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

Get started with digital planning (PDF guide included)

Digital Planning is just like paper planning but on your iPad (could work with a Samsung tab too, just ask me how). Let's get started.

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

digital planner journaling paperless

Time Needed: (at least) 30 minutes

Total Cost: (from) USD 12

Things You Needed:

- iPad with iOS 13+
- Apple Pencil (any generation)
- Paperlike screen protector (optional - but I highly recommend it)
- A PDF annotations app from the Appstore

Recommended PDF annotations app:

- Goodnotes 5 (most well knowen)
- Noteshelf (my favorite)
- Notability (student's favorite)

Steps to get started with paperless notes:

Step 1: Install a PDF annotations app on your iPad

On your iPad, login to the Apple Store and install one of these 3 apps I recommend: Goodnotes 5 (see my Goodnotes guide), Noteshelf (see my Noteshelf guide) or Notability.

Step 2: Get familiar with your PDF Annotations App

Get familiar with the app you've installed. I have created some basic mini-videos to get you started with creating your first notebook, import templates and stickers.

Using an annotation app, YOU CAN keep all your hand notes inside, organized in categories, groups and notebooks. 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!

These apps come with some default page templates (like lined pages, math pages, etc) that you can use straight away and create thousands of digital notebooks.

Step 3: Take it to the next level

When you're ready for more, and need to scribble 10x more organized notes, I can help. 

>>> Try my paperless planner (free trial) that helps more than 4000 customers to have a less cluttered mind and daily schedule. 

paperless planner ipad goodnotes

>>> Signup for the Growth Planner (free download) to review and plan your yearly growth.
goodnotes app growth planner

Optional: Check more resources

Need help with your download?

Check this step-by-step PDF tutorial

See how to download and import your goodies step-by-step. You'll also find inside the most frequent questions and links to my courses. Click the button below to download the PDF tutorial:

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, GoodNotes, or Notability. 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, GoodNotes, and Notability (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.

2021 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 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, Goodnotes 5 and Notability 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 etsy account on a browser using your iPad. Then, go to You > Reviews & Purchases and look for the Outline Planner order. To the right of the order, click Download Files. This goes to the Downloads page for all the files attached to your order.
Tap the button to download the Sunday or Monday start digital planner, 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 
– in Notability tap: Import Files

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 2021 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 import the inside your PDF annotations app, 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.

Yes, all 2021 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 2021 digital planner to any page, and look for the “Need Help? button on the bottom left of the page.

All 2021 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, 2021 Master plan, Master to do, all twelve Monthly pages, and seven special sections.
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 journaling page, and daily meeting 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

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. Birthdays 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.

In Goodnotes 5, Notability 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.

Go to that day’s meeting note and duplicate that exact page. 
Plus, if you need more space for one meeting, go to the EXTRA templates section, copy a Notes page and paste it after the Meeting notes page.

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 2021 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 meeting page, or DAILY Journaling page for the same day (eg: Monday, June 23). Plus, using the “heart” or “meeting” 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 purchased every year.
The undated planners are the ones that can be bought once and used many times. But you will need to add the dates to the pages.