I'm Ali - a photographer who built her business from the ground up and wants to help others do the same.







How I Use the Simplified Planner by Emily Ley

May 11, 2020

Took a poll on Instagram to see if anyone wanted to know how I schedule/organize my life using Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner and the result was a yes! So here goes!

First, I would like to thank my good friend, Haley, for showing me these perfectly-sized planners to simplify life and my brain. 2020 will be my third year using one, and I cannot see myself switching planners ever again, so long as Simplified Planners exist. Long gone are the excruciating days at the end of each year researching the best planners for the upcoming year! Praise! 

Okay, so on to the good Type A nitty gritty!

First, color coding is everything. The following are my colors/codes:

  • Photography = purple (although not alliteration, they start with the same letter, which makes sense in my mind)
  • Huxley = hot pink (She’s a girl, so duh, pink)
  • Caleb = blue (He’s a boy, so duh, blue)
  • Food/Meal planning = green (because I need to eat more greens)
  • Finances = yellow (it would make much more sense for this to be green, but gold came to my mind when I thought of money?)
  • Holidays/Birthdays = light blue (but I recently changed light blue to the Airbnb house aka Haney Properties, LLC, because it’s by the ocean and the ocean is light blue)
  • Me = magenta (because all the good colors were taken)
See how each color is used!

How do I use these colors to simplify my life, you ask?

Well, one of my main pain points is the question, “What’s for dinner?” I swear, it’s likes nails on a chalkboard to me. I can be having a perfectly fine day, then Caleb comes in and asks the magic question, and I turn into a monster…unless I already have an answer to the question. Some people love food, love cooking, love grocery shopping (also, who are you and can I hire you?); I am NOT one of those people. So my solution is to write down what we are going to have for dinner for the upcoming two weeks and use that to make my grocery list. When I have a plan and the ingredients to make that plan happen, then I am a much happier person than when I have to hunt through the pantry to see what we can make (or when I have already started browning the beef for Hamburger Helper and realize we don’t have the milk we need to make it). Also, slow cooker meals are a food-challenged girl’s best friend.

Next, I am sure to plan ahead. At the beginning of the year, I wrote all the bills that we have to pay on the 1st on the first of each month, and the same for the 15th. We are doing our best to pay off the credit card debt that we have accumulated, and thanks to this planner and PowerSheets (you should go check those out too), we are almost there! At the beginning of the year we created a budget so we knew how much we would need to budget monthly to bring our balances down to zero by the end of the year. It also frees up my mind space that I don’t have to constantly think about when to pay stuff—I know it’s written in my planner and that will remind me.

Birthdays and major events (weddings I have already booked, conferences, and any other annual event) are also written in at the beginning of the year. About a week before each birthday, I write myself a reminder to send a birthday card because who doesn’t like getting snail mail that’s not a bill?!

I have the weekly version of the Simplified Planner. The weekly version has two “sides” for each day. It has what I call the “day side” and the “checklist side.” This is so helpful for me and how my brain works.

On the “day side,” I write what I call my “checkpoints.” Those are the appointments, meetings, or anything I where I have to physically be present. One the “checklist side,” I write what I have to do that day. Those can still be time-sensitive, but they are actions rather than engagements.

It really helps me when planning out wedding season and other portrait sessions to have workflows. So, for example, when I book a wedding, I can put the wedding date on the calendar, as well as a few other items on the “checklist side” for days leading up to and following after that date. September 28th is my next wedding, so I already have tasks written in on September 30th and October 1st because I know I will need to cull those images and select which ones will be in the blog post and edit those, then prepare them for the blog. So BOOM! My next two work days are already planned out and I don’t even have to think about it (at least the logistics of it!).


I can’t speak much to the daily version of the planner because I haven’t ever used it, but it’s my understanding that it is broken down into hours within each day. That may be the move for me later on when I have pick up/drop off times for Huxley and/or sports to keep up with. But for now, I handwrite in those times and it doesn’t slow me down at all! 

If you guys are anything like me…sorta Type A, but likes to come off as I don’t have a care in the world and am effortlessly on top of my shit…the Simplified Planner is for you! They just released the 2020 planners yesterday, so go get yours before the sell out like they do every year!

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