It’s a tale as old as time: your new planner arrives in the mail in July and you start filling it out immediately. This year, your plan is to never miss a homework assignment or forget about a meeting. Then Fall Break rolls around and you realize you’ve barely touched your once beloved planner in over a week. Finding the planner tricks that work for you takes time, but once you start using relying on your planner, you’ll never go back to forgetting essays and running late to interviews again.

Step One: Pick your poison

Choosing a planner is one of the most difficult parts of beginning to use a planner.

There’s Lilly Pulitzer, Kate Spade, Erin Condren, and shelves and shelves of planners from Office Max and Target. To help you make your selection, narrow down the things that are most important to you in a planner.

For me it’s:

  • That the planner is big (I have big handwriting and a busy schedule)

  • That the days of the week are all blank, rather than divided into sections like “work” and “school”

  • That there’s a spot for to make travel plans

  • That it’s something fun and bright

Once you’ve decided what you’re looking for in a planner, start shopping around.

This year, I purchased the Lilly Pulitzer jumbo agenda in “Beach Please”.

RELATED READ: 7 Planners To Use This Fall (That Aren’t Totally Basic)

Step Two: Examine your planner

Figure out all the parts that your planner includes and how you intend to use them.

My planner includes:

  • A front pocket

  • Two sheets of stickers

  • Year overview (2018, 2019 and 2020)

  • “Days to Celebrate”

  • An address book

  • “Escape Plans” travel itinerary

  • Notes

  • Monthly overviews

  • Weeks

I use the front pocket of my planner to carry my schedule for the semester, I list all of my friends and families birthdays and anniversaries out in the “Days to Celebrate” section, list phone numbers and addresses in the address book, I use the “escape plans” section throughout the year to plan trips and vacations. I use the monthly overviews to list out the most important things going on that month and I use the weekly sections for more detailed notes on everything I have going on. Lastly, I save the notes section for when I have complicated homework or schoolwork instructions, or I need to write down a professor’s office hours or a URL or email address I’ve been given.

These are just ideas. You can use as much or little of your planner as you would like and it’s okay if you decide to leave some sections blank.

Step Three: Utilize color

Color coding is critical to staying organized, but no two people color code alike. Some people use a different color for every single activity and every class. Others stick to mostly black and red. Some people use just colored pens, while others incorporate highlighters.

Using a notebook, list out all of the things that you’ll have to keep track of on a regular basis. For me this is:

  • School

  • Sorority

  • Pro-Life Club

  • Conservative Club

  • Church

  • Campus activities, like football games

Step Four: Transfer information

Next, you’ll need to grab your planner from the past year and a notebook. List in the notebook everything that you would like to transfer over from your previous planner. Generally this is things that don’t change, like birthdays, anniversaries, phone numbers and addresses, and dates that you wrote for next year in your old planner. The reason you should transfer them to a notebook first rather than directly into your planner is so that you don’t have to scratch as many things out if you make a mistake.

Once you’ve transferred everything to your notebook, go through and mark them with your new color coding system so that you don’t forget to write them in their respective colors when you move them into your new planner.

Step Five: Set up your planner!

Now that you have everything laid out that you’d like to move into your new planner, go for it! Once your planner is set up you’ll be able to find all the information you need with ease, to make your year great.

A few things to keep in mind to ensure you’re using your planner:

  1. Keep your planner in your school bag. Pull it out at the beginning of every class, when you’re getting out the rest of your materials for class. If you have it out on your desk, it will be an active reminder to write all your assignments down

  2. Bring your planner with you to club and staff meetings. Have it nearby when you’re interviewing so you can reference it at a moment’s notice

  3. If you need to, set an alarm on your phone for the first few weeks, reminding you to check everything in your planner. Once you’re in the habit of checking it daily, you won’t need it anymore.

  4. Once you’re in the habit of using your planner, you will start to find ways to make it functional and personal to you. I like to use abbreviations to make my notes easy to understand and stickers to liven up my days.

Georgia G