How to Use a Digital Planner: The Unexpected Benefits You Need To Know

Digital planners are becoming more and more popular with many in the planner community moving over from paper to digital for their planning. There are so many benefits to using an iPad for planning, and I’m excited to talk with you about these today and to teach you how to use a digital planner.

Get started using a digital planner on your iPad with Goodnotes. Learn the reasons why you should use digital planning. Includes free digital planner to try

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I’m in love with my iPad and any chance I can get to use it, I’m all in, especially when I also get to use my Apple Pencil! Using digital planners on my iPad combines my love for my iPad with my love for planning and journaling. I feel like I’m winning 🙂

What is a Digital Planner?

A digital planner is a file that you use in a notes app on your tablet that looks very much like a paper planner. It’s typically a PDF file with hyperlinked tabs to keep you organized so you can skip to different sections of your planner, just like with a paper planner!

Using a digital planner is different than just uploading a printable PDF to your iPad because of the organization involved. Usually there are some kind of dividers or table of contents section that helps you get to the pages you want without having to endlessly scroll through everything to find what you’re looking for.

It’s pretty neat. When you click on a divider in your planner, it immediately jumps to the section of the planner PDF that you want. When I learned how to use a digital planner, I knew I immediately fell in love.

How to use a digital planner for weekly planing showing a weekly planner spread

What Digital Planner Do You Need?

There are a ton of options when it comes to using a digital planner. If you do a search for “digital planner” on Etsy, you’ll see a variety of different planners you can purchase and download. You can also go to my shop and purchase one of the digital planners I created.

There are so many beautiful planners to choose from and it can be overwhelming to find exactly what you’re looking for. You want a planner that will fit your needs. Here is one of my favorites. If you prefer the look of an open book look, here is another great option. It reminds me of a handwritten bullet journal!

Some questions you may wish to ask yourself as you start to look into purchasing a new planner are:

Do you prefer a structured planner?

Do you prefer to use a bullet journal, which allows you to create your own journal spread? This is often my preference, so I created some digital notebooks which include just dotted paper to bullet journal in.

Do you prefer some kind of combination?

With so many digital planners out there, you’re likely to be able to find one (or many) that works for you. If you don’t find one that fits your needs, you can learn to make your own. You can create one very easily by signing up for this digital planner template kit. Everything is already done for you, you just switch things up a bit to make it unique to you. It’s so easy!

I’m so excited to share that Jayme Ballard just came out with a template of her landscape planner. She just released this today and it is $100 off until August 22. This is a no brainer purchase because the landscape planner is pretty time intensive to make. With a templete you already have the BONES, you just have to create the pages. This is AWESOME. Go buy it!

If you want to learn how to make a planner that is truly custom to you, I recommend this course on creating passive income with planners. You learn how to make printables and digital planners that you can then sell on Etsy. This is where I learned how to make the planners I sell on my Etsy shop. Even if you choose not to sell planners, it’s incredibly fun to learn how to make them.

In fact, I’ve been working on creating my own landscape/open book digital planner and it is so cute! I learned how in this new class, which I highly recommend if you want to make a realistic looking landscape planner (affiliate link). In this course Jayme teaches how to make this amazing looking planner in Keynote and also in Affinity. I learned a ton in this course, and feel like once my planner is complete I can make so many versions out of it so easily.

Create beautiful landscape planners that look like realistic open books.  This online course was one of the best courses I've taken on making digital planners that stand out from everyone else.

Benefits of Using a Digital Planner

If you’re like me, you love using paper and pens for your planning and journaling. It’s hard to imagine that you’d get the same enjoyment from using a tablet. But seriously, once you learn how to use a digital planner, you’ll never want to go back. You can even create a to do list bullet journal in a digital planner!

You have to try it though to be a believer! Sign up for my free digital planner download to try it out.

Here are the benefits of switching over to a digital planner:

Less paper clutter: As my planner obsession has increased throughout the years, I have acquired more paper, stickers, and notebooks than I know what to do with. Sometimes it’s hard to find what I need since I try to use so many planners at once. When you use a digital planner, everything you need is all in one place.

I have folders and notebooks with different topics in my Goodnotes app and keep different parts of my life separate.

A special bonus that I recently discovered is that you can do a search in Goodnotes and Goodnotes will find something in your planner for you! This absolutely solves the problem of not knowing which notebook you put something in.

Easy to fix mistakes: Since it’s digital, if you mess up, it is really easy to erase your mistakes and start over. Instead of crossing out an appointment that was cancelled, you can just remove it from your spread. I love this about digital planning because I like my pages to look pretty. Crossing out a cancelled appointment is always annoying to me.

Another great thing about digital planning is that if you write something and it doesn’t really fit well where you put it, you can easily move what you wrote within your planner. In other words, you don’t have to rewrite something. Instead, you can select it and change the size of your writing or even move it to a different area.

Since so many people become intimidated with the prospect of starting a new journal or planner, using a digital planner is a great option because you can erase anything you need to easily!

Digital planner monthly page shown with stickers.

