How to Turn Your iPad into a Paperless Notebook to outline and prioritize!

A Digital Planner is like having a paper planning inside the iPad. However, the digital planner are not apps, they are PDF templates that:

  • works magically on iPad (can be opened on the iPhone or Mac too)
  • ONLY works inside an notes app (like Noteshelf app)
  • Does NOT send notifications or reminders
  • Does NOT sync with Google Calendar
  • Does NOT sync with Outlook Calendar
  • If that's ok. let's get started with the tutorial...

Get started with digital planning (PDF guide included below)

For a quick motivation, check how Kelly @_takingmylifeback is using her digital planner:

digital planner journaling paperless

Time Needed: (at least) 30 minutes

Note-taking app cost: (from) USD 9
Outline Planner Templates cost: (from) USD 17

Tools You'll Needed:

- iPad with iOS 13+ (ideally any iPad from 2018, including iPad Mini)
- Apple Pencil (please make sure that your pen is compatible with your iPad)
- Paperlike screen protector (optional - but I highly recommend it)
- A note-taking app from the Appstore (see my favorite below)
- the Outline Planner template (please try the demo first)

The Note-taking App I Recommend:

- Goodnotes 5 (most well known)
- Noteshelf (my favorite - it's super friendly!!)
- Notability (student's favorite)

5 Steps to get started with paperless notes:

Step 1: Grab an iPad and an Apple Pencil

The very first thing you need to get started is an iPad that supports iOS13+. I use a 2018 iPad generation with 1st gen Apple Pencil. I also highly recommend a Paperlike screen protector; otherwise, your handwriting may look ugly.

Step 2: Install a Notes app from Appstore

For my Outline Planner template to work, you will need to import it inside a notes app. So, on your iPad, login to the AppStore and install just one of these 3 apps that I recommend:

  1. Goodnotes 5 (best if you need to search inside your digital notebooks; yet I find that with digital planners, goodnotes 5 interrupts the planning flow)
  2. Noteshelf (MY FAVORITE ONE - super easy to get started with, packed with a lot of amazing features, and supports large size files)
  3. Notability (students' favorite - best if you like to audio-record lectures or discussions).
Step 3: Choose a loving digital planner to use?

Download my 3 bestseller digital planners demo. I am confident that it will become the cozy house of your heart's dreams, thoughts, and daily notes.

Step 4: Import a digital planner inside the notes app

Once the note-taking app is on your iPad, and after you have downloaded the Outline Planner PDF template in the location "On My iPad / Downloads" folder, then go and open the note-taking app and import the planner from the Downloads folder using the add new function:
– in Goodnotes tap: New+ > Import
– in Noteshelf tap: + > Import Document
– in Notability tap: Import > Files

Step 5: Customize your planner

Using a digital planner, YOU CAN keep all your hand notes inside, organized in categories or sections. You can search through notes, erase mistakes, move notes around pages, and SO MUCH more. You can also easily share your notes with friends in the form of a PDF or images. Is so easy and fun!

Now, go and ENJOY IT!!!!

Digital planners are ready to use PDF files (with/without hyperlinks) or JPEG images (use them to build a digital planner yourself) imported into a note-taking app like Noteshelf or GoodNotes. You can use it on any tablet that you can write on, but the iPad Pro + Apple Pencil combo is the most loved by far.

The winning digital planners are PDF templates designed to plug in and play inside PDF annotation apps such as Noteshelf, or GoodNotes (available for iOS devices) and XODO PDF (for Android devices). They also include convenient indexes with super-smart hyperlinks to navigate to any date, week, or month, and other sections in your planner.
The best digital planners must be small-sized PDF files (less than 8 MB), high-quality layout, and intuitive navigation.

2022 Digital Planners work with any app that supports PDF annotations. Noteshelf, Goodnotes, and Notability offer the best handwriting experience for digital planning, but these are for iOS only. For Android, you can try XODO PDF, yet the experience is not the best.

You will get mini-video tutorials for beginners, once you join the VAULT. If you want to see those videos today, you can claim your 7-day free access here.

You can, but an iPad digital planner it’s not that iPhone friendly. If you are using Goodnotes or Noteshelf, you can sync the digital planner across devices using iCloud. But writing on it on the phone can be a bit painful since the design is not adaptable (in the end, the planner is a PDF file designed for iPad), so your page’s content will not be super visible.
In the future, I am planning to create digital planners for iPhone only.

You can use Noteshelf, or Goodnotes 5 for iOS. I have chosen Noteshelf, just like many of my clients.
Here’s what one of my clients said:
“I started off using Noteshelf initially before ever using Goodnotes. Neither app is perfect but there are three things I like better about Noteshelf: 1) the ability to lock down an image layer for inserted planner widgets. I can erase writing and move stickers around without moving the base image. 2) I can copy the setup (highlighter, text, stickers) that I want on each page and paste to another and it will place it in the EXACT same location without realignment which is time consuming in Goodnotes and 3) squared off highlighter. I dislike Goodnotes’ rounded highlighter.
AND….I almost forgot to mention one of my favorite features! You can save numerous fonts and text styles as favorites so that you can easily change between them. I have thirteen favorites. Goodnotes does not handle text well.”

