How to Start Digital Planning: The Ultimate Guide

How to Start Digital Planning: The Ultimate Guide

Going paperless and taking up digital planning honestly changed my life….for the better.

And I’m guessing you’re here because you’re interested in paperless and digital planning? More commonly known as digital planning

It’s a new concept for sure. The Apple Pencil was first released in 2015, which truly revolutionized paperless, digital planning.

With the addition of the Apple pencil, many digital planners, digital stickers, and notebooks are appearing and rising in popularity.

However, despite all the new content, there aren’t many detailed, thorough content about how to get started with digital planning, especially if you’re new to it all.

A lot of you might be switching from paper planning and are having trouble navigating the whole new shiny world of digital planning.

I know I was definitely confused.

Digital planning is amazing and luckily, it isn’t as hard as you think it is, especially after you get the hang of it! 

In this blog post, I want to make your life a lot easier by laying out what digital/paperless planning is, what you need, and the step-by-step on how to start digital planning ASAP! 

This will be everything you need to know about paperless and digital planning before you get started yourself!

Full Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

What is digital planning exactly?

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Digital planning or (paperless planning) is like using a paper planner or agenda, but it’s completely digital! 

Well, how so digital you might be wondering?

It’s most commonly done with an iPad or tablet.

The portability of an iPad or tablet allows you to bring your planner wherever you like, just like you would with your paper planner.

Especially with the Apple Pencil addition, you can use your digital planner exactly like you would use your paper planner…you can sketch, draw, bookmark pages, scribble notes, etc., but with a lot of additional perks and benefits!

Here are some key digital planning features listed below!

Digital Planning Features

There are some bonus features in digital planning that you can’t quite emulate with paper planning.

To start, here are some exclusive digital planning features 

Hyperlinks

Ever struggle with finding a page in your planner? Flipping from page to page, trying to find that note you wrote in who knows where.

Good news for you is that high quality digital planners, are hyperlinked.

This means that rather than flipping from page to page for a lot of things, you can simply tap on a tab or a button and have it take you directly to your destination.

Undo button

Oh, the holy grail, the undo button!

Typically, when you make a mistake on your paper planner, there’s a whole bunch of erasing, crossing out, and maybe some pages getting ripped.

I ripped some pages of my paper planners from erasing too hard (oops) and had to deal with a lot of bleeding in between pages from my marker.

But with digital planning, you can undo any mistake you made, saving you time and hassle. There’s also zero bleeding (when the ink leaves traces on the next page).

It truly is a gamechanger. 

Move text, images, and other objects around

With the lasso tool, you can move images, text, and other objects you placed on your pages. (Note — you cannot move anything that was on the planner before you wrote on it.)

When using my paper planner, I would accidentally write my tasks on the wrong dated page, wasting a page and throwing everything out of order. 

However, I recently did that in my digital planner by accident, and correcting it was almost effortless.

I just copied everything I wrote, cut, and pasted it onto the correct page.

These features are extremely useful, even for smaller things such as moving images or text around, which would normally require removing tape or glue, whiteout, etc!

Duplicating Pages 

You can duplicate pages or move things around in your digital planner! Let’s say you wrote a note and you wanted to move it to someplace more accessible.

Well…you can easily do that, no problem.

Making a copy of pages, moving them, deleting them, it’s all feasible with your digital planner.

Backing up files

One of the significant digital planning features is the ability to backup your planner files, either to your files or to the cloud, in case anything happens.

With a paper planner, if you lose it, well, you lost it for good.

Or if you spilled hot coffee over your journal, there’s not much you can to save it.

But if you back up your planner, you can access it anytime, even if you’re on a different device!

Reusable 

A perk and benefit of digital planning that you definitely can’t get with paper planning are reusing your digital planners

Yes, you heard me right. If you buy an undated digital planner, like the one we have in our shop, you can reuse it as many times as you want.

Rather than having to buy a new planner for the following year, you can just import a copy of your preexisting undated digital planner and start anew. 

This can save you hundreds of dollars and also save you time from familiarizing yourself with a new planner!

