It’s Planner Season!

My inner teenager cringes at the fact that I am dedicated to using a planner at 26. After years of pushing back at the advice of adults around me (especially my mom), suggesting a variety of options, I felt I was above using one. However, finally, at 24, I decided it might be useful to keep track of some things as I prepared to return to school to finish off my bachelors.

The hard thing is that planners are a trial and error process, with different methods working for different people. Many people use digital planners through Google or Apple, but I find that writing things down (in one or more places) helps me remember that I’ve got something coming up. Like me, you may be scouring the internet for advice on what analog planner is best without dropping a small fortune on an Erin Condren LifePlanner.

As a note, if you have a style of planner that works for you already, stick with it! There are so many changes with transitioning to college that trying to change planner habits can hurt you more than help. It’s a thing where if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it. If you have a style you don’t feel is effectively working for you then consider changing.

When it comes to planners, there are a ton of setups from which to choose. You may have to go through a few different configurations to find the best that works for you, and even then, different brands will have different styles and approaches to choose. For the minimalist, a list style planner is an option using a small notebook (field notebooks are best) and dating the pages on your own. It is the minimalist version of a bullet journal basically, and I regularly use this system with a Word Notebook (also available on Amazon). With 48 pages per book, the fact that they come in packs of three is convenient, and you can set up a page per day with plenty of room for a to-do list or deadlines. Target also has one by Gartner Studios that is a spiral bound memo book.

Next, is an undated planner, which provides flexibility for those that start a planner at a random point of the semester or year. Similar to a list style, you’ll write in your own dates, but it will come with pages set up for your list or weekly setup. Target has great options for this with daily and appointment (hourly) style calendars. Personally, undated planners haven’t been my style, plus I like the ritual of searching for an academic planner at the start of a semester.

If you have gone through the bujo tag on Tumblr or searched it on YouTube, you would have seen intricate layouts with planners, habit trackers, and lists. It can seem overwhelming when you see the work people put into them but don’t be intimidated by what others do with a bullet journal. I turned to a bujo when I felt dissatisfied with academic planner options one year. The caveat to using one is making time in your schedule to do your setup for it. Even the most minimal of designs and layouts take time if you want to do a calendar or divide the pages to make a weekly spread. It’s a system I like, and that is meditative for me, but not practical for me with how busy I get during the semester. If you are looking to start a bujo, you can use ANY notebook, but if you want to invest in your notebook (which I recommend because I took mine everywhere and it takes a beating), I would 1000% recommend a Leuchtturm 1917 A5 dot grid notebook.

T​eacher planners can be great for university because it shows weekly views with each day having multiple subjects. So if you’re taking many classes, it’s great to give each course its own space visually. Happy Planner is a great option available at Target that has seven subject sections, so there’s room for club and sorority sections to keep life in order. In the same vein, hourly or appointment calendars are great because you can block out time for classes and events. These are especially great if you find you need to plan your day according to time to be able to fit in studying and work.

You may be used to getting a free weekly planner in high school with the start of the year. This is the most common type of planner, with varying styles available, to find. Five Star, Mead, Blue Sky, and Cambridge are by far the most common brands you’ll see and cheapest options. Target has also brought in a new brand called The Time Factory which offers a variety of covers, much like Blue Sky, but with ultra colorful pages if that’s more your speed. Target does great special edition planners each year, which I feel are comparable to a Ban.do planner for a fraction of the price. This year is Julia Kostreva and Lillian Farag planners. They are minimal but highly functional, in my opinion.

With university, I would advise against solely using a monthly calendar. I think that monthly hanging or desk calendars should be in addition to a weekly or daily planner. Especially if you’re beginning as a freshman or transfer, you need to be able to add all dates from your syllabus to a planner to effectively succeed in courses.

Life in college can be busy and overwhelming, but using a planner can help to clear up uncertainty with your time and life. At a time when you are trying to adjust to a new flow, as well as freedom, it’s essential to maintain structure to succeed. There may be moments when you feel like you’ve got a handle on things and you don’t need it anymore to manage your time, but university will quickly put you in check throwing multiple deadlines and events at you at once. So be prepared, and it will help you put a good foot forward and impress your professors with how on top of things you are through the semester.