Mind Yer Planners
by Abbie Morrice
image courtesy of Wisteria London
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it usually takes me weeks to pick a planner. Multiple visits to each stationery shop, pros and cons lists (sometimes mental, sometimes physical) and many evenings of contemplating. But this year I remembered that this wonderful thing called the internet exists and I could narrow it down to a few good planners and know which ones to pick up before I even got to the shop. This saved my partner days of me handing him planners and asking which one felt most
Yes, I’m writing a full guide on how to choose the best planner for students and how to use it effectively. Yes, this is something I care enough about to write a full guide on. You're the one reading it. (Please don’t stop reading, I’m sorry.)
So, you’ve come to uni. This might be your first year or your last year, but one thing is guaranteed: this year you will continue to learn how to organise yourself in the most effective way. We spend years being used to teachers forcing us to be organised in their way at school – and you may still have that lingering over you and be shockedthat, honestly, lecturers generally don’t care if you’re organised or not. Maybe you’ve already gotten used to the multitude of tasks we juggle as students. Maybe you think you already know everything you could be told in a guide written by one of those annoying stationery girls. Well, you’re wrong. (You’re probably not wrong.)
Anyway, here’s a guide no one asked for.
1. Length of Planner
OK, not, like, in centimetres. If you’re a student, don’t even think about buying a year planner that runs from January to December. Unless you have other life ventures that would require anything else, you need an academic year planner. These usually run from August to July. Some are 20-month planners so you can add in everything that exists around your academic year. They can be handy but are definitely not essential. Starting with August means you can write in things like when you can start to choose modules and tutorial slots before teaching starts. It also gives you time to make note of course books you might want to buy and, if you’re anything like me, make a list of all the essentials (-ish) that you need to get when SAAS hits so you don’t blow it all on Yo! Sushi Green Wednesdays and forget to get a new laptop.
2. Format of Planner
There are so many formats. So many planners. So little time. Page-a-day. Two days to a page. Day across two pages. Week-to-view. Week-to-view with notes. Fortnight-to-view. First of all, whichever one you go for, it HAS to have a monthly calendar at the start of each month. This is absolutely essential for marking pay days, bill days, big events and anything that occurs every month. You have to be able to glance at the whole month to get a quick idea of workload and finances before you delve into your weekly breakdowns.
My personal recommendation is to stick to week-to-view or week-to-view with notes.Week-to-view planners are ones that, when opened, have your week spread across two pages. Week-to-view with notes has your week on one page with a blank page next to it for notes. The latter is ideal for people who often have things they need to do that week that are likely to move days and thus need to be a bit flexible. For example, if your driving lessons are on a different day each week and you schedule them wherever they can be squeezed in, then a blank page with notes is likely to be better. You can then jot in a To-Do list on your blank page and assign it to each day as your week progresses.
If you have the same week almost every week – for example recurring meetings, music lessons and sport practice – and very little changes – like work shifts on a weekly rota – then week-to-view is the planner for you. Any more space means you can’t glance at your week and figure out when you’re free or start to plan the following week. Page-a-day, for example, is only necessary if you have more than ten tasks a day or need to write down details that go beyond location, time and activity. Also: don’t be fooled by style over substance. (OK I did buy a planner that came with red/blue 3D glasses this year but it is also very useful.) Lots of planners are beautiful and have more cheesy motivational quotes than you could ever need (I’m looking at you, Paperchase). But lots of these planners have tiny spaces for their days, no actual useful features and NO MONTHLY CALENDAR. Don’t be lured in by the cute avocado cartoon. Plain navy is sometimes best. Buy some stickers if you must.
3. Using your Planner
Some fabulous academic planners have timetable spaces where you can log your classes. I personally find it more helpful to write out your classes on your week-to-view for every week of the semester. This way, your glance at the week brings in the time you’re in class, too. Alternatively, write “Uni 10am-3pm” if you have lots of other notes for each day. Even once you remember exactly when you’re in class, it requires less energy to try and imagine your week than it is to basically be lazy and write everything out in front of you.
Deadlines are tricky, and if you’re using week-to-view, it can be easy to think deadlines are a few pages, and therefore a while, away. So, write in the due date of your essay, then work back every week and write “1 week til [X] essay”, “2 weeks til [X] essay... right back to the week you are currently on. This gives a calm reminder to be mindful about your coursework every week.
Finally, the most important reason to have a planner is to write literally everything down. I once read that trying to use only memory to plan your life is like trying to use a computer when a bunch of windows are open and none of them are saved (or something like that). Close the windows. Write it all down. People often think I’m hyper-organised because I have everything in my planner, but really, it’s because there is absolutely no way I would remember everything I have to do in a week without it all being written in the same place. Students who don’t have planners scare me. Who are you? How do you turn up to things on time? How do you remember things?