The Planning Do's That Have Helped Save My Mental Health

Yes, actually. It’s taken three years in college and several failed attempts, but I’ve finally figured out the formula. 

I first attempted to use a planner during my freshman year of college. Three semesters and more-than-I’d-like-to-admit late submissions later, all that I wrote down on it were some of my mother’s recipes, damaged by rice water from all the times I failed at cooking, too. Improvements were made in sophomore and junior years. I learned how to cook rice without getting water everywhere, and my planner had a few more pages filled in. 

But, beginning of my senior year, that’s when the magic happened. Here are some of the magic ingredients to my success and feeling a lot less overwhelmed this semester. 

1. Schedule doctor appointments and meetings for early in the morning. 

For the past couple of months, I’ve been scheduling as many of my appointments and meetings as possible before or by 10 am. Doing so forces me to wake up early and, more often than not, ends up in me taking advantage of more hours in my day. It might be difficult to do at first without feeling exhausted by mid-day. However, I found that the more early events I planned, the more I was encouraged to go to bed at a reasonable time so that I wouldn’t be as tired the next day. If you’re the kind of person that is struggling during this time because we’re doing everything from home and don’t have to “go” anywhere early in the morning, this might get you out of the going to bed and sleeping in late funk. 

2. Invest in cute planner stickers. 

Planner stickers have made me a complete planning addict, and I’m not afraid to admit it. There are SO many cute planner sticker packs out there and for a low price. They’re a great way to add some fun to your doctor’s appointments, meetings, bills, and deadlines while making it a point to schedule into your week nail appointments, self-care, and doing things you love. At the end of each month, they provide a visual representation of all the things you’ve done. It’s especially satisfying to look at when you’ve scheduled something other than school or work deadlines. Tip: try to schedule at least one fun or relaxing activity per week (e.g., yoga, date night, binging a show, a spa day, and leisurely reading). Seeing at least one fun or relaxing sticker per week is extra satisfying.

3. Give yourself deadlines one day earlier than the actual deadline. 

Okay, odds are you won’t finish every task or assignment a day early, but finishing even a few early per week can lift some weight off your shoulders. An earlier deadline means a higher possibility of getting an early start, anyway, which already helps. If you end up stuck the day of without having finished the assignment, you at least don’t have to worry about needing to complete it all in one day. Tip: Employing this tactic in multiple areas of your life- paying bills, finishing creative projects, submitting applications, sending out emails, making a phone call to schedule an appointment, drafting a happy birthday message, buying a gift- reduces potential stress exponentially.

4. Plan the next day the night before. 

Add this to your nightly routine along with some tea and some reading to feel as if you have your life together. Prepping for the next day the night before helps to have a clearer mind about what needs to get done and how time would best be divided. Planning the night before also helps feel less overwhelmed if your to-do list for the next day is quite long. Instead of looking at the list the day of and asking yourself, “how will I get this done?!,” you’re able to think about what your game plan will be before the day begins.

5. Write down the readings and lectures for the week on Sunday. 

Essentially, this involves making a possibly large to-do list comprised of your lectures and readings for the week. While at first, it might seem overwhelming, it helps to have written down a master to-do list to check items off of daily. It’s not only rewarding to see but also helps prevent future stress that may come from forgetting a task or falling behind in your courses. 

6. Split up your readings/assignments throughout the weekdays.

Similar to giving yourself an earlier deadline, splitting readings and assignments throughout the week makes tasks more manageable and less overwhelming. For example, reading 10 pages per day instead of 40 pages in one day feels a lot less overwhelming/draining. 

7. Use a happy planner. 

It doesn’t have to be the Happy Planner (although I super recommend it), but just a planner that brings you joy to use/look at. One that encourages a balanced life, caring for your mental health, and/or has cute graphics is pretty promising to be a mood booster. Tip: the Happy Planner student planner is great for keeping track of courses and keeping track of assignments. 

8. If you feel like you need a change of scenery, find one. 

Whether it means repurposing a small space in your home, going to the park, or checking out a different coffee shop (safely), try to listen to your mind and body. It’ll probably thank you with a mood and (non-toxic) productivity boost.

Planning, schedules, and mental health are all unique to each person, but if you’re looking to start using a planner or feeling overwhelmed, learning what works for you is a great start.