Maybe you’ve been using some sort of planner for years now, and you’re a total pro. Maybe you just recently started using one. Or, maybe you haven’t seen the light yet! For the first two years of college, I got a planner or agenda at the beginning of each year, then stopped using it within a couple of weeks, tired of taking the time to put everything in it and convinced I would remember what I needed to do, or that could just consult my syllabus and iPhone calendar and notes on my phone and notes on my computer and scribbles in the margins of all my notebooks… Yeah, it really wasn’t working. I was never disorganized enough to miss an assignment or show up to a test with no preparation, but it did contribute to my stress. I would be on edge throughout the day, knowing I had something to do but not remembering what and not being able to check because it was probably on a sticky note back on my desk. I would often leave assignments til the last minute (or at least long enough that completing them was way more stressful than it could have been). I wanted to be more organized, but I never got into a routine that was helpful for me.
In the fast-paces world of 2017, it’s easy to constantly moving, never thinking about the next thing until you need to. This is especially true in college, where there’s so much work and studying to keep track of in addition to extracuriculars, career planning, socializing, and maybe an on-campus job. Different people have different ways of staying organized and prepared. Maybe you don’t use a planner, but you have another system that you find effective. But if not, below are some reasons you should try a planner. It might be hard to be dedicated to actually putting everything in it, but if you force yourself to do it for a bit, it will become a very helpful habit.
1. It helps to know what’s coming up.
I like knowing what my day is going to look like. When I’m tired, or really busy, I might keep checking my planner throughout the day just to remind myself what I need to do later. Even if you don’t want to or can’t work on anything between two classes, it might reduce some stress if you just take a look at the day’s (or the whole week’s) schedule. It’s also nice to take stock of the day when you wake up, so you can dress and pack your bag accordingly, and approach the day with your mind prepared as well.
2. Everything’s in one place.
You won’t worry you’re forgetting something if you know you always write everything in your planner. You don’t have to check multiple places to see what you need to do, and you won’t accidentally overschedule anything because you can just quickly flip through it before committing to anything. Furthermore, you’ll probably actually remember what you have going on better because you frequently have to go into the planner, and therefore are used to looking at the same assignments/events all the time.
3. You’ll procrastinate less.
Okay, no, of course I’m not suddenly the queen of time management. I still procrastinate — but less! Any improvement makes a difference in your stress level and probably your quality of work, and you’ll only improve over time. But anyway, being able to take a quick overview of the whole week (or month) helps you keep long-term assignments in mind and start working on them earlier. You can go even further and actually put in “work on ____” for however many days leading up to the due date or exam day. Of course, you can remind yourself of these things even without a planner, but I find seeing something in the box for the day is really helpful. I have a weekly layout in my planner, with a monthly calendar at the beginning of every month and a page for notes adjacent to every week. I put major things in the monthly calender so when I’m planning things I know which weeks are heavier. If something is coming up in the next week, I often add a note in the current week to start working on it or at least think about it. I also use the notes page for things I want to get done a certain week but not on a specific day. But beware! Doing so can make it easier to put off.
4. It’s always accessible.
I always have my planner with my. Okay, maybe not on a quick Commons run, but to class, to clubs, to work, etc. This way, if something comes up, I can immediately add it in with everything else instead of trying to remember it for later, or having yet another random piece of paper with an assignment on it. As I said earlier, it’s also good to have with you in case you’re feeling stressed or just uncertain of what’s coming up, so you can check it whenever. A physical planner is also nice because if your professor is really strict with electronics, you can still note something down during class. Of course, it’s rude and probably less rather than more helpful to you to do so during the middle of a lecture, but you can pull it out and then open it up during a quiet moment, still waiting less time than you would otherwise.
5. There are so many options.
I like having a physical book planner, partly because of the electronics in class thing and partly because a physical object serves as a better reminder for me. But if you’re technologically savvy and environmentally conscious, by all means use a scheduling app. Look at reviews and descriptions so you find something that works for you. Otherwise, there are so many options for physical planners. I’ve seen a lot of Lilly Putlizer ones around, which are cute, but probably expensive. I’ve seen a few different ones at the college bookstore, in different sizes and ranging from plain and practical to bright and cute. You could check out Barnes and Noble, or just consult the Internet for almost limitless options. There are some companies where you can customize a planner that works perfectly for you. Erin Condren is one, altough again expensive, but you might be able to find something similar for cheaper with a little research. Aside from price and aesthetic, there are other elements to consider. Do you want a whole pager for every day? A weekly layout? Just monthly? I like my weekly layout plus notes because it lets me see several days at once while still leaving more room for each day than a monthly calendar would allow, which is essential if you want to keep track of everything, and I can add things on the note page that don’t necessarily fit in the weekly part. But be sure to look over your options and find something that works for you, because you won’t stick with it otherwise. If you want to customize literally every aspect of your planner and have a bit of free time, start a bullet journal (google them or look them up on Pinterest). It’s basically setting up your own planner in a blank notebook, which is nice because you have complete control and can make it super cute, but it’s also time-consuming. I tried this, but didn’t keep up with setting up each week, so I didn’t end up using it.
6. It doesn’t just have to be academic.
Need to remember to call your mom? Jot it down. Keep forgetting to do your laundry and running out of underwear? Pencil it in sometime when you have the time to take it from washer to dryer to dresser and closet. You can use your planner to keep track of exercise, your budget, your personal goals and hobbies, anything that you find useful. There are some specified planners that include special trackers for these things, or you could just make notes in a regular planner. It’s for your benefit, so nothing is too small to remind yourself of. You could even leave yourself encouraging notes on especially busy days, for a little pick-me up.
If you don’t yet have a reliable system for keeping track of things, I highly reccommend a planner. It might take some effort at first, but it will pay off in the long run by making your life easier.