How I Made my Planner my Best Friend

For a long time, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with planners. It dates all the way back to third grade, when I was constantly irritated at having to get one of my parents to sign my assignment notebook, asserting I had written down and completed all my homework. It wasn’t like I wasn’t doing the work, I just never understood the need to write down every little thing if I could remember and do it without the extra step.

Flash forward to high school, and every new semester I found myself diligently attempting to keep my planner organized and updated. It was an endeavor that always failed after about two weeks. I tried everything- I would buy a more expensive planner, believing that the investment would ensure I would actually use it. When that didn’t work I tried to make a spreadsheet with all my classes and deadlines, but in reality I probably opened that document up once after making it. Like in my younger days, it wasn’t like I was a poor student or falling behind, I had just perfected the “check each class syllabus daily, keep things in your head, scramble when necessary” routine. And yet, I saw everyone around me using these nice, aesthetically pleasing planners and I wanted in.

When I came to college, I again tried my very best to keep a planner. But (no surprise here) it didn’t last more than a few weeks. I kept all the big dates for my classes in my head, and then just checked my daily homework when I got home from class. It worked, I did well my freshmen year, but I was still after a feeling of control- like I had my days mapped out and knew just what I needed to do to succeed. The first semester of my sophomore year occurred in a similar fashion. I bought a brand new planner at the beginning of the year, as well as one of those big, desktop monthly calendars. But a month into the year, my planner was sitting in the back of my desk drawer, almost entirely unused.

Second semester came around and I was once again determined to change. This time, though, by some miracle it seems to have worked! I now proudly sit down every Sunday and write in all my assignments and commitments for the week, color-coded by class and activity, of course. I think the key for me was not in keeping the planner itself, but in how I chose to fill it out. In the past, I had sat down at the beginning of the semester and tried to put in every homework assignment, test and paper for the next few months. This just ended up making everything seem so far off that I never went back into the planner to see what I needed to do. Now, I sit down once a week and outline just what I need to get through the next week or week and a half. This is a lot more manageable, and now I actually use my planner on a daily basis.

So, how has this shift changed my life? The biggest thing is that element of control. I feel so much more aware of what I need to do for my classes. I’m not scrambling on a Wednesday night because I didn’t do that assignment for Thursday morning. I also feel a lot calmer with my classes. I’m not as stressed wondering when I’ll have the time to fit things in, because I already have time blocked off in my planner. While no week will go as neatly and precisely as it appears to on my planner, having at least a tentative plan makes me feel more organized, confident and prepared heading into each week.

While it may have taken me a solid 11 years to buy into the whole planner idea, I’m oh-so-glad that I did. The lesson learned here is to adapt what isn’t working for you so it better suits your needs. Making the shift to a weekly planner was such a small change, but it was just what I needed. Maybe those big monthly calendars are right up your alley, or maybe a bullet journal is more your style. If you want to do something but it just isn’t working, keep making small adjustments until you find the system you need. I promise, finding the right method for you pays off in the end.