Basic Tools to Help You Start Planning + Journaling

One of the best parts of journaling / planning is all the fun tools available to help plan days and record memories. I’m a big fan of office products. Give me a “bouquet of newly sharpened pencils,” brand new pack of pens, or all the Sticky Notes. But, it can also be a bit overwhelming – so many tools to choose from! Here are some of my personal favorites.

The Best Writing Implements for Journaling / Planning

Next to choosing the best journal/planner for your purposes, the writing implement you select may be the most important decision. It’s worth taking the time to find a quality writing tool that feels good in your hand and writes smoothly. If you’re concerned about longevity, look for archival ink. That way your notes and memories last through the years. 

My favorite journaling pens are Sakura Micron Archival Ink pens. They come in a variety of tip sizes and colors. For daily journaling and planning, I prefer the 02 tip size in black. Micron pens provide a smooth writing experience and archival ink with very limited ghosting or bleed-through. I’ve had no problems with highlighters smearing over dried Micron Pen ink. You can find my favorite everyday Micron pens here on Amazon (not an affiliate link). 

If archival ink isn’t a deal-breaker for you, I’ve had good luck with Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens (though these don’t tolerate highlighters over the ink – just highlight prior to writing), and most ballpoint pens. Whatever pen you choose, I highly recommend testing it on a back page of your journal before using it on your daily pages. Most journals and planners, including mine, have a few extra pages in back just for that purpose.

Highlighting For a Bit of Color and Focus

For highlighters, I can’t speak highly enough of Zebra Mildliners (the non-affiliate link takes you to just one option – keep searching for so many more). The color rage, sheerness, and stead-fastness just can’t be beat! They go over a huge variety of pens and inks without smearing (as long as the ink underneath is dry). I’ve used Mildliners for years and have yet to see a highlight from the early days fade. An incredible variety of colors allows you to create systems and spotlight calendar days with all the personalization you can imagine. Occasionally there can be a bit of ghosting or bleed-through with darker Mildliner colors. Especially if the highlighter isn’t lifted in a timely manner. In my experience, this is usually due more to paper type than ink quality.

I recently purchased Mr. Pen Aesthetic Highlighters from Amazon (not an affiliate link) and have been impressed with them so far. They have fun colors, if not a big variety, and a unique, rectangle shape. They ghost/bleed a bit more readily than the Mildliners, but are a viable cost-effective option. These may be an especially good option for kids.

Oops! Try That Again

For those inevitable mistakes, I prefer the Bic Wite-Out options (again, not an affiliate link). They’re portable, easy to use, and reliable. I’ve had issues with some off-brands clumping on the page or scraping up when I try to write over it. Not so much with the Bic Wite-Out. With any white out tape product, rub over the tape on your page a couple of times after applying. This helps seal the product and makes it much less likely to pull up when writing over it.

Bookmarks the Spot

Many journals and planners come with ribbons or movable plastic bookmarks. While they’re great for bookmarking a current daily page, I usually have several pages in my journal/planner I refer to often. Several years ago I discovered sheer round sticky notes and fell in love! They’re the perfect option for managing pages I use regularly. The round shape means they always look “upright”, and they come in a variety of sizes and colors to match my journal/planner or color-code my life.

I chose a large circle in a bold color and wrote “Today” on it in permanent marker to help me find my current place. The smaller dots are used for marking the Yearly Overview, Monthly Overview, Looking Forward, pen test pages, and any goal or tracking pages I may have created. 

The dot sticky notes I originally found are no longer available, but I like these large Pastel Transparent Sticky Notes from Mr. Pen. They also have a smaller version in a great assortment of colors. The quality of the Mr. Pen Sticky Notes have been great so far and the dots stick over and over again. (Still not affiliate links…)

You can also purchase sticky tabs for this purpose, however, in my experience they can have strong adhesive that will damage pages if not used with care. Oddly enough, I feel they don’t stick as many times as sticky dots. With the few tabs that I’ve tried, after just a few uses, the tabs lose their stickiness. They would certainly be useful for any pages that you know will have a permanent space of reference, however.

Removable Lists and Notes

Finally, let’s talk about those times when you want to add an additional list, note, or change out a prompt. There are lots of options, and I’ve used a few different tools. A good, old-fashioned sticky note works great for sure, however, recently I’ve seen a few different options that are just for journals/planners. This Aesthetic Pastel Sticky Notes folio with a variety of sticky note pads is a great tool. Mr. Pen Sticky Notes Set is another great option with some good colors to choose from (not affiliate links).

Finding Your Own Way

I hope these ideas and products have given you some helpful ideas. I believe the best way to make your journal/planner most meaningful and useful for you is to just use it. Make it your own. You can use others’ ideas as jumping off points, but in the end it has to be what works best for you. I like to tell friends who are new to journaling and/or planning that I’m happy to share my ideas; I don’t want you to have to reinvent the wheel. But paint the wagon your own color! If one of the pre-printed prompts doesn’t work as well for you, place a small sticky note over what’s there and write your own prompt. Make it work for you. There are no journaling police!

And while you’re playing and experimenting and creating your system, tag me on social media or reach out to me in DMs. I’d love to see how you use these products and what other favorites you may have. We can never have too many ideas to draw from!

This post contains lots of links to products I love. None of these products are sponsored and none of the links are affiliate links. These are all products I use and love, but I get nothing for sharing them. To make it easy on me, I have linked to the Amazon store for all the products, but you may be able to find a different product and/or better price elsewhere. I encourage you to use my suggestions as reference only and do your own research.

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