If you are a serial planner collector like me, you’ll love this episode. Listen as I sit down with special guests Lisa Mattes and Ashley Wright as we talk about the merits of paper planners, digital planners, and options in between. Next, I’ll give a quick rundown of my favorite planner options for teacher sellers. (Spoiler alert: I’ve tried them all and I’ll be sharing my favorite TpT planner!)
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The Best Planner for TpT Sellers
Intro to the Episode
Erin: Today I have one of my near and dear friends joining me, Ashley from Team SOS that you all know and love and also, a new face to our podcast. I hope you will join me in welcoming Ashley and Lisa who is the teacher author behind the Growing Firsties store on TpT.
And today we are sitting down to talk about one of my favorite things to geek out over and that is planners. I am obsessed with TpT planners. I had quite an embarrassing collection of planners at one point in my life. Still kind of do. But today the three of us are just sitting down to chat about everything we love about planners, our favorite planners, our favorite pens, all of that good stuff. So if you are a planning nerd just like we are, then you are in for a treat. So Lisa, tell us a little bit about your TpT journey, what you’re up to now, and just any other interesting little tidbits.
Lisa: So my name is Lisa and I am from Growing Firsties. And I have taught for 28 years, and the majority of it has been first grade. I’ve done other grades as well like sixth grade and upper grades reading specialist. But my heart is in the classroom. And in 2012, I started my blog and then my TpT store. My blog and TpT store are both called Growing Firsties. I’m in the classroom full time and I teach first grade.
Erin: Well, I know that you will resonate with a lot of our audience. I feel like we have a large number of first grade, early elementary listeners. And so Ashley, that kind of leads into your little intro. And I know our audience has heard you and knows you, but just give us a little background.
Ashley: Yeah. So I’ve been on TpT for nine years and my store’s The Wright Nook. And I specialize in kindergarten resources with a focus on classroom management. And I’m out of the classroom right now, but I’m also helping Erin with some School of Sellers stuff which has been a blast.
What is your typical TpT planner style?
Erin: Well, I’m excited to chat today because I think that no matter what our specialty is and where we are at in our TpT journey, I know we’re all from so many different like seasons and points in our journey, but one thing we can all come together on is our love of TpT planners and like anything planner related. So that’s what we’re going to chat about today is how we use planners in our business, how we use planners with other organizational tools, and just everything in between. So I have a couple questions for you guys. First of all, I want to know if you have a go-to planner that you typically buy or if you’re the kind of person who kind of changes it up from year to year. What’s your typical planner style?
Lisa: I would say planner wise, I used to change it up year to year, and then I’ve just kind of settled at this point. Because the fewer decisions that I have to make, the better because there’s so many decisions that you have to make. It’s like I want to save, build some efficiencies. And so like I’ve had the Erin Condren design. I did that for several years.
And then I kind of abandoned that to just a monthly like whatever had the cutest cover at Office Max or Target because I just wanted like less stuff. And then one year I bought a Happy Planner from the clearance section at Joann Fabrics, and I was like, let me just try this. It’s super cheap right now and it was the big size because I liked the idea of having the puncher to be able to add any papers that I would want. And so that’s pretty much what I’ve settled into is just being able to add any papers that I want across the year.
Lisa: I used to love Erin Condren, but it was because of the paper. It was the only planner that had the really thick paper that I could write with all my fun markers. I love to doodle, and the markers wouldn’t bleed through the paper. But no matter what I bought, it wasn’t completely functional for me. There was always something that I needed more, I wanted more.
And I found myself going to different planners. I tried digital. I mean I tried all the things, and I just needed it all to mesh together. So this past year, I branched out. I didn’t want to buy an Erin Condren again. Kind of done with those. I wanted to try all new planners. I’m not joking. I probably bought like 12 planners. It’s embarrassing. Trying to find something that I loved, and I haven’t found it yet. But I don’t know. There’s something on the horizon that I think is going to work really well.
Erin: We’re just like counting down the days until we can share the School of Sellers TpT planner.
Ashley: I’m dying. I’m dying.
TpT Planners We’ve Tried in the Past
Erin: But Lisa, I think it’s so funny that you mentioned Happy Planner because I’ve like heard about Happy Planner for years and years. I was never an Erin Condren person. I actually kept it pretty simple. There’s a brand that you can get at like Target and Walmart I think called Blue Sky Planners. And so they have, I mean they’re very basic. There’s nothing like fancy. But I probably own several, yes, several of them. And I think I like the simplicity of it. Like I’m kind of a more minimalist planner style person just because I like the space to write. I don’t necessarily like everything like pre-formatted and designed for me. So I liked those.