To access your digital file(s) login on your VAULT account on a browser using your iPad. Then, locate the planner you need, click its Download link, and it will open inside a browser. Tap the Share icon and Save to files. This way, the digital planner will download in On My iPad / Downloads folder.
Then you open the app and import the planner from the Downloads folder.

After you have downloaded the digital planner in the On My iPad / Downloads folder, go and open the app and import the planner from the Downloads folder using the add new functions:
– in Goodnotes tap: New+ > Import
– in Noteshelf tap: + > Import Document 

You will get mini-video tutorials for beginners, once you join the VAULT. If you want to see those videos today, you can claim your 7-day free access here.

Once you have downloaded the planner on your iPad, you won’t need Wi-Fi to use it.
However, if you are using the iCloud to sync across devices, the planner will only sync when you have a Wi-Fi connection.

With every 2022 digital planner, you have access to:
– Sunday Start calendar planners that use a standard time
– Monday Start calendar planners that use a military clock
So when you download the digital planner from the VAULT, just pick between the two options.

You must be in the viewing mode to use the hyperlinks and switch to editing mode when you want to write. There is a pen icon inside a circle in the top right corner of the navigation that you need to tap to switch between the two modes.

You will get mini-video tutorials for beginners, once you join the VAULT. If you want to see those videos today, you can claim your 7-day free access here.

Yes, all 2022 digital planners have tutorial pages included. You will learn how to navigate the planner with hyperlinks, how to fill in the pages, and how to contact me. Just open your 2022 digital planner, go to EXTRA section and look for the "Tutorial" chapter.

All 2022 digital planners use a smart system of hyperlinks:
the main VERTICAL navigation – placed on the right side of the screen ON ALL PAGES, allows you to access the Calendar, 2022 Outline, EXTRA section (with 150+ templates), all twelve Monthly pages, and 7 built-in color notebooks.
the secondary HORIZONTAL navigation – placed on the top right of the screen ON DATED PAGES ONLY, allows you navigate between inter-connected dated pages (eg: connects the same day’s: daily planning page, daily notes page, and daily work notes page)
the yearly calendar page – also has links to any weekly or daily planning page inside the planner
the monthly planning pages – have links to weekly or daily planning page from that month
the weekly planning pages – have links to all seven daily planning, daily journaling, and daily meeting notes pages from that week
the monthly habits and workout trackers – have links to planning weeks and days from that month
the weekly meal plan pages – have links to all seven daily planning pages from that week

And there are a few more. You can watch the 2022 Outline Planner walk-through here.

You will also get mini-video tutorials, once you join the VAULT. If you want to see those videos today, you can claim your 7-day free access here.

Inside a digital planner, you can always duplicate the monthly planning pages to track different subjects. The vertical navigation’s monthly tabs will still get you to the 1st planning page of that month. Then you can flip the page to see the extra monthly page too.
Another thought will be to fit all activities inside one monthly calendar page and use color codes to differentiate them.

You can, but be careful what you delete since it will also delete the hyperlinks to those pages. Meal Plans or Monthly trackers can be deleted. However, you can’t undo it once deleted.
I suggest to duplicate the planner and try to delete these pages from the clone version first. If you like the result, you can then implement this action inside the original digital planner too.

You will get mini-video tutorials for beginners, once you join the VAULT. If you want to see those videos today, you can claim your 7-day free access here.

In Goodnotes 5 or Noteshelf you can move pages by drag and dropping their thumbnails. However, the planner has too many pages, so I recommend to copy a page (or template) and place it in a new location inside the planner.

You will get mini-video tutorials for beginners, once you join the VAULT. If you want to see those videos today, you can claim your 7-day free access here.

If you need a meeting notes template, go to the EXTRA templates section, copy a meeting notes page and paste it after the daily work notes page, or where it's convenient for you.

Locking an image is only possible in Noteshelf (at the moment). To do so, tap & hold the image until an editing menu bar will appear. Tap Lock, and you’ve done it.

Sure. Any PDF annotations app has a “Type tool” that you could use. Just import the planner inside your PDF annotations app and start typing.

Yes, in the 2022 digital planner, ALL 365 DAILY PAGES are DATED and inter-connected. So from a weekly page, you can go to the DAILY planning page, or DAILY work page, or DAILY notes page for the same day (eg: Monday, June 23). Plus, using the “heart” or “work” icons you can switch between these inter-linked pages easily.
And YES I have already added day names (eg: Monday) to each dated daily page.

Unfortunately, Notability, Goodnotes, and Noteshelf do not have this feature (so far), but I hope they will soon add this to their apps.
Playing with bookmarks/tags can help you reach another location in your planner. Or, add a note (like “client name”) on the new page and use the search function to find it.

All dated digital planners need to be designed every year.

So, if your yearly membership is active you'll get the new Outline Planner (and other digital notebooks) every year.