Buying a 2020 planner was probably one of the worst financial decisions I made this year. There is no other way to put it lol. The pandemic changed the way we do a lot of things, and for me, one of those things was the way I use planners. I get a lot of questions about digital planning, so in this post, I give y'all a look into what I do and how I do it.
I checked out of my senior year in undergrad as soon as I turned my final copy of my thesis in, so I was spending an embarrassing amount of time on social media. While I was getting lost in the rabbit hole that is Instagram’s algorithm, Michelle (@dolcemimi), one of the med students I follow, posted about the digital planner she has been using. I was intrigued. Mostly because it had never occurred to me to even try to use a digital planner, but also because digital planners weren’t something I’d heard a lot about. I’d heard of them before, but I didn’t pay them much mind because I just knew I needed a planner I could hold with pages I could feel between my fingers.
I was wrong. Very wrong. After watching Michelle’s story, I went to the page of the store she got hers from, looked around, went to Etsy to window shop, and a couple days later I bought one to try out. I haven’t looked back since.
So why did I switch?
Well for starters, I just love Michelle. She’s featured on the melanated mentors page on the brena b, md section of the website if you want to get to know a little more about her. Anyways, at the time she was a third-year student, so she was spending most of her time in the hospital. That being said, she didn’t have time to be weighed down with a lot of stuff. That made sense to me and even though I didn’t know what things we’re gonna be like once I actually started school, I knew 2 things. 1) My school was already giving us a brand new iPad that was newer and a little bigger than the one I had and 2) I wasn’t trying to be weighed down with a bulky planner if I didn’t have to be. She has a highlight on her IG profile and an IGTV video where she goes into more detail if you want to check out either of those.
I’ve been using my digital planner consistently since July, so I basically know that this is my preferred method of trying to keep my life together and I most likely won’t be going back to paper and pen planning. This planner is undated and customizable for me to tweak to my needs and my liking, which are my favorite things about it. I use my iPad for school anyway, so it’s nice to only have to worry about making sure one thing is in my bag, and it’s portable so it’s with me all the time.
Any time I post anything about my planner on IG, I always get a bunch of questions, so I figured I’d answer them all in this post. Any specific products or pages that I reference have been linked in the post so y’all don’t have to worry about trying to find these things on your own. I tried to make this as detailed as possible, so it may be a little lengthy, but I wanted to be thorough since I’ve found what works for me.
Is it expensive?
Expensive is relative. I’m somebody who doesn’t mind dropping a slight bag on a planner, but this digital method has still been way cheaper than some of the nice planners I’ve had in the past. The planner I have is currently $20 and the sticker sets I have range from free.99 to $5. The free ones can be found under the freebies link when you click the link in the bio on the Luxbook Instagram page. The shop has sales that I usually catch because I follow them on IG, and I think I got a coupon code for my first purchase for subscribing to the newsletter, so I ended up only paying $12 for the planner when I bought it.
What planner, apps, and devices do I use or suggest?
Many people see my planner and think it’s a template I made like the other ones I have here on the site, but it’s not. There are a bunch of options out there, but I’m in love with mine, so I’m just gonna stick with this one. The planner I use is The Nursing Student Planner by Luxbook – Pink. I know I’m not a nursing student lol but it’s the closest I was gonna get to medical student and it’s cute and I like all the features. All of the things I use for my planner are from Luxbook, a digital planning shop who has all of their items in an Etsy store and an Instagram account where they showcase products, client testimonies, and different tips and tricks for digital planning. I have that planner and a couple of sticker packs too, just so I can make it cute because I’m bougie like that. There are different planners and sticker packs to choose from so you can really make it what you want.
