Digital planning is a whole new world, and I’m excited to walk you through the basics! Last year I took my best-selling design, The Daily Page, and created a digital version of the planner for use with the Goodnotes App.
You can use The Digital Planner on any app that allows you to import a PDF file, however, Goodnotes has the best user experience and is the app I personally choose to use, so the tutorials below are specific to Goodnotes although they’ll be helpful for any form of digital planning. Make sure that your app is updated to Goodnotes 5, because that version is designed to work with the interactive planners, previous versions do not provide as good of an experience (Search for it in the app store and install the Goodnotes 5 version, don’t just update your current app. You may have to pay an upgrade fee).
WHAT YOU NEED
To get started with digital planning you need to invest in a few products. An iPad is a big investment, especially an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. For me, the investment was totally worth it even before I got into digital planning, but now that I’ve become fully immersed, I organize almost every aspect of my life + business on the iPad almost exclusively within the Goodnotes App (I also use Procreate a lot for drawing and sketching). I have separate notebooks set up within Goodnotes and am able to add to and access them from anywhere, rather than having my ideas spread out in random notebooks (plus it saves space in my home and saves some trees).
IPAD PRO – Although you can use any tablet for digital planning, the iPad Pro is definitely a frontrunner. It works effortlessly with the Apple Pencil and some of the most popular digital planning apps, such as Goodnotes, are currently only available for iOS. I actually have the first generation of iPad Pro, and even though it’s 3 years old it still works flawlessly for everything I need. This links to the newer iPad, but you could also consider buying a refurbished older model if you want to save money.
APPLE PENCIL – The Apple Pencil is a stylus that you can use with the iPad Pro to write directly on the screen. It’s extremely responsive and the battery is great. I also have the first generation apple pencil, which is also 3 years old, and I’ve never had an issue with it or replaced the nibs (the rubber tip) despite using it daily. I also have this silcone sleeve for the pencil which I really like because it offers a bit of grip and protection.
GOODNOTES 5 APP – I’ve tried tons of apps for digital planning and notetaking and nothing has really come close to being as great as Goodnotes. I love the different pen options, the highlighter tool is great, and the functionality of the interface is really stellar. Most digital planners, including my designs, are interactive, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve upgraded to Goodnotes 5. Goodnotes 4 or previous versions do not support the interactive planners as well as 5 does. Goodnotes 5 costs $7.99 in the app store.
THE DIGITAL PLANNER – Once you’ve got your iPad with Goodnotes 5 installed you are ready to set up a digital planner. My planner takes my best selling design, The Daily Page, and combines it with monthly calendars in an interactive format. You are able to click on any day in the calendar, and it will automatically link to a full Daily Page layout for that day. The Digital Planner has a clean, minimalist design, and unlike most planners it helps you align both your work and wellness in one place by providing space for hydration tracking, meal planning, top 3 goals, habit tracking, medication reminders, wellness routines + more. You can take 10% off your purchase with code HONEY at checkout.
If you plan to use The Digital Planner it will be easiest to decide what app you’re going to use it on, and then have it installed on your iPad before you follow the steps below.
ACCESSING THE PLANNER FROM YOUR ETSY PURCHASE
On your iPad ensure you have the Goodnotes 5 app (or your app of choice) installed and ready to use. Then follow these steps:
Open your Safari web browser and go to Etsy.com
Log in to your Etsy Account (the one you used to purchase The Digital Planner).
Once logged in you should see a circular icon in the top right corner that says “YOU” below it. Click here.
Select “Purchases and Reviews” from the menu.
You should see your purchase from Thyme is Honey, with a black “Download Files” button to the right.
Click “download files” and Safari should download and open the PDF file (it might take a minute).
IMPORTING THE PLANNER TO GOODNOTES
Now you have accessed the planner file, and need to export it to Goodnotes (the steps below will be similar for any digital planning app)”
Once the planner is loaded you should see The Digital Planner’s January calendar displayed on the screen.
You then want to click on the “export” button in the top right corner. It looks like a square with an arrow pointing upward.
That should open up the “Share Sheet” which should have two rows of icons: the top row should be in color and the bottom row should be gray.
If you’ve installed the Goodnotes app on your iPad it should show up in the top row of colored icons and it should say “Copy to Goodnotes” (if not, see 002 below).
Go ahead and click on “Copy to Goodnotes”. The Goodnotes App should open automatically.
A dialog box will open that says “Import From” at the top. The key here is to ensure you are importing The Digital Planner as NEW document, not adding it on to an existing document. If you see blue text near the top of the box that says “Before Current Page / After Current Page” it means you have a document open in Goodnotes already, and it’s about to attach the PDF to it. You don’t want that. (if you have that blue text see 003 below).
If it is saving the document to the right place the blue text at the bottom of the Dialog Box should say “Import as New Document”. Click on that blue text.
A black progress box will show on the screen now. It is importing the PDF. This might take a minute, but once the black box disappears it means the PDF has been imported to Goodnotes.
It should now show up in your documents list on the home screen of Goodnotes and you are ready to get started!
001 Troubleshooting – If Goodnotes doesn’t show up in your Share Sheet:
Goodnotes should be added to your Share Sheet automatically when you install it, so ensure that the icon shows up on your iPad’s home screen and that it is fully downloaded.
Once you’ve ensured it’s downloaded and just not showing up in the share sheet we can add it manually.
