As both the new year and new semester begin, students everywhere are looking for ways to stay more organized. For me, college meant that I had to adapt to a whole new way of life. My parents taught me how to be independent, and I went to a college prep school, but organization has always eluded me. Without the routine that high school provided, managing my own time and schedule quickly became my downfall.
Thankfully, as I took on more responsibilities and joined more organizations, I started to get the hang of it.
Staying organized can be difficult for a multitude of reasons. People with ADHD suffer from “time blindness,” which means they easily lose track of time and often misjudge how long a certain task will take them. Some people, like new college freshmen, are simply unused to having to manage their own schedules. In high school, if someone made plans with me, it was easy to remember them without writing it down because I didn’t have much else going on. Now, I actively have to write it down so that I don’t forget it.
“Let me check my schedule,” is something I find myself saying often to those trying to make plans with me, and it makes me feel so pretentious. But having a schedule is important, especially if you’re trying to balance a social life, a college career and any extra-curricular activities, like clubs or sports. You don’t want to miss an appointment that you’ve had scheduled for six months because you forgot about it, only to have to wait another six months for the next one.
There are many different types of planner options. Those who are more creative might prefer the bullet journal method, which is a completely customizable way of keeping a schedule. A bullet journal is a blank journal (usually with dotted pages) that you fill in yourself. Those who keep a bullet journal like to create monthly calendars along with weekly spreads to be able to see a more detailed version of their schedule. Bullet journaling also allows you to have pages filled with whatever else you want, such as grocery lists or doodling.
I tried the bullet journaling method myself, but I didn’t have the time or energy to draw the pretty spreads like all of the YouTubers do. The good news is that you can do a very minimal spread if you want. Those who are less artistic might enjoy the premade bullet journals, such as the one sold by Amanda Rach Lee, which have spreads made in black in white already. You can color them in or leave them blank and simply write in your own information.
If you’re always on your phone, tablet or computer, then planner apps might be the way to go for you. The one I have experience with is Google Calendars, but there are plenty of apps that exist to help you keep your schedule in check. Some apps are similar to games and give you small rewards for completing tasks on your to-do lists, such as new clothes for your avatar.
The benefits of a digital planner are that you don’t have to worry about carrying around a notebook to quickly check or add to your schedule, and they’ll also notify you of upcoming events in advance to remind you, which is helpful for people like me who always forget to check their schedule for the day when they wake up.
Finally, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette does still provide physical planners. They can usually be found distributed in the hallways of the Union at the beginning of each semester, and they’re the standard planners that you probably think of when you imagine one. Those are good because they’re free, and they offer some of the same benefits as the aforementioned bullet journals. Physical planners, along with bullet journals, are good to carry around if they’re not too big. Most people check them every morning before they start the day, which allows them to have a good grasp on what they need to accomplish.
I find it difficult to stick to one option, so I use a combination of all of them. I have a premade bullet journal that’s good for long term plans and being able to see my whole schedule at a glance, but I also use Google Calendars to give me reminders about appointments and things on my to-do list. I like to write out physical lists as well and place them somewhere on my desk to ensure I see them. I’m also guilty of writing things down on my hand, which is a habit that I picked up in high school.
Whatever method you choose, there are ways to adjust it to make it fit your needs better. I advise playing around with a few of them and seeing which one sticks. Ask your friends and family which methods they use, and see what pros and cons they have to offer about it. Once you have a method chosen and implemented, you’re all set to get rolling and rock this semester.