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to digital planning!

If you need further convincing about why digital planning is great, read my blog post, 7 Reasons why I switched to digital planning. 

What you Need for Digital Planning

Luckily, to digital plan, you don’t need much at all.

In fact, you might already have some or all of the materials required.

Here is a basic list of what you need:

Alternatively, you can use a tablet with a compatible stylus if you own one. But if you don’t have a tablet or iPad yet, I strongly urge you to get an iPad.

If you already have an iPad and Apple pencil, you already have the major requirements down! 

If you’re new, I understand being hesitant about purchasing an iPad – it is an investment but I can confidently say that it’s one of the best purchases I made.

It also saves you so much money, especially if you were an avid paper journaler like me.

I spent hundreds of dollars on one-time-use paper planners, stationery, and supplies. Heck, I probably spent the equivalent of multiple iPads just on paper supplies.

In my blog post, Best iPad for digital planning and note-taking, I review different iPad options for different budgets, all of which you can efficiently digitally plan on! 

Step-by-step to Start Digital planning

Now that you have all your supplies can we get into the fun part — Starting your digital planning journey!

Now, let’s get into the step-by-step tutorial to start digital planing.

1. Download GoodNotes onto your iPad

Your first step to digital planning is downloading GoodNotes5, a digital note-taking application.

This is the golden standard application for digital planning — almost all digital planners, including the ones in our shop, were made with GoodNotes in mind. 

It is $7.99 on the App Store and is 100% worth the price.

There are alternative apps available, such as Notability, but I strongly recommend you download GoodNotes!

If you’re an android user, GoodNotes unfortunately isn’t available on it yet, but Xodo is an alternative for digital planning on android devices.

2. Choosing a digital planner that’s right for you

This is the next important step in your digital planning journey…that is choosing a digital planner that’s right for you! 

There are many different types of planners, but here are the two main categories of digital/paperless planners.

Dated

These are pre-dated planners with the dates labeled out for you.

There are different dated planners, some starting in January, or some mid-year planners that start in July! There are academic planners that follow the timeline of a typical school year and so forth.

These planners can only be used once, unless you don’t mind using an inaccurate planner for the following years.

Undated planners

These are digital planners that aren’t dated, so you can date it yourself and use it whenever you want! It doesn’t matter when you start, these planners are timeless. 

Think about what you want in a planner, disregarding whether if it’s digital or paper.

For me, I prefer planners with a minimalistic design but has all the important features I need, such as monthly, weekly, daily pages, pages for health, fitness, goals, routines, and more.  

When looking for digital planners initially, I encountered a lot of flashy, clunky designs, all of which seemed impractical for me and ultimately distracting

As someone who’s financially aware, I seek planners that I can reuse year after year, and one that has space for me to journal, note-take, and just space to plan out the life I want to live. 

That’s why I designed the Clarity Planner, a digital planner that helps you live a more intentional and mindful life. 

Digital Minimalism Using Technology Intentionally and Mindfully feature image

It’s undated, minimalistic in design, hyperlinked, and is an all-in-one planner, journal, and notebook. There are many bonus pages to help with finances, activity log, and so much more.

Whether you go with the Clarity Planner or a digital planner of your choice, be sure it’s one you can see yourself using for atleast a year 🙂 

3. Digital Planning accessories (optional)

Another great perk when it comes to digital planning is all the fun digital planning accessories you can use!

There are digital stickers, washi tape, sticky notes, and so much more! 

The best part is that….they are completely re-usable

Unlike physical stickers and tapes that you can only use once, you can reuse your digital stickers as many times as you want.

There’s also the flexibility of easily moving your stickers wherever you want, even after you placed them on your page. (A total contrast to physical stickers)

They’ll always be there for you, ready to use.

We have digital sticky notes in our shop! I love using them in my notes, planner, journals, and more.

To learn how to use digital stickers, check out my blog post, How to use Digital Stickers – the ultimate guide.

4. Learning how to use GoodNotes and your digital planner

So you have your iPad and apple pencil, your digital planner, and Goodnotes…now it’s time to actually learn how to use it. 

