The Most Essential Back to School Item: Your Planner

Neglect an agenda at your own peril.
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Rhonda - Binghamton University
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Neglect an agenda at your own peril.

I would be lost without my planner. It's something I use every day and it's my most important tool for tackling the new semester. 

Many college students use planners, but in my opinion, they don't use them religiously enough, only writing in them occasionally or only scheduling things on their phone. Using your tech can be great to make sure you don't forget important reminders, but I find that writing things down, and writing them down daily, makes a huge difference in my personal productivity and memory.

What kind of planner do you need?

There are all kinds of planners you can use, but it's important to find one that suits YOU the best going into the new year. 

Do you like planners with different sections, full-length lines for to-do lists, or blank pages in the back for notes? Buy one that has those things. 

It's also worth spending a few extra dollars for a planner that appeals to you aesthetically - you will want to use it if you love how it looks. Personally, I love to get plain-looking planners, that way I can style them how I prefer. 

Small planner budget? Get creative!

You also don't have to just buy a planner at a store. (We know they can get pretty expensive!) Here are some ideas for inexpensive and/or non-traditional planners:

  • Use that plain old notebook. It has that "back to school" feeling to it. You can add a cover any way you want and customize the pages to your liking. Decorate your notebook, use different fonts, paste in memorabilia from the week, the list goes on and on.
  • Print your own. Do a search on Etsy and you'll find there are printouts for all types of calendars and planners you can use. Like to hang stuff up on your bulletin board? Print some sheets out and write up your homework or this week's assignments. Or you can grab a binder and pop in your printed inserts for a custom option.
  • A converted diary or journal. Have a pretty diary or journal you got as a gift? You can totally use it as your planner. 
  • Free planner from your school. My school was giving these out at our club fair, but not all schools do this. Try to find out if your school gives out free planners because if that's an option, why not take advantage? If you don't like the look, you can usually collage or paste pictures over the outside covers.

What should you include in your planner?

Planners can make you the best friend/child/significant other on the planet. You don't have to keep tons of dates in your head, because you can write them all down. 

A few examples: Write down birthdays and parents' anniversaries to keep up with dates from back home. Add exam dates, project deadlines, and student group meets/events, etc. And as soon as you decide you may want to go to something on campus, write it down! 

Also, we repeat this advice all the time on CF, but as soon as you get your syllabi for various classes, you have something to do: write down ALL of the exams and ALL of the project/assignment/homework deadlines. You will be so happy you did this.

Here's my master list of things you should put into your planner:

  • Home-related events. (Parents' anniversary, friend's birthday, brother's school concert)
  • School-related events. (Exam dates, project deadlines, club meetings)
  • Your study schedule. (See how to keep a schedule, then just do this in your planner.)
  • Schedules for your hobbies and down time. (Play piano for 30 minutes, read that book you just checked out, take time to watch that Netflix documentary)
  • Health priorities. (Schedules for exercise, meal planning, doctor's appointments)

How should you decorate your planner?

It's all up to you! We've done a whole post on this type of thing here before, but in case you need other ideas, here are some items that will help you pretty-fy your planner:

  • Different colored pens
  • Stickers
  • Post it Notes
  • Customizable flags
  • Special colors of paper (great if you have a Filofax or binder-type planner)
  • Glue and glitter or GLITTER GLUE (you say 4th grade, we say right now)

What are some other uses for a planner?

A planner doesn't have to be reserved solely for scheduling and, well, planning. If you want to get even more creative, there are so many possible uses for one. Here are a few ideas:

  • Turn your planner into an art journal à la the above after each week. (Here's a great Pinterest board with a zillion ideas.)
  • Add newspaper clippings/magazine pictures that inspire you.
  • Tape items from the week into your planner (Ex: Receipts, printouts of your Instagram photos, stickers from a club on campus)
  • Have friends write notes in it - these will keep you happy and inspired when planning!
  • Include a daily/monthly budget if you prefer to track your money with pencil and paper.
  • Include a log for your daily health, with your exercise and eating habits.

How do you use your planner?

Today I wanted to share some advice to inspire you to think outside the box with your agenda. I hope I've inspired you to grab a planner and use it to its fullest potential.

Now I want to hear from you. How do you plan? Do you use your planner in any unconventional ways? Do you have any photos you can share of your planner? Spill in the comments!