Prep Your Planner for a Perfect Semester

I’ll just say it: I’m a planner. I’m a list maker. I’m a post-it note abuser. It’s taken some time, but I’ve accepted that no digital calendar or to-do list can replace a physical check mark on a piece of paper for me. My planner helps me stay on-task and feel rewarded for completing tasks as I work; and my planning helps me manage my anxiety and feel more in control with a hectic schedule.

So, if you want to try planning a bit more for the first time or want to improve your planner plotting, then here’s my tips for setting up the next semester in your planner.

First, plot the big dates that fall in the next few months.

A good way to start laying out a semester is to start with the academic planner for breaks or holidays that will adjust the repetition of your day-to-day schedule. Hamline’s can be found here. Make sure to only note the days that are important to you. If you know you’re not likely to drop a class, don’t include the date for that. Keeping your planner free of clutter is as important as not forgetting anything.

Note big dates both in the month overview and on specific days if they affect the day directly and you’ll want a reminder in-week as I’ve found I don’t often flip back to that calendar page past the first of the month.

Beyond the academic calendar, note down any trips or other major events that you already know.

Second, fill in your day-to-day schedule.

I’ve finally shifting my physical location planning to Google Calendar after years of failed attempts, but if you do write your daily time layout in your planner do that next, but do it in pencil! Schedules, especially for classes, are fluid and changing so don’t put those down in pen and have to scribble it out later if your professor swaps things around.

Otherwise, if your schedule is the same week to week, consider placing your weekly class schedule on a post-it note that can move week to week and not require re-writing that schedule over and over.

Third, map out personal responsibilities.

A new semester and a deep planner dive is a good time to check-in on repeating tasks that fall to the wayside.

When was your last oil change?

When was your last doctor’s appointment?

When was your last haircut?

When was your last teeth cleaning?

Anything that you need to schedule, call and make an appointment while you’re being good and productive. Trust me, don’t procrastinate on things you don’t want to do.

Fourth, add in personal reminders.

Do yourself a huge favor and take the time now to plot out little reminders in specific weeks.

  1. Note down when your medications will need refills.

  2. Note down reminders before birthdays when you need to start figuring out gifts or cards.

  3. Note down re-applications of pet’s flea treatment.

  4. Note your future appointments based on the last step. Like, the week after you scheduled that oil change, write a little note to schedule another one in the future so it doesn’t get forgotten again.

Fifth, prepare for responsibilities you already know about.

The biggest problem is planning ahead is that the rest of the world does not always get the memo. Often times, you can’t know the entire scope of the semester right away, instead work out what you do know.

Typically, I will have multiple post-it notes with one for each job or project I have going on constantly and I will note down what I’m currently working on and the steps towards completion or I’ll just update the last time I did something each time I do it. This works well for recurring, flexible things like updating a blog that has to be done periodically. This way the notes can move with week to week and stay separate from more short-term responsibilities. Going into a new set of classes, I’ll take the easier first weeks to work ahead as much as possible on anything else in my life so that when the courses start to get serious and I find myself overwhelmed there’s time and space to take a breather.

Remember, in doing all this, planners are only a tool to help you. A planner should never be a source of additional stress. If making it attractive helps you stick to it, embrace those stickers, but otherwise stick to sloppy handwriting and a basic pencil. Use it only as much as it is helpful and smash that semester, you’re ready.