Stylish but Effective Ways To Stay Organized | Paper & App Planners | stylish but effective ways to stay organized

If you're anything like me (obsessed with organization but desperately struggling with function vs. form / aesthetics) you're going to love today's little chat. 
This time around, we'll be talking about stylish, effective planners, apps, etc. to keep your schedules and projects organized. 

There's nothing in me that can use an ugly planner or an ugly app. I just can't. Maybe it's the design school snob in me that sneers at horrible kerning, maybe it's the artist in me that cringes at horrible color combinations. Doesn't matter. At the end of the day, I've tested out so many planners, websites and apps claiming to be the END to all other systems. And I cannot even begin to count how many of those didn't make the cut for me because they were, to be quite frank, gross. (I'm dramatic, sure. But it's true nonetheless.) 

Instead of dissecting my (and I'm sure your) obsessive need for pretty planning systems and what that says about us, let's focus on a few methods I've found that I simply adore and think you will too. 

First up, let's talk about paper / physical planners. 

Now, I won't get into the Great Debate of Paper vs. Digital with you in this post (we can totally debate this another time, though. So TWEET ME.) For now though, let's take a look at my favorite methods of paper planning. 

First up has to be the MayDesigns Teacher planner:
I've been using mine for a few months now and I adore it. My favorite part about it? The functionality of having "subjects", which I use to divide up my projects / the "hats" I wear as an owner of a few different businesses. I divide my subjects up as follows: Zie Darling (so this includes my blog, social media, etc.), Client Work (this goes for any design or Instagram coaching client's I'm finishing up as well as all of my illustration clients), It's Paper Dear ( anything and everything to do with my stationery shop), Classes (this includes all of my lesson plans for any classes I may be teaching at the time OR if I'm taking a class, any "homework" I have), and then Home / Life (which includes thing like calling the Vet, cleaning schedules, meal planning, doctor appointments, etc.) 

As far as form and aesthetics go, I also like that the planner pages themselves are clean and minimal, which allow me to decorate if I choose, but also keep things really simple if my brain needs a break. You can also customize the cover to your planner by selecting one of the beautiful patterns they offer and adding any text you'd like (or not) to the cover. AND you can select what SIZE planner you'd like, which is cool. 

Next, the Rifle Paper Co. planners. 
For me, these aren't 100% functional, just because I usually need to divide my days / week into blocks of time based on projects, not just task for the day. However, I think they are totally worth a mention for anyone who doesn't need as much space as I do or who like a simpler method simply because they are stunning. | stylish but effective ways to stay organized

It's Paper Dear printable planner pages
This is totally a plug, but one I think that has merit. I'm lucky enough that I know how to design and produce my own planner pages that can meet all of my needs (and all of the needs of our customers!) So I try really hard to merge those worlds of function and form and create pretty planner pages that 1. work like you need them to and 2. look damn good doing it.

Eventually, I would love to create my own bound-planner, but until then, I've created (and continue to create) pages that can be used in your binders, disc or ring-bound planners or just on a clipboard for the day. Or that can be used digitally (but more on this part in a bit!) 

My favorite part about this kind of thing? 1. I'm the designer so I'm getting EXACTLY what I need / want out of a planner. 2. (and in my opinion quite a bit more importantly), because these are not made in a pre-bound system like the other two paper planners I've listed so far AND because we are such a small business, I can have a direct conversation with my customers so I can make sure the pages I've designed are working for YOU. And if they aren't, I find that out quickly and we can fix it in a way that larger companies simply can't. And I think that's a pretty cool and unique thing about shopping small. 

check this out:  if you're a freelancer, you may want to see how to keep your freelance clients and projects organized.

Now, let's talk about the digital world & apps. 

I test a LOT of these. Like a lot, a lot. I'm continually trying out new apps, etc. just to see if I'll find something I like even better. (Especially when it comes to email organization and organizing my digital calendar. So LET ME KNOW if you have a fun recommendation for those!)

One app I'm using a lot lately for my calendar is Pocket Informant
It's not perfect. BUT what I do love is that I can customize the colors of tasks, days, etc. based on colors I like. Which, weirdly is a HUGE thing for me. I simply hate how generic and meh Google Cal or Apple Calendar are. Sure you have a little bit of customization for those, but I want more. (I'm lame, I know. But what can I say?) 
I also like the different layouts you can select to view your day / week / month. I really like their "week" view. Dunno, it just kind of works for me. 

It's still not my HOLY GRAIL for a calendar app, but it's working for now. Who knows, maybe I just need to bite the bullet and go ahead and design my own calendar app. | stylish but effective ways to stay organized

Good Notes is an app I'm using on my iPad Pro.
Technically, it's for taking notes (hence the name) for things like classes or marking up PDFs. However, I've been using it with "printable" pdfs (like my freelance client sheets or my daily planner pages) and writing on them that way. I really dig this app and I feel like it has so much potential that may not be apparent at the start. 

The only downside I have to this app is that it's $8. HOWEVER, when you compare that you can't really get any paper planner that cheap and that this one can literally hold and do everything you need, it's actually a bargain. For me, it's been totally worth it. 

I'll be spending some time making a video to show you how I'm using it soon, so make sure you're subscribed to my youtube channel to see it when it comes out. And shoot me any questions you have about it & I'll make sure to answer those! 

Now, my hands down favorite app ever, ever: Trello. 
If you've been reading my blog for a while you know I used to sing praises about Evernote. But while I think that can work really well for organizing big projects, I couldn't ever 100% make it work for me and my business in a way that clicked with my brain. I'm way more visual and I like seeing things relatively all in one place. 
Then I started using Trello. & I'll be honest, it took me well over a year to really Get It. I think, like Evernote, there's so much potential there that it can be daunting and really unclear how to hack it to make it work for YOU. 
But then in a fit of panic-induced madness (I mentioned I run essentially three businesses, didn't I?) I accidentally stumbled into a method that has been a LIFE CHANGER. 
I'll also be going into more detail about how I use Trello for business, but essentially, I break it down into a similar fashion of how I use my Teacher Planner. I also have boards dedicated to my editorial calendar, a business planner (so like long term projects, etc.) and I keep all of my clients and team members organized there too. It's honestly been an essential tool to take my businesses in a more serious and functional way. 

*quick note, if you use my Trello link to sign up for a new account, it helps me get Trello GOLD for free (which is like $5 a month, so not a huge deal either way) but my opinion is still 100000% valid. I'm using this app on my own regardless if I get extra perks for free or not. <3


Now, I'm sure you're thinking "Zie, that's entirely too many things" and you're right. I don't use them all at once and I don't use them all regularly. I kind of switch things up sometimes, to "reset" my brain. These are simply some of my favorite stylish but effective methods I've used in a while. 

I'd also say that my current daily planning system involves mostly Trello for business mapping and project management and then Good Notes with my daily planner printables for my day organization. For me, these two (three?) things work really well to keep my brain clutter-free and keep my businesses going. 

If you're wondering where to start, I'd say sit down and figure out what you like or dislike about your current system. Figuring out what's NOT working is usually an amazing way to find what WILL work. 

And if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out on Twitter or Instagram! I'd love to chat about this stuff with you! 

Ok, that "little chat" ended up a bit longer than I had intended, but I just get so geeky about planning and systems, etc. ;) 

So your turn. Tell me what YOU are loving! Have you tried one of these methods? Are you using something else you think should be mentioned in a future post? LEMME KNOW.