How To Stay Organized Without Using a Planner

My first two years at a university, I was without a doubt completley reliant on my planner to keep me on deadline. As a journalist, deadlines are important, not to mention that there a million of them. Writing homework due dates, article deadlines, meetings, interviews, and test dates in a planner was what I needed at the time.

These days, I am heavily burnt out from "planner organization." I don't want to carry a heavy spiral notebook everywhere. I don't want to use white-out every time a deadline changes. I don't want to say, "let me check my planner," whenever someone asks to make plans. 

This year, it has been my mission to stay organized and on-deadline in a paperless and plannerless fashion. In that mission, I have definitley had my rough patches and learned what does and does not work the hard way (aka by missing important dates). So, I have compiled a list of ways to stay organized without a planner, so that you don't have to deal with the same struggles I did.

Note: this is not a Google ad, I just use the Google Suite a lot.

  1. 1. Google Calendar, duh.

    Some of you may have read that intro and thought, "this chick really needs Google Calendar," and you would be very right about that. I did need it, and so do you. Since UW uses the Google Suite, this is all the more helpful to school work. Google Calendar does not have to be a planner, but it can function as one if that's what you need. Personally, I use it as a more reliable way to set reminders than the "Reminders" app which has failed me dozens of times. Google Calendar lets you color code events, set times to be notified of your schedule, sync your calendar with other people, and include the direct location of your meetings. This was one of the first steps I took when transitioning to a paperless organization system. It successfully did the job my planner had been doing for me, and even better since it could yell at me when an event was getting close.

  2. 2. Folders. All over your desktop. Embrace it.

    This organization strategy has been with my since the "planner ages" but has evolved in the "anti-planner era." How you organize your files can be very subjective, but I have experienced the most success in making, first, a folder for the year as a whole. This is then followed by making folders for each quarter. Inside the quarterly folders is a folder for each course with the subject and course number. Finally, inside each course are individual folders like "assignments", "readings", "papers", etc. For example, navigating these folders would look something like this: UW Documents > 2019-2020 > Fall 2019 > PHIL 347 > Assignments. The key to staying on track with assignments, here, is downloading all of your assignments for the week to your desktop. After adding them to your desktop, place them underneath or beside the folder of the class they pertain to. They only go inside the folder when they are completed. This gives you the same feeling as checking the "done" box on your to-do list. When you finish your work, your desktop is clean and your work is already organized.

  3. 3. Digital Post-It notes, all over your desktop.

    Okay, maybe not all over your desktop. Just one or two will do. This Post-It note functions as your list of important dates that you want in front of your face. Yes, Google Calendar will house your events, but sometimes it just feels better to see your appointments every day. For me, I mostly use this for running reminders. For example, if you have something due every week at the same time, this is the perfect place to write that reminder. Also you can customize them to blend into your screensaver so you don't ruin your aesthetic, what a plus.

  4. 4. Email organization, for those of you that actually open them.

    Emails are a huge part of my life. As sad as that sounds, it is true. The primary form of communication in the professional world is email. This means you should probably train yourself in email proficiency before graduating. One important function in the email world is tagging your emails. Essentially, this is just another form of folders. Can you tell I like folders yet? After reading your email, simply go to the tool bar and "add tag" (in gmail, at least). Some tags are provided for you, but you can also customize and create your own based on the categories that are specific to you. These might include "internship info," "newsletters," or tags specific to the courses you are in. This will help your future self when you remember an important email and go on the search to find it. Additionally, I would recommend starring all of your important emails to seperate them from your general inbox. Finally, delete the emails you don't need, don't let your inbox overflow.

  5. 5. Leaving tabs open until the task is complete.

    This is my last tip for you, you'll probably hate it, but it's effective. At the start of the day or week, open all the tabs of the tasks you have to complete. Here's the twist, don't close them until you've finsihed the task. Does it look messy? Yes. Does it sometimes drain your battery? Yes. But those are all factors to motivate you to get it done sooner. When you finally finish everything and "x" out of the tab, you'll feel that "crossed-off the list" accomplishment. If you live for that feeling, then this strategy is for you. It's simple, but effective.

The age of the planner is over, folks. We are embracing technology and weird organization strategies from here on out.