and tools offered by your digital planner, and become a scheduling ninja!

How to use a digital planner on iPad

How to use a digital planner on iPad

If you already have an iPad and a compatible Apple Pencil, installed GoodNotes, and imported your new planner, good job!

Now you can start customizing it to suit your preferences. Everything that goes next depends on your planner, and you can always go on Youtube and watch some tutorials with your specific digital planner if you ever get stuck.

Some planners allow you to add tabs for different sections like daily, weekly, and monthly schedules, and you can also add categories for personal and work-related tasks. Then you may choose to decorate it with digital stickers and highlighters to make your planner more colorful and fun.

Don’t forget to have fun with it! It’s a practical tool for productivity, yes, but it doesn’t mean that planning has to become another boring and daunting task on your plate.

Can I use my digital planner on my iPhone?

Yes, you can use a digital planner on your iPhone as well. You can use the same GoodNotes app on your iPad and on your iPhone. However, due to the smaller screen size, it may be more challenging to use, so I don’t really recommend it.

If you only want to plan on the phone, a digital planning app is likely a better choice.

How to use a digital planner on Android

Using a digital planner on an Android device is not much different from using it on an iPad. The devices are different and the apps might vary, but everything you do inside the planner is pretty much the same.

You’ll need to download a note-taking app from the Google Play Store and import the digital planner you bought. In fact, GoodNotes is finally rolling out an Android app in 2023, so keep an eye on that one!

After the initial setup is done, you can proceed with the steps listed above to customize and decorate your planner and start filling it in.

How to use a digital planner app

Digital planning software can help you stay on top of things, but it can also be overwhelming when you are just starting out.

  • Start by choosing one of the best online planning apps available in 2023.
  • Sign up for a free plan if possible and start exploring the different features of the app.
  • Create your first project and list several tasks. Add notes, and set reminders to meet the deadlines.
  • Watch a couple of online tutorials to get some ideas on how to make the most of the app you chose.

What do I need to use a digital planner app?

If you feel overwhelmed by all the things you need for using the first type of digital planner, you’ll be happy to hear that the software setup is much easier!

To start planning, all you need is to sign up for the digital planner app you prefer, and that’s it! If you are new to the concept or not very technical, I’d recommend starting with Todoist, as it’s very simple and intuitive. I used it myself for several years before switching to more complex software.

Later you can download the planning app on all your devices and sync everything so you always have your planner with you, wherever you are. But you might also not need it and keep using a web version if you want (that’s what I do).

Final thoughts and encouragement

Congratulations, you are now equipped with all the tips and tricks you need to use a digital planner to its full potential and slay your goals!

Since digital planners made appearances, staying productive and well-organized has never been easier. Whether you choose to use a digital planner PDF or software tool, the key is to find the one that works best for your needs and feels intuitive. It’s supposed to simplify and organize your workflow, not give you an additional headache!

With a little bit of practice and consistency, you’ll be blown away by how much progress you can make when you are mindful about your time and focus. So go ahead and dive in, set your goals in your new pretty planner, and start working toward them one day at a time. You got this!

If you have any questions left, refer to the FAQ section below where I answer all the most common questions and concerns.

Frequently asked questions

It really depends on what works best for you. Some people prefer the tactile experience of writing things down on paper, while others find a digital planner much easier to navigate and manage. With a digital planner, you can easily make changes and access your schedule from multiple devices. Digital planner apps come with helpful features like reminders, analytics, and filters. Ultimately, it’s about finding the planning system that fits your lifestyle and helps you slay your goals.

A digital planner can come in various file formats, PDF being the most popular, but it can also be in the form of an app or software that you can use on your device.

Choose a digital planner that suits your needs and aesthetic. Transfer the tasks and notes from your paper planner to your new digital planner. Familiarize yourself with your planner’s features and start using it on a daily basis. Remember to give yourself time to adjust to the new system, don’t get discouraged during the learning curve, and watch the online tutorials to make the most of digital planning!

Yes, there are free digital planner options available online. Some of the best planners offer both free and paid versions, and most online planning tools offer a free trial period, so you can test them out before committing to a paid plan. I listed my best picks for free digital planners here.

GoodNotes is probably the most popular note-taking app that is used for digital planning purposes on iPad. To use it as a planner, you need to import a pre-made planner PDF you purchase into the app or use one of the built-in templates. Then, you can use the annotation tools to add text, stickers, and labels to create a personalized planner.

Yes, you can print your digital planner if you prefer to have a physical copy. Most digital planners are designed as printables, so you can easily print out the pages you need. However, printing your planner may defeat the purpose of using a digital planner, which is to have a paperless and eco-friendly solution and leverage digital tools to be more productive.

Sure thing! In fact, reusing a digital planner is one of the best perks of having one. Since you don’t have to worry about running out of pages or having to buy a new planner each year, you can reuse your digital planner as many times as you like. Simply clear out the old entries and start fresh for the next year or even the next month. You can even customize it every time if your preferences change!

In most cases, you don’t have to buy a new digital planner every year. Most digital planners are designed to be reused year after year, with options to update and customize them according to your changing needs and goals. However, some planners are designed with a specific year in mind, so consider choosing an undated planner if you plan to reuse it.

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