But then, as Ashley and I have been building the School of Sellers TpT planner all year long, we’ve been, as she mentioned, like just buying every planner in sight just to kind of like get ideas and like do research. And I fell into the Happy Planner stuff just recently. And I love it. The disc system is incredible.
Like you said, being able to remove pages and put pages in. And so I’m almost thinking too, like I feel like at this point in my life I could function off any planner as long as it was punched that way or a three-hole binder situation where you could like take things in or out. But I will say that, and I’m not just saying this because of the School of Sellers TpT planner, but I do tend to like ones that are not just standard planners, ones that are like specialized for TpTers.
Lisa: Yeah. And the Happy Planner gives you that flexibility. I am allergic to binders. I think my school district was always like oh, here’s another binder for that, here’s another binder for that. And my organization, I’m kind of visually organized. So papers never made it back into the binder. I’m more of like an open file folder, put it into so the file folder itself is a hot mess. But at least there’s a spot where I can find everything for whatever that thing is. So the Happy Planner really just kind of worked for me. I don’t feel like I have to buy a new one every time because I’ve got old ones that I still like the cover for. And I bought the bigger discs so that I could add more.
So now I have like my old Happy Planner from calendars, those discs and stuff went to being able to record keep for school. So I have every student has a little section, and it’s just so easy. I have to agree with Ashley when it comes to the paper of the Erin Condren. I love the good paper of Erin Condren. So when there’s certain pages I will print that on my paper. I’ll print not just my random printer paper but like my really good, I’ll pull out our everyday stuff and put my good stuff in.
The Perfect Paper
Ashley: That’s so funny you say that. I just specifically drove, so we don’t have a really good craft store here in my town. It’s pretty far. I just drove 40 minutes to buy the good thick paper so that when I print my planner, it’s on the thick paper and it’s going to be such a good pretty planner that I could write and doodle on and it not be a mess.
Lisa: Yeah. I think it’s bright was, one of the bright whites, I can’t remember the brand, but I’ve torn the cover off which I’ll be able to maybe find it in my purchases to replace it. But yes, the paper is everything, and there’s something about the crispness that I love. And I ended up finding a zipper pouch that was a Happy Planner zipper pouch that holds my pens, and it just has the same punch from the disc system and it’s always on top of my planner.
The Perfect Pens
So I’ve got my like crazy thin needle point, TUL pens. Then it’s got like the medium point and my bold flares. And then I don’t know if you know about the flare pen, the original. So if you search flare pen original, you can usually get them shipped from the UK. So normal flare pens nowadays, the felt tip is about half to two-thirds covered with plastic casing right all the way up the felt tip. And then it’s just like this teeny tiny felt tip at the top. Original flare pens did not have that. It was all just felt tip and they are like butter. So when I can find the original, oh, it’s happy.
And I keep them in a certain spot, and I only use them, I don’t always use them. But when I want them, I always want them. And then I’ve gotten some student teachers into them too because they’ll have flare pens and then I’m like, have you ever tried this kind? And then they’re like, what? They’re amazing.
Erin: Well, okay, so while we’re talking pens, well, I’m a big flare pen person but now I’m going to have to try those. I recently got these pens, the brand is Micron. And the pack I got had like a variety of thicknesses, but there’s one in there that is like the perfect pen for my planner because it doesn’t bleed through even if it’s thin paper and it is amazing. So I’m going to have to find out what size it is and buy just a pack of those pens.
Lisa: Maybe it’s three.
Erin: Yeah, I’ll have to look and let you know. But it’s amazing how the paper and the pen can just make such a huge difference. Do you guys have like a size preference? Lisa, I know you have you bought the big one originally. What are you finding now? Still the big one?
What size TpT planner do you prefer?
Lisa: I still really like the big one because I just don’t want to add cutting to my routine. I want to just simplify as much as possible. So it’s just like copy it or print it, punch it, slip it in, and off and running.
Ashley: This year, the one that I used the most was an 8.5 by 11. And I am not liking it. I like my small 7 by 9. So I made the choice to print the planner that we made small size. I went through, printed it all, cut it. It wasn’t terrible it was a Netflix and chill task for sure. We literally watched Netflix and I cut it all up. And it’s so nice. It fits on my desk. I love that I could have it here and it’s not, because I have a pretty small desk. So it’s just the perfect size. I love it. I have to go small.
Erin: See, that’s so funny because I could see the appeal of the portability of a smaller one but like I do not mind the size if it’s exactly what I need and it’s like I will carry around a binder this thick if I have to if it’s like what I need. But I wanted to show Lisa while I, look what I, so I should have showed you this 10 minutes ago when you first mentioned it, but I just put our planners together with the Happy Planners. This is the School of Sellers TpT planner. But here are my rainbow.
