Basic Planner Tools

Basic Planner Tools | Rourke Planners

So you're starting out on getting your life organized and you decided to get a planner. But oh, the options! Moreover, oh, the overwhelm from all those beautiful Instagram photos! Trust me, you don't need any of that to be organized. Honestly, you could get away with a scrap piece of paper and a free pen. But you probably want something a little more than that. So I put together a few things you'll need to get started. Stickers optional.


So first you need a planner (duh). You have a ton of options, which can seem overwhelming. I’m going to write up a guide on how to decide what planner is best for you soon, but for now let’s just quickly talk basics. You can do a pre-made bound planner. The popular one on instagram is the Erin Condren planner, but there are so many others. Most come in a week on 2 pages format, either vertical or horizontal. I found that while vertical is great for most people, I really needed a horizontal when I was in school due to long descriptions of reading assignments. Think about what you’ll be writing in and choose from there. Other favorites are Sugar Paper for Target, planners, anything from Paper Source, Plum Paper, Simply Notebooks, SHP Planners, The Big Calendar, & Posy Paper Co. You can surely find a planner in any price range and style.

If you’re looking for more flexibility, you have a few options. You can go full binder or mini-binder, a discbound system (Martha Stuart, Arc, Happy Planner, Pacific & West, Dokibook), or a ring organizer (Filofax, Kikki K, Paperchase, Dokibook, old Daytimer). All these systems can be used with premade inserts or by printing your own (using Rourke Planner inserts, maybe?). If you print your own you’ll need a few other things, I’ll list them below.

If you just want something simple, just get a notebook. Many people love what is called ‘Bullet Journaling’, and there’s loads of inspiration on instagram and youtube. Just use any notebook you have, draw some lines, write some dates, and boom you got yourself a planner.

In the end, if you’re just starting out, get something very basic and just try it out. You’ll never find out what you NEED if you don’t try out anything. And support small & independent businesses if you can.


Once you get over that first big hurdle, you’ll need something to write with. Some people are super picky, some will use any old pen. The main thing is: are you cool with just a single pen (or pencil) or do you need to color code? You can do a full set for each member of your family, or simply 2 colors for work and personal. What is realistic for you? If you don’t know, then just get any black pen and use it. If you find you really need a way to differentiate, then pick up a color or two.  (PS my favorite pen is the Uni-Ball Gel Pen Micro Point*)


On to the extras. You need not spend $100 a month on pretty stickers. I would recommend a page marker if it doesn’t come with your planner. Even if that’s just a post-it. And post its or notepages for those random thoughts and ideas. If you’d like some stickers to mark really important events, those can be useful. If you use a flexible system and have multiple page types in your planner (like trackers, lists, etc.) you’ll probably want dividers. They can be easily bought* or DIYd. Finally you may want some paper clips in there for the random paper or flyer.

If You Print

If you print your own pages, you’ll need 3 things:

  1. A printer. Either your own or at a print shop. I recently purchased this canon* printer after my Epson crapped out (probably due to user error) and I couldn’t revive it after months and months of trying. It prints well, and most importantly it prints personal size pages without any problem. You can also take your pages to a shop to print.
  2. A cutter of some sort. Scissors, a cheap cutter, or a full guillotine-style*, whatever. Something to cut pages to size.
  3. A hole punch. Binders will require a 3-hole punch (full size or junior are cheap and easy to get at your local office supply store). Discbound systems require a different punch that used to be pretty expensive but Happy Planner came out with a cheaper version. Ring organizers require a 6-hole punch (or 7 for Franklin Covey). This* is the one I use, it can be set to A5 or Personal size (or a few others). You can also just use a single hole punch like this* (which you may already have) if you’re just starting out to try it out. However if you decide to stick with printing your own inserts, I highly recommend getting a proper punch. It saves so much time.

In the end, I hope you learn that you don’t need an expensive planner or a bunch of stickers. Planning is just about simplifying your days and writing down your tasks and appointments. That’s it. You can use a pencil and a piece of scrap paper and it will still help you. And if even that feels too much, go digital! You don’t need to have a paper planner to be organized. But that’s for another time.

What is your first step in planning? And when did you first use a planner? Let me know in the comments below!


*some of my posts contain affiliate links. if you click the link and make a purchase, i make a small commission. this does not increase the price of the item. i only link items i use, love, and would recommend to friends.