The planner. A powerful tool capable of opening the door to endless opportunities. A pillar from which all productivity flows.
It’s durable. It’s inexpensive. But most importantly, it’s damn useful.
College has a nasty habit of throwing a lot at you at once with no warning. Incoming! Here comes a 6-page paper on the French Revolution due next Monday! Quick, prepare yourself for the Economics test next Tuesday. Don’t drop your guard! Get ready for that Statistics test next Thursday! Don’t forget about that Intramural soccer game tonight at 8 pm! It’s the championship! Also, your organization is throwing a mandatory service event this Saturday! Everyone’s counting on you! By the way, you work 6-8 pm from Friday until Sunday! Don’t be late again!
Anyone would consider such a frantic schedule overwhelming at times. But this can be the reality of college. And I didn’t even mention setting aside time to study, socialize, and relax—collectively, a nearly impossible endeavor.
This is where the planner comes in!! The purpose of the planner is to keep you organized and on track. In other words, to keep you focused.
Initially, you might believe you can memorize all of those events (and I don’t doubt some of you can) but remembering and organizing are two totally different things.
The key is being able to devote a certain amount of time to different tasks based on their priority and importance—some call this budgeting your time.
From personal experience, I can say that a planner is a definite game changer. My early college life was full of absent-mindedness. I’d easily lose track of time watching TV or playing video games. Before you’d know it, an entire day would vanish. I’d be stuck pulling an all-nighter, trying to knock out a 7-page paper that I’d remember was due the next morning. Needless to say, it sucked.
But, like a veil being pulled to reveal a priceless treasure, once I had a planner my day was clearer. It was as though I’d been bestowed with a superpower. I’d study with more intent. Outlining and knocking out papers became a breeze. The best part: I’d still have plenty of time to spend with friends. Efficiency became a part of my life.
I no longer had to live my life as a zombie.
Simply using the planner became a keystone habit—a habit that leads to other positive habits. I found myself becoming exponentially more productive, more satisfied (since I accomplished more during the day), and far less stressed which consequently meant that I was happier! Like I said earlier, the planner was a game changer!
Now, realistically, I will say that competently using a planner requires some diligence and discipline. I’m still trying to find increasingly adequate ways to use my planner to distribute my time and I’ve been using it for more than two years now.
I’ve witnessed many people solely write what they need to do or what events are coming up. There’s no attention to organization. Rather, the tasks are merely…there. While simply writing the task is suitable for identifying the end goal, the time required to get the task done and it’s components are still a mystery.
The duration and its components—the execution by extension—are the most important things to know. Without them, you have a goal in mind but no plan. Be sure to set times to start and end each task. This is crucial!
Get into the habit of dissecting a task into its pieces and determining how long each piece will take to complete. Once you understand this, you’ll be able to foresee how much time you’ll be required to invest in a given task. Prioritize tasks and complete them first! Once that’s complete, any secondary tasks (projects or assignments that may not be extremely important) can be filled into the gaps.
Don’t forget to schedule break times too! You wouldn’t want to burn out and fall into a slump of unproductiveness.
But I don’t want to spend 6-12 dollars on a planner, I’m a broke college student, I hear you exclaiming.
And my response to you is that you don’t actually have to spend any money!
While old timers like myself prefer to use pen and paper (it helps me memorize and analyze specific information in my head), some are more akin to using their phones.
Apps like Wunderlist, Evernote, and even Google Docs are fully capable of getting the job done. They’re efficient, user-friendly, and (let me reiterate this) IT’S FREE!
Perhaps by now I’ve persuaded you to at least give the planner a try. I’ll be honest, when I first attempted to use a planner it sucked. It can be a hassle to get into the habit of scheduling your time. And honestly, this won’t work for everyone. Some people can be productive by just doing tasks as they think of them. For those of you that can do that, excellent! However, if you find yourself procrastinating constantly or just wasting time, give the planners shot for a week or 2 and see how it goes.
Hopefully, this advice serves you well! If you have any experience using a planner or questions, let me know in the comments. And as usual, thanks for reading!