Lisa: That’s awesome. I love the rainbow. I have them too. They’re so happy.
Erin: Oh, it’s so exciting. That’s so funny that you like the smaller. See, there’s just, I said something in one of the videos for Jumpstart Workshop. Whatever floats your planning boat. And I think we all have like these little preferences when it comes to planners.
Lisa: I think the pen size, like the thickness of the pen matters with the smaller the planner. So you must have some certain pens and maybe I’m more wordy on certain things too. And then another thing I notice is I jack things up. I mess things up. So I need a little bit more space to fill in where I’ve messed up because I’m too lazy to do like a whiteout or anything like that.
But I used to carry, so like my life as far as home is mostly digital because it’s just in my phone, and I can deal with that. But I don’t care for Google calendar. I just put too many putzy things in my opinion for what I’m used to. I’d rather do that from a computer as opposed to my phone. But I may not have learned it enough to get it solid because I used to carry my calendar in my purse. And so my already ridiculous purse would be extra ridiculous. So I’d have like those little small calendars. I don’t even know if they’d be 7 by 9. I think they were kind of smaller than that.
Erin: I know what you’re talking about.
Ashley: It’s probably an A5. That’s like the next smaller.
Lisa: Yes. I think that’s what it was. And so those just got too small for my world. And so the other thing I have at home because I just really am that combination of digital and print is like a vis-à-vis kind of, I use vis-à-vis or however you pronounce it, those wet erase that we used to use on the overhead projectors. I have like a wall that shows the year because I have teenagers and sports and dance activities and kind of managing that. Plus I love girls trips, man. So flatten those out and just all of that. But I need my family to not need me to manage them. I needed to, like when they want to know, go to the calendar, yo. Don’t come to me.
A Quick Invite to Jumpstart
Erin: Seller friends, Erin here with a quick reminder that 2022 is going to be here like tomorrow. So I would love for you to join us for our second annual Jumpstart Your Year planning workshop that begins on December 1st. In the workshop, you will get step-by-step guidance to creating a clear business plan. You will use helpful tools like the planner for teacher sellers and the course workbook and probably a Trello board or two. There’s no better feeling than having your year planned out before it even begins. You can visit schoolofsellers.com/jumpstart to sign up today.
Well, okay, so I love, let’s back up. Like I don’t know when it was. It could have been a year ago. It could have been a couple months ago. But at one point, Lisa and I were chatting back and forth in the School of Sellers Facebook group about planner stuff, and she said that she really coins her style as more of a pigital style because paper and digital combined. And that just like really stuck with me, and I love that we’re at a point where we’re making the paper and the digital side of things work.
How do you combine paper planning with digital tools?
Erin: So I’m curious. I think the three of us favor the paper planner specifically. How do you find it working with like other digital tools or what other digital tools do you use for like some type of planning? Even if your actual planner isn’t digital, what other tools work well alongside your planner if that makes sense?
Ashley: I’m probably pretty extra. I like to think I start in Trello because that’s kind of where we have all of our home bases. I even have it for my business, we do School of Sellers, and I even have a home one. And I use it for a lot of brain dumping but also like some projects I’m working on. From there, I like to put it in Google Calendar which I hated for a long time, Lisa. I hope you give it another try because I am falling in love with it. I love that I can sync it everywhere and it syncs with my Trello boards very nicely. And so I kind of have those going on together. But I still need my paper planner.
I feel like that’s where I have like all my nice like finalized stuff, but Google calendar is kind of where I have like my little to-do’s. And what I love the most about it is you can have your task list off to the side. So if you have your Google Calendar up on your computer, you could click the little task, and it’ll give you a to-do list which we all love checking those off, right?
So you could type in like almost a brain dump of what you need to do for that day, and you can check it off as you go. And you can even assign times or dates to it specifically, which is really nice. And what I like about it is it syncs to my phone. So I have a widget on my phone on my home screen. When I open it, I could see like what tasks still need to be done. It is awesome. Yeah, like that’s a recent find for me that I am loving.
Lisa: Is that a Google, do you have a Google phone or an iPhone?
Ashley: An iPhone. And it’s just the Google Calendar widget, and it’s all together. I have like the, you know how you can pick the different sizes of widgets on your phone? It’s the larger one so it has like the little calendar, and it’ll show what day. And then on the right side, it’ll have like what events I have that day and what tasks I still need to finish that day, which is really cool.
Lisa: That is cool. I am open definitely. I’ve just had some like itchy experiences at work with Google Calendar where something wasn’t showing up when it needed to, and it could have been me, could have been the other people, and then it was just like. But that sounds great. I have like a little notebook that I usually, like a flat, no spiral or anything, that just sticks. So I keep it in my purse just like the little ones. Not tiny.