Less to carry around with you: Instead of carrying around your paper planner and possibly a binder and other items you use in your day to day, all you need to do is to carry around your tablet. Since the iPad and other tablets have become smaller and smaller over time, this is super convenient. I haven’t done this myself but I read that you can also look at your planner on your phone if you have your notes app on there as well!

You have everything with you in one place: I think this is my favorite part. When you use a digital planner, you can have everything you need in one place without adding bulk and without trying to figure out where you can possibly fit it all. Digital planners allow an essentially unlimited amount of pages, allowing you to expand your planner to be whatever you need it to be. (The size of your planner is limited by the size of the storage allowed on your tablet).

In addition to your planner, you have access to other apps you might use throughout the day. For instance, you have your planner, your email, the internet, word processing apps, and so much more right there with you. You can even take a break from work and read a book or watch some Netflix right there on your iPad.

That’s a versatile planner!

Save money! This one mostly applies if you already have an iPad or tablet. I was going to say it only applies; however, I know that some of us planner people, myself included, spend a ton of money on planner supplies…so who knows, maybe an iPad is cheaper than all the notebooks and such you purchase. haha

But really, if you want to have a colorful planner and not use a ton of printer ink, this is the way to go. A digital planner can be as colorful and bright as you want without worries of spending a lot on ink or wasting paper. This also applies to stickers. You can use digital stickers in your planner over and over again after purchasing (or making) them once.

If you purchase an undated digital planner you can also use that over and over again.

You can create your own Digital Stickers with my new online course. Sign up for a free trial of Skillshare to watch for free!

You get to play with your iPad: I love my iPad. I’m not even kidding, I could play with my iPad for hours. Having my planner on my iPad gives me more excuses to use it. I’m good with that!

You can make money by making and selling planners: If you want to learn how to make digital planners, they’re a hot item that you can sell on shops like Etsy.

Here is the course I took to learn how to make my own planner pages and digital planners. I highly recommend it. Alternatively, they also have a digital planner template you can purchase and change up a bit to make your own. They did most of the work for you and you can sell it once you fix it up a little. Pretty cool!

What Supplies Do You Need for Digital Planning?

At it’s most simple, you’ll need the following items to start digital planning:

That’s it! You can get more fancy if you want. Here is the setup I use for digital planning:

I use this iPad Pro model because I absolutely love the size for planning. It has a large screen but is still light enough to carry around. I even read with this in bed. Have I mentioned that I love my iPad?

As an aside, you can also use other models of iPad. You just want to make sure that it is compatible with the Apple Pencil or other stylus. I’ve seen several people use this less expensive version of the iPad.

I also recommend purchasing the Apple Pencil. Though it is more expensive than some other styluses, nothing compares. If you ever want to do lettering or drawing with your iPad, I highly recommend using the Apple Pencil. I use the 2nd edition of the Apple Pencil since it’s the one that works with my iPad. If you purchase the cheaper iPad, you will need the 1st edition of the Apple Pencil since the newer one will not work.

I have both Apple Pencils and they both work great. I don’t think you’re really losing anything if you use the older version of the pencil. The main difference (in my opinion and use) is the different method of charging.

I also use a screen protector from Amazon that makes my screen feel a bit more like paper. Although a lot of people swear by the Paperlike version of the screen protector and report it feels just like paper, I’ve always used this inexpensive version, which I absolutely love. My lettering and handwriting improved substantially on my iPad when I started using this screen protector.

Some people say that using this type of screen protector causes your stylus nib to wear down quickly, but I have not really experienced this myself. I don’t think I’ve ever changed my stylus nib. I do have two Apple pencils though (my husband was worried I would lose one and be sad so he bought me another one haha). The good news is you can buy a pack of nibs and replace them pretty easily. You just twist the old one off and put the new one on.

I have several different digital planners. The one I love the most is the one I made for myself, which you can purchase on Etsy.

How To Use a Digital Planner in Goodnotes

Ok, so you have all the things. Now what?

The first thing you want to do is to get your planner over onto your iPad (or other tablet) and open it with your app. I use Goodnotes, so that is the program I will discuss. I created a video for you to show you how to get your planner onto your iPad, and how to use it once it’s there:

You can purchase the digital planner I show in the video here. When you download your purchase, be sure to save it to a cloud service such as iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive. This makes it very easy to import your planner into Goodnotes. Another option (the one I prefer actually) is to use Airdrop to send your planner from your Apple computer to your iPad.

Since you may not have an Apple computer, I chose to use the cloud service to show you how to import the video.

Once your PDF is uploaded into the cloud, go to your iPad and open the Goodnotes app. You should see a title called “New” with a plus sign next to it. Click on the plus sign and find your digital planner in your files.

Your digital planner will open up right in Goodnotes! You can rename it or leave it named as it is. Be sure to watch the video I made for you so you can see how to use the planner.

You may also be interested in the following posts:

How to Use Digital Stickers in Goodnotes

How to Start a Bullet Journal

What is the Best iPad for Procreate (and Goodnotes)

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