Image from Negative Space

Image from Negative Space

In high school, every single day had the same routine: school from 8am-3pm, soccer practice from 3:30pm -5:30pm, then home to do homework and relax for the rest of the night. Your school probably gave all the students the same planner, where they would write down daily homework and underline the occasional test (or, in reality, not use the planner for its intended purpose at all and just doodle in the margins).

College is a whole new ball game; not only does every single day have a different class schedule, but you might have to keep track of your job, internship, clubs, social events, etc. If you can keep this all in your head, I bow down to you, but for us regular humans, we may need an assistant or two to keep our day-to-day in check. As a self-proclaimed planner addict, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned to optimizing your paper planner experience.

1. Double-duty!

Typically, people will write their schedules or to-do lists in their planner. If your planner has any blank space in the back, or if you buy a customizable planner with extra add-ons (such as a Filofax), you can do so much more. Use that space as a meal planner, workout tracker, mini-journal, wishlist, contacts list, online accounts and passwords tracker, a cleaning schedule, and more! You can cut down the bulk of carrying around multiple notebooks and put it all in your planner.

2. Schedule WAY in advance!

For those super-spaced out appointments and to-dos, schedule them way in advance in your planner! For example, I went through my entire planner and wrote “Clean makeup brushes!” every 2 weeks. Whether it’s reminding yourself every few months to change your car’s oil or go to the doctor’s office, schedule in those long-term to-dos well in advance. Not only will it keep you on track for the future, but you’ll stop worrying about the past and wondering “Oh yeah, how long has it been since I went for a check-up?”

3. Divide up your projects

If you’re sans-planner and just write your daily to-do lists on little notepads, props to you! I tried that method for a while, but felt procrastination was much too easy. When I have a planner and see my entire month ahead of time, deadlines seem more tangible and much more important. If I had a project due in 4 weeks, I’d divide up the steps and assign it for each week. For example, on Week 1, I’d write “Research _______”, on Week 2 “Write Introduction”, etc. Writing out all the project’s steps well ahead in advance may help combat procrastination, since you’ll be much less likely to say “Ehh, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Cross off your entire to-do list!

4. Plan the night before

Ever stayed up at night, tossing and turning, worrying about the next day and feeling the pressure sink in? I’ve found that writing out my daily to-do lists the night before has helped ease my worries and keep a clear mind. The next morning, one of the first things I look at is my to-do list. Then I start the day with a clear schedule, clear goals, and clear thinking!

5. Color-Code everything!

If you’re a visual learner, color-coding will help SO. MUCH. You may already color-code your notebooks and folders, but color-coding can also help your planning. A quick glance at the monthly spread and you can see how much time you’re dedicating to one area, when you’re free, etc. From your pens, highlighters, post-its, and washi tape, go crazy! Take a few minutes before the semester starts to delegate a color to each sector of your life: maybe a different color for every class (or one for academics in general), one for work, one for social events, one for club meetings, and much more. If you’re not the most creative person in the world, just start with a few colored pens and see where that takes you.

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