Then I keep like a running list, like a brain dump because I’m stuck waiting somewhere, and I just get tired of screens and my thumbs. I don’t know. Typing on the phone. And I try to use Siri. But I’m not always in a place where people need to hear me like chattering my to-do list. So I’ll just jot things down. So kind of living in two spots, and it’s been okay. And then I’ll put it on a calendar. But my calendar is really a working calendar. There’s lots of crossouts, and it used to bother me and now it just doesn’t because I’m like my life is a hot mess, yo. So if my calendar isn’t cute and pretty, at least it has what I need on it.
Ashley: I love it.
Erin: I love like, I have a desk calendar, just a cheapish one, like not a nice one. But it’s like my scratch calendar. Like I’ll scribble stuff on and cross it out. And then kind of like Ashley, so like my planner is where I have more finalized stuff. But I find myself gravitating toward Trello a lot still, usually Trello and Google Docs too only because I feel like a lot of times one of the mistakes we make is trying to make our planner our to-do list as well. And like when you start writing things you have to do or things you might do or ideas in your planner, that’s when it gets like to be a total mess.
So it’s been really huge for me to make sure that my planner is just my planner and then I’m still incorporating project management tools like Trello because that stuff is where my ideas should go. I’m not going to clutter out my planner pages. But then also, that also helped us kind of guide our decisions for the School of Sellers planner too was to give some space within the actual planner because you don’t always want to just be bouncing around from one place to another because it disrupts like your flow and creative process. So it’s a balancing act. It’s fun though.
Lisa: Yeah, it is. Planners are awesome. And having the Happy Planner is nice too because sometimes I’ll just tuck in random extra pages and sometimes they’re cute, sometimes they’re not, but they’re punched and they’re in there. So then those can be my messy pages and then out they go.
Ashley: That’s so true I avoided Happy Planner and the whole disc system for so long because, I don’t know, I just felt like it would annoy me and it seemed like it would be messy and to me, it seemed like the paper would fall out so easily and it really doesn’t. I’m kind of mad at myself for waiting so long to get into the disc system. Like it’s kind of amazing.
Erin: It’s like sorcery the way that it stays in. Like when I first started putting in the first set of discs, I was like there is no way in hell this is going to work. Like what is this? And then I was like, huh, all right. And I was like shaking it around.
Lisa: There’s something satisfying when you have like a new paper that you’ve just done the punch for and you just go boop, boop, boop.
Erin: Do you do the two fingers too where you like—
Lisa: Totally. All the way down. So funny.
Erin: That’s amazing. Well, I think this is a perfect note to end on then. So Lisa, as a thank you for coming on our show today, I’m going to be emailing you the final copy of our planner so that you can print it out and whatever pages you want, use your little puncher.
Lisa: That’s amazing.
Erin: So you can pick and choose.
Lisa: That’s so nice. Thank you.
Ashley: You’re the first one that gets to see it. I’m so excited.
Lisa: I’m so excited. That’s so fun. Thank you so much.
Erin: Of course. We’ll send you, we’ll have the color—
Lisa: It was a treat.
Erin: Oh my gosh, well, I am so grateful for you for being, both of you for being on the show. I know Friday nights are maybe not what they used to be, but I know they’re still very precious in our world. So yeah, I will send you the color version. We’re doing a color version and a black and white version. So I will email you both of those before they’re even on sale.
Lisa: That’s so fun. Thank you so much. My goodness.
Erin: Well, thank you, guys. This was so fun. I feel like we’re going to have to do, I say this so many times when I have other people on the show, but we’re going to have to do something similar like this in the future because I could seriously talk for like another half hour probably about planners.
Lisa: And we can learn little tricks from each other. It’s so fun. So search out those paper, those flair pen originals.
Erin: I am on it. I am on it.
Erin: I’m going to look. Okay.
Ashley: That’s going to be a very quick add to cart moment.
Erin: I was going to say, I’m going to make sure, I’ll send you a message, Lisa, to make sure I’m getting the right ones if I find them.
Lisa: Oh yeah.
Erin: That’s amazing.
Lisa: All right.
Erin: Well, thank you, guys. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and I will talk to you soon.
Lisa: Thanks for having us. All right. Thanks, guys.
Lisa: So fun. Bye.
Ashley: Bye guys.
Erin: Thanks again to Lisa and Ashley for spending time with me to talk about planners. It was such a fun conversation. And honestly, I could talk about that until I’m blue in the face. So I hope that you were able to get a little tip or some inspiration as you get into what I like to call planner buying season. Because what happens as the new year approaches, we get that itch, and if you’re anything like me, you get that itch all year long. So I hope you have a good direction going forward in your planner life, and I will see you here again next week.
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