After this, you should be all set in your digital planning journey, so let’s not wait any longer!

First, you need to transfer your digital planner to your iPad if it’s not on there already.

You can watch this video below to help you! Or read the blog post here.

For help importing your planner into GoodNotes, read our blog post, How to import your planner into GoodNotes.

Also, if you downloaded a ZIP file onto your iPad and need help opening it, read our post on how to unzip files on your iPad

GoodNotes Toolbar

You should familiarize yourself with the GoodNotes nav and toolbar.

Nav bar

learning the nav bar start digital planning

Tool bar

learning the tool bar for the start digital planning post

Here are some other basic features you’ll need to know to start digital planning with ease.

Using Hyperlinks

In order to use hyperlinks, you have to make sure you’re on read-only mode. 

To get on read only mode, tap on Read Only icon that I labeled above on the toolbar. (You’re on read only mode if you can’t write or edit anything)

Now you should be able to use the hyperlinks!

Writing Tool(s)

There are three different types of pens:

  • Fountain Pen

This pen is pressure-sensitive. You can affect the width of your strokes with this pen.

  • Ball Pen

This pen has no pressure sensitivity. I enjoy using this pen to write down my daily tasks and other quick notes.

  • Brush pens

Pressure-sensitive — appropriate for more artistic-like strokes. This pen is perfect for hand-lettering.

For all of these pens, you can use either the Apple pencil or just your fingers.

Highlighter

GoodNotes Highlighter

If you want to make certain parts of your journal stand out, you can use the highlighter tool in GoodNotes.

You can choose whatever color suits your needs along with the highlighter size.

Text

You can also type with GoodNotes! To type, you just need to select on the type tool and tap anywhere you want your text to go.

You can also style your text; there is a wide selection of fonts and font weights you can choose from. There are serif, sans-serif, script, and hand-writing fonts.

Undo/Redo

Being able to undo is the magic of digital planning! And it’s so easy.

To undo or redo, all you have to do is find these buttons and tap on it whenever you need it!

Images

Adding images on GoodNotes is extremely easy. Just click on the image icon from the toolbar (as pictured under the toolbar section) and select an image from your image library.

After you add your image, you can resize, rotate, and move it however you wish.

Lasso

lasso tool start digital planning tutorial

With the lasso tool, you can select objects (images, text, shapes, writing) you want to resize or move.

The lasso tool is how you can move and resize your digital stickers if you use them! 

To use it:

  1. Select the lasso tool on the toolbar.
  2. Use your Apple Pencil or finger and draw around the graphic to select it.
  3. After you draw around it, you should be able to move, resize, rotate, or copy it.
  4. To paste objects, select the lasso tool, hold your apple pencil or finger down on the page, and a paste option should pop up.

Be sure to turn on or off the things you do or don’t want to select!

I recommend you to check out my blog post, Key GoodNotes Features you Need to know for additional tips.

FAQs about digital planning

Q.  How do you work around battery life for iPad

A. The iPad battery is excellent. It can last for a long time, especially with the right care.

However, just make sure you don’t overcharge it and if you’re planning on using it all day, allocate your time carefully. 

An easy solution around all of this is to get a battery pack you can carry around!

I understand that there won’t be outlets everywhere, so that’s why having a battery pack is super convenient. 

I recommend Anker’s Portable Charger! This is the one my partner and I use and we’ve been loving it so far.

The new iPad charger uses a C charger and unfortunately not the iPhone USB one. But luckily, the Anker battery back as a port for that.

Q. What iPad should I get?

A. There are a lot of different available options, luckily, with a wide price range. All the options are good and more than enough for digital planning.

I wrote a blog post, What iPad to get for digitally planning, if you’re hesitant or want a more detailed explanation. 

Now you should be ready to start digital planning! Are you ready?

Free Digital Notebook

If you want to try digital planning, note-taking, or journaling, but don’t want to fully invest in a planner just yet, we have you covered!

We designed a free, hyperlinked, minimalist digital notebook that you can use to plan, write notes, and journal!

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