School is right around the corner, and for me, that always means it’s time for planners and a whole new organizational model. I think this is such a critical decision to your success throughout the school year, it’s a tool you’ll have with you through everything.
With 6 classes, work, a social calendar, long distance relationships, and a club tennis team, things could easily get forgotten about. I wrote this huge, gigantic, ultimate guide to picking out how to plan and helpful advice on keeping with your plan because these things saved my life – I hope they do for you too!
Written vs. Online
One of the most important parts of your whole organizational plan? Your planner. I’ve tried everything in the book (ha!) and there were some things that work really well and some that didn’t.
The first thing that you need to decide is if you want to do an online or a written schedule. I would suggest sticking to one to avoid duplication of your effort.
Strategy 1: Online
With the way everything is now a day, an online calendar really makes sense. You can share calendars with other people, have your phone or computer available almost always to update and change, and there are lots of other great features to help you out like recurring items, reminders, notes about an event.
- Most options are free or are a minimal cost
- Can share calendars with other people to keep track of group projects, team/sorority calendars, roommate chore charts, etc.
- Viewable on any device – good in case you forget your planner like I always did!
- Able to cleanly delete/add /edit items
- Lots of options available for your preferences
- Different calendars in one to keep schedules separated and color coded.
- For me, I always seem to forget to check them
- Can be more work to open, edit, set up a reminder or event
- Need internet or data to access usually
- Can be difficult to read some or figure out how to use
Here are some of my favorite options if this route is for you:
Strategy 2: Written
Writing out your life in a planner is another great option to go with for the year, plus there are a lot of beautiful options out there that will help motivate you to keep up with assignments and schedules. I always loved Lily Pulitzer Planners, but there’s options at every price point.
- A beautiful planner may help you stick with it and be dedicated
- I always remember things better after writing them down
- Can write notes/to-do’s for the day easily next to your daily itinerary
- Easy to have open in class to keep track to assignment changes, due dates
- Can be less distracting, you can’t log into Facebook from an agenda…
- Can easily forget at home and not know what’s going on
- Messy handwriting can make planners difficult to read and therefore difficult to follow
- Difficult to edit or remove stuff from you calendar
Here’s some of my favorite options if you need some inspiration:
The pro’s of an electronic calendar always seemed to outweigh writing in a planner, but my favorite was always paper. I really have better memory when I write something by hand, and so just the act of writing helped me so many times. It’s up to your preference, but I highly suggest that you pick a method early and stick to it!
Although you may think it would work, I wouldn’t recommend daily or monthly planners. I’ve tried both unsuccessfully. Daily planners are too clunky and difficult to plan ahead with and monthly planners don’t have enough room. Of course you should use what works best, but I would recommend sticking with a weekly planner.
How to Organize your Calendar
Color Code Different Schedules
I always used different colored pens in order to specify what calendar I was scheduling. This helped quick looks and scanning through my planner. I still always wrote a key indicator of what the schedule was (the class number, initials, greek letters) in order to make sure I wasn’t ever confused, but the colors help make it easier to read.
My trick with using different colors though is to leave yourself a key somewhere in your planner to make sure you remember what color is what! I usually left a sticky note in the back cover of my planner incase I needed it. Definitely helpful at the beginning of the year when I couldn’t tell between MGT 351 and MGT 331.
Use the Monthly Planner for a Bird’s Eye View
I rarely used the monthly planner that’s included with a weekly planner. I just always forgot about it and would never add anything to it, but it really can be useful when trying to find the best weekend to head home or when you’re booked for the rest of the month so you should probably get ahead start of the paper due in three weeks. Still put these big events in your weekly calendar, but this is a good place to get a bird’s eye view of what you have going on.
Put Events in Order Daily
Don’t put the last event of your day on the first line, try and separate out events into morning, afternoon, and evening, even if you can’t get the order down exact. This will help you when you want to get a glimpse of your day and then you don’t need to think about what comes first, you can visualize the order.
Put All-Day Items on the Far Right
This always helped me figure out what my day would truly look like. I would put all day activity, like pay day (woot! woot!) or birthday’s on the top left of the day. This didn’t distract me from my actual schedule of the day and also helped those all day activities stand out too.
Tips to Stick With It
Have it Out in Every Class
I always used to keep my planner on my desk in class and at work, that way if the teacher quickly mentioned an assignment or a date was changed on a project I could just write a little note and keep everything up-to-date. For me, if the words, “I’ll write that down later” come in to my mind, I can be sure that I actually will forget to do so.
Review it Every Morning
Get up, brush teeth, make coffee, review planner. This was my morning schedule and it helped me get ready for the day and also know what I needed to accomplish. Set yourself just a few minutes before you get going to review all your notes and needs for the day so you start off on the right foot.
Update it Routinely
On Sunday nights, check out your planner and make sure everything is updated and you’re aware of all that needs to be done. This is a great time to make a weekly to-do lists to stay ahead (I’ll have to do a great to-do list post soon too!) so on Thursday night you’re not staying up until 4am to finish a paper that you had time for on Tuesday night. It happens. Spending a few minutes to prep for the week will help stop the procrastination and keep your memory up to date.
Stick With Your System for A Month
This is a really key point, pick an organizational/scheduling process and stick with it for at least a month, even if you think it’s weird or not right. It takes about a month to create a habitual routine and it can also take you that long to work out all the kinks as well. I always struggled with this one, I would see a new shiny way of doing things and switch before I had time to perfect what I was originally working on. Keep tweaking the process you have for at least a month before jumping ship.
Keep Your Handwriting Neat
If you write in chicken scratch, it will be impossible to understand what you wrote, and you will hate looking at your week in advance. It may even make yourself more stressed out than if you tried to just remember everything in your head. Even in a rush, spend the time to make your letters crisp and clean to keep you calm later on. For me, I always write in cursive, but I try not to in my planner because the connected letters always look way more cluttered than normal print.
Use Sticky Notes for To Do Lists
This tip saved me almost every week. I love writing to do lists in my planner so I have an idea of what’s due, where I’m going, and also what I want to get done for the day. However, if you do this everyday, by Friday you have a ton of extra words and scratched out notes all over. It can be difficult to comprehend what’s still needed. I now tend to write all my to-do’s on a sticky note and simply stick it on the page, so I can throw it out when I’m done and not stress about old things I wanted to get done or messy text.
Things to Make It Easier
Highlighters // If things start to get out of control, make relevant and important lines stand out. I use to highlight any big exam or any paper/project worth a significant portion of my grade.
White Out // Plans change! Sometimes white out is the best option to keep things clean, also if you’re always misspelling things this is a must.
Favorite Colored Pens for Color Coding // Highly recommend a different colored pen for each schedule, keeps everything clean, pretty, and distinct instead of a see of black or blue.
Small Stickies // Great for to do lists, writing down small details, or leaving questions/reminders for yourself!
What do you use to organize?! Any tips or tricks?
Als0 – did you like this style of post more? Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think, I think I’m going to try and do more really in-depth posts more often!