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Friday, October 21, 2011

Advice By the Students, For the Students:

Keep a Planner to Stay Organized and on Task

A common theme in the advice given by OU students in Bobcat Connections is to work on staying organized with a planner or to-do list of some sort. Caitlin, Katelyn, Riley, and Laura each discussed the importance of having a planner in college, and for a good reason.

Having a carefully laid out day planner helps to optimize time management and contributes to getting more done in a day. It can also be rewarding to cross off items you have completed – giving you a visual representation of your accomplishments.

This post discusses 10 tips to using a daily planner to stay on track.

1) Decide on Technology or Pen & Paper. 
Technology is great, but it’s not the best choice for everyone’s time management needs. So first decide if you are more of a techie or a pen & paper type, or play around with both.
  • Digital: There are many digital planners and calendars out there (for both computers and smartphones), so you should search around for one that fits your needs. I personally use Evernote and Google Calendar (look for future post on how to use these to stay organized and on track).
  • Pen & Paper: Take your time when choosing a pocket planner. Make sure you have adequate space for entries to handle your agenda, but which also fits inside a special pocket or pouch in your book bag. You might also consider avoiding planners with locks or zippers that can annoy you when you need to quickly add something to it.

2) Name your Planner
This might seem silly, but you’re less likely to neglect something with a name and strong identity. Naming an object gives it a more significant presence in your life. Call it something sentimental or relate it to an inside joke or some quirky interest of yours. Write the name on the cover, or if you want to keep it private, on the inside of the jacket.

3) Make it part of your daily routine
Carry your planner with you at all times and remember to check it every morning and evening. Treat it like your cell phone or watch – something you habitually check and use, you should feel naked without it.

4) Update assignment due dates the second you learn them. 
You should get in the habit of writing in your planner while you’re still in the classroom, in a meeting, or on the phone. Don’t think about doing it later, do it NOW.

5) Keep your entries SHORT. 
This allows you to fit more into the space you have. Further, you don’t need to write a book on what to do. Work on keeping it to a few words or sentence length at most.

6) Provide important details in your entries
Write just enough to get the point across and help you complete the task, such as including a name and phone number if you have to call someone, an address or place you need to go to, the type or purpose of an appointment, or the class an assignment is due for. This makes your future work much easier, and you’ll be less likely to avoid completing it if you already have a number or address listed so you don’t have to look it up later.

7) Use backward planning and reminders
If you need time to complete a task, give yourself reminders a week ahead of time. So if an assignment is due in one month, break it up into specific tasks and tell yourself to finish each one by a certain date, with a reminder of when it is due.

Use some inexpensive colored supplies to help you differentiate between importance or type of task to finish. You can use small sticky-note flags, highlighters, or different colored pens. You also might consider a different color for each class, or different colors for projects, homework, quizzes, and exams. (See link for more tips.)

9) Put everything in your planner. 
Everything you do takes up time that you can’t put towards work or school. It doesn’t matter if it’s a date with your significant other or friends, a game, class, or practice. If you don’t add these to your planner, you might not realize how limited your homework time really is, which can lead to procrastination and cramming through all-nighters.

10) Don’t discard old pages. 
Just as you should keep all your old assignments and papers, you should also keep all your old information in your planner. Old phone numbers, reading assignments, what date you met with someone, these are all things you may need to remember later on.

Do you have any tips of your own, a favorite digital calendar or to-do program or application, or a favorite paper planner? Share some of your advice or experiences in the comments below.