10 Tips for Planner Success: Time Management, Staying Organized and Scheduling
Back to school is one of my favorite times of the year and always has been. There's just something SO exciting about a whole year ahead of you full of new memories, adventures, relationships, classes and experiences. Oh, and a new planner always helps. ;) But for real, I think new school supplies was always my very favorite part of back to school. I know what you're thinking, but what about shoes?! Yes, new shoes are way fun, but a new planner is like way WAY fun. Call me weird, I won't be offended. ;)
This year I took the leap, dropped some cash, and bought the Emily Ley Simplified Planner. And let me tell you- I've never been happier to spend an unexpected 50 dollars (when it showed up on my doorstep I think I shed a little tear of happiness). YES I know that's pricey for a planner, but this isn't just any planner.
When I showed it to my mom she literally said, "wow, if you ever designed a planner this is EXACTLY what I would imagine." And it's SO true. Not only is it beautiful, but it gives the most room for each day I have ever seen. It dedicates a full page to each day with an hour-by-hour schedule (from 6AM to 9PM), a place for a to-do list, a box to meal plan and extra room for other notes. Each page also has a cute, inspirational quote or Bible verse and the front has a nifty pocket which is perfect for storing important papers like sticky notes, receipts, or anything else. Along with daily pages it also has full month views (months are also separated by tabs, making it easy to navigate), which really helps me see my month at a quick glance, so I know when to schedule meetings, hangouts, etc.
AKA this planner IS FREAKING AMAZING.
I've always been someone who uses her planner religiously. I take it everywhere, I schedule everything and I check it frequently to make sure I'm not behind or have anything big coming up that I should prep for (even if just mentally). Honestly, I feel a little lost without it. Some people may argue that this isn't a good thing, but I say, so be it! If a planner helps keep me sane and gives me a sense of peace then I will continue carrying my planner around with me like it's a third arm.
I've had some friends ask how I stay so organized and on top of things even when I'm super busy and my answer is, well if you couldn't guess, my planner. But not just simply writing in my planner, but organizing it in such a way that it makes it easy and effective to utilize well. Today I'm sharing my 10 tricks for planner success (which leads to overall life success). :)
Find a planner that works for you: For me, I need a planner with A LOT of room for each day because I have a ton going on. I hate when everything gets crammed and messy.
Find a system that works for you: I write every "activity" or "event" I have to do (workouts, class, work, sorority commitments, Young Life and meetings) in the hour-by-hour section, and write every task or "thing" I have to do (homework assignments, social media posts for my sorority, household chores, grocery shopping, emails, etc.) in the to-do section. I use the extra notes box for blog related tasks so it's separate from everything else and I never get behind!
Color code: I color code based on whether it's workout, class, work, Young Life, Alpha Phi, or blog related. I just put a little dot (I personally don't like writing the whole thing in color because it gets a little hectic) next to the event or task in that color so I can easily see what's coming up without really knowing the exact details.
Schedule in everything (big and small): This is hugely important. I used to simply write the big things in my planner because I thought I would remember the little tasks like replying to a certain email or making an appointment with my advisor. That so wasn't the case. I started forgetting the little stuff because I was only reminded of the big things when I looked in my planner! Now I write everything which ensures it all gets done, no matter how small it may seem. And YES this goes for workouts. Scheduling in your workouts makes you treat it more like a commitment like you would any class or meeting. Make your health a priority.
Carry it with you: Sorority meetings, doctor appointments, work, class... you name it and I'll probably have my planner with me. Whenever I don't bring it and people throw dates at me I tell myself "oh I'll remember to write that in later." Do I? 80% of the time no. And then I forget and it gets weird when I don't show up somewhere I'm supposed to be. Carrying it with you ensures you don't double book your schedule or forget to write in something important.
Add in to-do lists: I've already mentioned that I have a separate area for to-do lists and it's honestly so helpful. My old agenda didn't have very much room for extra lists so I'd just write to-do lists on random sticky notes, which would typically get lost or forgotten about. Having your to-do list right next to your daily schedule helps you truly see everything you have to do (rather than just the places you have to go). Writing down the small stuff applies here too! I know I love getting to check things off my to-do list because it helps me feel productive, even if the task seems silly.
Keep it tidy: I used to write in pen in my agenda and it would annoy me to no end when I'd have to cross something out. I got smart and write in pencil now so I don't have to deal with anymore pesky scribbles (ew). Keeping my planner clutter free makes me less stressed when I'm staring at the (seemingly) billion things I have to do each day.
Meal plan: The "dinner" section on each day's page is one of my favorite parts of this planner! Now that I'm in an apartment and have a kitchen (THANK THE LORD) I'm going to try and meal plan on Sundays so I can prepare accordingly and only get what I really need at the store. My mom meal plans each week, so I got used to it this summer. It's nice being able to plan out actual fun meals rather than always just trying to piece together whatever's in my fridge.
Check it often: Writing stuff in your planner is only helpful if you make sure to look at it! There would be days this summer that I would be like "hm I feel like I have something today," forget to look at my planner and then miss an appointment, simply because I was out of the habit of checking it. I like to look ahead to the next day or even week to prepare myself and make sure I don't have anything I need to start working on.
Write down your goals: I like to write down longer term goals in my planner so I can keep myself accountable and incorporate tasks into my daily schedule that helps me reach those goals. One of my goals? Work on my flexibility again! I used to be WAY flexible from dancing, but have neglected stretching for awhile now. Having that goal in my planner helps me remember to add in stretching before bed to my daily schedule.
"Outer order contributes to inner calm." You may think I'm crazy for being so particular and methodical when it comes to my planner, but having my life organized on paper truly helps me feel a sense of peace and helps me deal with stress so much better than I used to. Give the OCD planner life a try and I promise you'll find yourself being more productive, less scatter brained and more successful this school year. ;)