Just go the Safari window where you’ve opened The Digital Planner link and click on the “export” button in the top right corner. It looks like a square with an arrow pointing upward.
Swipe lrgy on the row of colored icons until you get to a gray button with three dots that says “more”.
Within that list you may see Goodnotes listed. If so, toggle the button to the right of it until it is green and then select “done”.
You should now see the “copy to Goodnotes” option in your share sheet.
Return to step 6 above.
002 Troubleshooting – Add it to Goodnotes as a new document.
Simply click on the blue text at the bottom of the dialog box that says “Change Location”.
It will then open a list of all the documents/notebooks you have saved in Goodnotes. Scroll to the top and click on the word “Documents”.
The blue text at the bottom of the dialog box should now say “Import as New Document”. Click on that blue text.
Return to step 8 above.
How do I edit the name of The Digital Planner? It should import it with the title “The Digital Planner by Thyme is Honey”. If you’d like to edit this simply navigate to your documents list and click on the downward arrow on the right side. Then click where it says “The Digital Planner by Thyme is Honey” and type in your replacement.
How do I navigate the planner? This is simple but important. Goodnotes has two modes: Navigation Mode and Editing Mode. In Navigation Mode the links within the document are active. This is what makes it interactive and allows you to connect to The Daily Page for any date on the calendars. Editing mode is when you can write, draw, move things around, etc. To switch between these two modes simply click on the pencil icon in the top right corner of the screen. When the pencil is white it is in Navigation mode — and the links are all active. When the pencil is blue with a crossed line through it, it is in Editing Mode and you can write on the pages.
Along with being able to use Navigation Mode to click on the interactive links, you can also swipe left or right in the planner to go to the previous or next month, or previous or next day.
How do I copy and paste something? Simply select the lasso tool from the toolbar (looks like a dotted line in the shape of a lasso). You can now draw a circle/box around any object or text and it will select it automatically so that you can move it around. To copy it simply draw the circle around it, then place your pencil back on the screen and hold until the menu pops up. From this menu, you can copy, paste, resize, cut and so on.
I use this function a lot. For example, I do the same at-home workout on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so I have it written into the wellness area with checkboxes and simply copy and paste it onto The Daily Page.
How can I improve my handwriting in Goodnotes? Writing with the Apple Pencil takes some practice. At first, it is totally normal to feel like you write messier with the Apple Pencil or that your handwriting doesn’t look the same as it does on paper. Mine always feels messier when I clean my iPad Screen. As gross as it may be, there’s something to be said about a little “texture” existing on your iPad Screen or pencil to help you write. Aside from that, there are a few settings you can also play with you get a handwriting style you like:
Experiment with different pen options. Across the top of the toolbar, you’ll see icons for a Pen, an Eraser, and a Highlighter. Clicking on them once will select that tool, but double-tapping on them will open up a menu with additional options. Try double-tapping on the Pen icon. You can then switch between a Fountain Pen, Ball Pen, or Brush Pen. Personally I like the Fountain Pen, but try them each out and see which one is a good fit for you.
Experiment with the line thickness of the pen and store some default sizes that you prefer. This setting can make a huge difference. It was all the difference for me with feeling like I could write neatly in Goodnotes. With the Pen tool selected you should see three black lines of varying sizes in the top right corner of the Tool Bar. Clicking on any one of them should open up a slider that will allow you to set the millimeter thickness of the line. If you have any favorite (real) pens you can look at them to see what size they are, as a reference point. My personal preference for writing on The Digital Planner is the Fountain Pen set to 1 mm. You can adjust all three of these lines to thicknesses that you prefer so that they are quick to grab.
Practice makes perfect! I know, you were hoping for a magic solution. Although the two tips above will do a lot for creating a look you like and maybe even familiar with, the only way to get good at writing with the Apple Pencil within any app is to practice. Honestly, I thought my handwriting looked like a serial killer for the first couple of days, but it quickly started to improve. If you’re super worried try downloading some calligraphy or handwriting PDF that allows you to practice your penmanship.
How can I add my favorite or brand colors? One of my favorite things to do with The Digital Planner is to color-code my calendars and The Daily Page using my brand colors and the highlighter pen. You can create a custom color palette for any of the pens by following these steps:
Click the tool you want to create a palette for (the highlighter pen is a fun one to do). You should then see three colorful circles near the center-right of the Tool Bar. Double-click on any one of them.
You’ll see a handful of “preset” colors already populated there. If there are some you like, you can leave them. Any you don’t like or want to customize just click on and a new menu will appear.
You can enter the HEX code for specific colors (such as your brand colors) or select from the “rainbow grid” that automatically appears or tap on the colorful circle in the bottom right corner for a rainbow disc. Once you tap on a color it will automatically edit the selected color and add it to the present menu so just hit the back arrow to navigate back to your presets.
You can also remove colors altogether (for example, it might have a preset of 10 colors but you only want to have 4) by clicking on the color and then selecting “Remove Color”.
Repeat this until you have a palette you like. Unfortunately, right now you have to add one palette for pens and one for highlighters (it doesn’t just copy over) so you’ll need to do this twice if you want your brand colors in both the pen and highlighter (I’m hoping they change this in a future update).
Are there other questions you have about using The Digital Planner for Goodnotes? I’d love to know what you need help with so that I can continue to help build this resource. Please send me a message through the Contact Form to let me know what tutorials you’d like me to create.