How To Set Up An Academic Planner That Works

It’s that time of year again. We are about to begin our spring semesters. For some, you may have just come off of your first ever semester of college and figured out it’s harder than you thought. For others, this may just be another semester to you but you’re looking for a way to change your study habits (“new year, new me” am I right?). No matter what your situation, I figured this would be an excellent time to share with you my planner set up and show you how to make it work for you.

Choosing a Planner

I have a problem… I am a planner addict. There I said it! I love all of them and would use ten different ones at all times if that didn’t lead to total disorganized chaos. This made choosing a planner really difficult for me. I am currently using the Lilly Pulitzer Large 17-Month 2016-2017 Agenda in Ocean Jewel. You can find it and many like it on Amazon. I like this planner because it has a lot of room in the weekly view for me to write my important events for the day. I have also used a filofax, which was a good planner and highly customizable to suit anyone’s needs. I will likely begin using that planner again later on in life when it’s not as socially acceptable to use the fun and pretty ones my age group uses (because someday I have to transition from cute college girl to boss @$$ b**ch).

There are three different kinds of planners to choose between. Daily, weekly, and monthly. All three options really revolve around how specific you want to plan your life. Some find combinations of the three to work best for them. Here are some planners in each category to help you choose one (though I know it’s hard to choose just one)!

  • Daily: This planner works best for people with a lot of appointments each day or that work best by scheduling themselves down to the hour. A good daily planner I have found is the Day Designer. I love the set up of this planner and definitely was considering
    *I do not own this photo. It comes from the link above detailing the Day Designer Planner.*

    converting to it but simply can’t justify switching planners right now. It is super cute and has enough room for appointments, a to do list, the top three things to accomplish, notes, and a section for writing something your grateful for EACH DAY. I may just marry this planner (sorry to my boyfriend).

  • Weekly: A weekly planer is a good option as an academic planner because it has enough room to write what you need to do each day without planning your day by the hour. A popular brand I’m seeing now is Erin Condren Lifeplanners. They’re highly customizable and can be personalized to suit any person’s needs. You can design one on her website. A cheaper option you can get from Walmart or Amazon is the Blue Sky 2017 Weekly & Monthly Planner.
  • Monthly: A monthly planner is essentially a calendar you can carry with you. It offers only monthly spreads and no sections for planning your day specifically. For some people this option works because you can write due dates on it, but for others (me, myself and I) it proves to be too vague. Now that I have thrown in my disclaimer there, here is an option I’ve found on Amazon for you.

Setting It Up For Success

Ladies and Gents, this is where it gets personal. You must know yourself and how you work to know how your planner can best serve you. I have quite a few different options available on my Pinterest page on my “College Organization” board and here are some of my favorites that I personally utilize.

  • Color coding: I survive through my color coding. In my planner, each different part of my life gets its own color and I have a key in the front of my planner. This method makes it so I can just look at my day and see what I have to do in general. In an academic planner having a different color for assignments, exams, writing assignments, and quizzes is a must. Coming up with a color coding system BEFORE starting to use your planner is very important to do before syllabus week starts so that you know what you’re getting into ahead of time.
  • Sticky Notes: Sticky notes in your planner may seem redundant to some. “You want to put paper…on top of paper?” Lemme tell you the method to my madness here. Having a
    sticky note in your planner makes it so it is not as permanent. I write things like weekly readings,
    grocery lists, and to do lists on sticky notes so that when it’s done *poof* away goes the sticky. It makes the surface of my planner look cleaner and keeps me from becoming overwhelmed with the chaos that is my life.
  • Paper clips: This is a small thing but saves me a heck of a lot of time. I use a paper clip to keep track of what week I’m on in my planner so that whenever I open it, I just find the clip and open the page instead of searching for it. I could also use the band that comes attached to the planner, but I prefer to use this to keep the planner closed so that I do not crease any of the pages keeping my agenda in my bag.

Using Your Planner

The most important part of having your planner is knowing how to use it. Knowing what to write down and what not to so you do not descend into disorganized chaos. If you have a weekly planner I recommend writing down due dates, appointments, and other things you need to accomplish in you planner. Don’t write down specific times you will be trying to do things like you would in a daily planner or you will simply run out of room. I use my planner with the box method, which helps keep me on track. The box method is simply putting little boxes by everything you need to accomplish, and coloring it in when you are done. Just like a checklist, you get to keep track of everything you need to get done and see with a glimpse at the page what you have accomplished and what you still need to do.

Most planners come with a calendar at the beginning of each month. I recommend only writing on the monthly spread big events and due dates. Write down exams, essay due dates, and other things of that magnitude. If you start writing down when you must have your reading done for each class you may just trick yourself into thinking you are far more busy than you actually are, which could make you go crazy because you’ll have something written on each day.

I love planners and everything about them, but I’m going to wrap this up. If anybody has any further questions, anything to add, or even just wants to say hello leave a comment below!

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