As far as devices go, I only use my planner on my iPad (I have the 7th generation one if that matters to you) and I use my Apple Pencil with it. I have them with me all the time, so I’ve never felt the need to try to access my planner on my phone. For apps, I’ve tried 2 but I only use 1 of them. At first I tried using the planner in Notability because I already had it since that’s what I use for all my school stuff, but I’ve found that I like using the planner a lot more in GoodNotes. Both apps are in the App Store, and they’re not free, but they aren’t expensive to me. When I bought them, I think Notability was $10 and GoodNotes was $7, but don’t quote me. You don’t have to use either one of these (my sister uses Notability for hers and it works just fine), but I’ve read customer reviews and watched videos from the owner, and the consensus is that the planners and stickers work best in GoodNotes. I also like using a separate app because I keep everything for school in Notability and all of my personal stuff in GoodNotes.
How do you use a digital planner?
I use a digital planner the same way I used my paper ones. I typically plan by the month, the week, and the day. This does take me some time, especially since the planner is undated, but I don’t mind because I really do enjoy getting everything set up. I’ve included pictures below so you can see how I typically have mine organized.
My planner comes with the months already set up, seven options for weekly templates, and two options for daily templates. The weekly options give a Sunday start, a Monday start, or they’re completely blank with no days at all. I typically use the Monday start to outline my weeks just because of how my schedule is, and most times I plan my days out by the hour. I use the other daily template sometimes when my schedule isn’t as strict or when I have things going on that may not have strict start and stop times. I used a blank weekly template to map out my study plan for my last test week because it ran from Thursday to Wednesday because my last day of new lectures was a Wednesday and my exams were Thursday and Friday.
I usually plan for the month the day before the month starts or early in the first week of the month. I did October’s planning early for the sake of this post, but I really just fit in when I need a break from schoolwork or if I have some down time. My months look the least specific because I don’t really write my day-to-day stuff on those. I typically just add due date for payments, bills, exams, and quizzes, and other stuff like appointments, meetings, or family stuff.
I plan my weeks on Sunday nights or early Monday morning if I don’t get to it on Sunday. I use a Monday start and I do this in conjunction with my Outlook Calendar on my phone because that’s where my academic life is. I write out all the lectures, meetings, and appointments I have on their specific days and I fill in the other things I need to do like grocery shopping, cleaning, and all the other stuff I have to purpose to make time for. I primarily have two classes at a time – my “how to be a doctor class” and then whatever module I’m in at the time for academic material – and each of them are designated by their own color. I writ of my goals for the week, daily habits I track, and I use the notes section for other things that need to get done that week but aren’t restricted to a day or time.
Following the same pattern as before, I plan my days out the night before or morning of. I almost always do it the night before because I like knowing the majority of what the day holds when I wake up in the morning. Med school is basically a full-time job, so even though I have a lot of independence in the way I do things, I still have some things that are mandatory or some sessions that I have to be in a specific times. Because of this, I will plan my days by the hour 9 times out of 10. If not, I'll use the template that is sectioned by time of day instead of the one that is in time increments. With whatever template I use, I usually start by blocking off what’s already been set – patient encounters, labs, tutoring sessions, required lectures, etc. – and then I fill in the other stuff I need to do but can choose when it gets done. I also make sure that I include time to give myself breaks because I’m not a machine.
Outside of the customization aspect that I spoke on earlier, another reason I prefer digital over paper is the flexibility. When things get moved around or canceled or if I make a mistake, I can move them where they need to be or delete them without it messing up my cute lil aesthetic. Physically seeing things crossed off bothers me unless I’m crossing something off of a to-do list, so not seeing that is another plus. You can just mess up, delete, and pretend it never happened.
I really hope y’all found this post helpful! Remember, I did my best to link everything I specifically mentioned for reference. If you have any other questions, I’m a DM or email away. If you decide to try it out, let me know how it works for you. Happy planning! 😊
Until next time,
Links to Sticker Packs - All from Luxbook Store on Etsy
The Calendar Essentials Collection
The Study Flow Collection
The Love To Layer II Collection
The Rise and Grind Collection
The Boss Babe Collection
The Cover Girl Collection