How to Organize and Most Effectively Use Your School Planner

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I’ve had a day planner/agenda since at least the fifth grade, when I started at my private arts school and an agenda was provided for each student every year.  Each year, I would start using my planner, and each year, by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, you could bet I was not using my agenda anymore.  I was fairly good at keeping track of things back then, when it was just a matter of remembering what math pages were assigned for that night, but by the time I was in high school and university, you can bet that an agenda was pretty necessary.  The more long-term assignment you have, or heck, just the more assignments in general, the more vital it is to have a system to keep track of them.

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Here is the system I use, after many years of development, and the system I’m going to try and teach my future students and children to keep them organized.  It may have to be altered for younger children (I keep ya updated in the next few years!), as this is how it looks for my university life.  In university there is so much you need to keep track of – readings, assignments, labs, presentations, essays, midterms, exams – that it is key to have a way of effectively and efficiently organizing yourself.

It’s pretty easy to do:

Step 1: Class Schedule. I like to write my class schedule in the first week, along with room numbers, so that I can easily pull it out to check on where I’m supposed to be heading next. I find it’s easier than carrying the print-out copy the school gives me, because single sheets of paper are easily lost (and not safe in my super full bag!).

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Step 2: Colour Code.  Oh gosh, colour coding.  Probably one of my favourite things.  I use different systems every year, mostly because I always seem to lose my coloured pens over the summer and have to buy new ones (ugh).  Last year, black was for basic scheduling, green was for holidays and events, purple was for personal things, blue was for tasks on my to-do list, and pink was for due dates.  I have way more colours this year.

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As you can see, some things never change.  I am used to black being scheduling and blue being “to do.”  I switched “due dates” to red, because it was a bolder colour than the pink I have and would draw more attention, which is exactly what you need for these important dates.  However, now I was able to also have orange to cover tests and exams, which will be a nice differentiation.

You could also colour code so that each colour represents a different type of task.  For example, you could have one colour for readings, one colour for essays, one colour for presentations, and so forth.  In my opinion, homework is homework is homework and therefore doesn’t need colour differentiation, but maybe you feel differently.  It’s your planner, if you didn’t want to colour code at all, that ain’t none of my business.

Step 3: Input Course Work.  I’m a giant nerd, and this is actually one of my favourite things.  After I have my first classes, I take the syllabus from each course and input all of the readings, due dates, and exam dates into your agenda.  For readings, if the syllabus lists it for a lecture in one week, I put it in my planner for the week before.  The idea is that, this way, I’ll have the reading done by the time the lecture rolls around.  In practice, that didn’t always happen – anything that had to be handed in took greater precedence than a reading that I could pretend to have read (sorry profs, I faked my way through SO many lectures and seminars!).  But at least all the readings were organized by week for when I went to play catch-up.  Assignments and exams would have a big reminder in a bright colour on the actual due date, but then also one AND two weeks ahead I would give myself reminders (just in blue, no reason for early panic).

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Step 4: Input Teacher/Professor Information.  Most planners have a little “contacts” section in the back, presumably just a little address book that you can keep track of your friends’ and fellow classmates’ info.  Since I have a Facebook and cell phone for that, I use this section to keep track of my professors.

(All names have been blacked out to protect the innocent.)

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Here is my professor list from last year. (I organized them so music profs were on the left and English profs were on the right.)  Based on the info they provided on the course syllabus and whatever I could find on the various department websites, I tried to fill in each prof’s office hours (including the room number of their office), their email address, and their phone extension.  That way, if I was up around campus and didn’t have my syllabus with me, I at least had the most important info to try and get ahold of them.

Step 5: Keep up-to-date and stay on track.  The enormous satisfaction you receive when you can cross off a task in your agenda is so great.  And when I fall behind on something, which hopefully was only my reading and not something with a firm deadline, I go back and highlight it in yellow.  That draws extra attention to it, so that when I flip past it, I go “oh yeah, right, I still need to do my such-and-such reading.”

Organize Your School Planner with, a great back-to-school article

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