How I Plan Effectively with School and Work

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I’ll be the first to admit it (say it with me if you’re honest) time management is NOT my strong suit. I am definitely the type of person who works best under pressure, and I feel most creative in the wee hours of the morning, but excuses like that don’t work when it comes to a tight client or university deadline. But get this: adopting the habit of using a monthly planner has absolutely changed the game for me and my procrastinatory tendencies. Here’s a quick rundown of my method of effectively using a planner and how I plan around work, clients, and undergraduate coursework. 

My first and most important tip is to get an undated planner. As a creative writer, the number of tasks I have in a month depends solely on how much content the clients are relying on us to create. Some months are slower than others, and some months I’m working so much I feel like I don’t even have enough time to be stressed. In those slower months, I tend to stray away from planning, as I don’t need it to keep me on track. However, with that method some months will go completely unused; a huge waste of paper, and all the money you dropped on that planner. My personal favorite is the undated Passion Planner. They run at around $30, and you get the same blank monthly spread that you get to fill out and totally customize. It even gives you spaces to list out your biggest priorities, and your goals, both in and out of the office. After each monthly spread comes weekly spreads, which I like to use for breaking down larger projects into more manageable, less overwhelming chunks. Undated planners also work best for academics because you can skip over summer months without any wasted pages. 

My second tip, and the trick that absolutely changed my planning game, is to assign every client a specific color. Because I am also planning around school, I gave each of my classes a unique color and had one color for “work” as a whole. This helps save space in the tiny squares you get for each day of the month. Instead of writing out the name of the class and assignment (or the client and task), you can simply write the assignment or task name. I keep a small key in the top corner of the planner, so if I forget what a color means I can refer to it at any time. This also allows me some creativity when creating my spread for each month, which makes me more motivated to plan, and more likely to go back and look at my planner more often throughout the month. 

My final tip is to plan ahead! Take advantage of the materials you are given. If your syllabus includes due dates for the entire semester, take a day to write them all down! If your team at work uses an app or website for your due dates (we use Asana) then go through it and find your priorities for the month. This will allow you to use your time more efficiently and acknowledge any big projects that will require more of your time. I’ve found that if I am more aware of what I have coming up in that month, then my workload is less likely to overwhelm me or cause anxiety. If you have any dates that are indeterminate or subject to change, write them on a mini post-it note and just move it around as needed! A few post-its are a small sacrifice for being better prepared and ready for your month’s workload. 

Planning around a full 18 credit course load and a full-time marketing job is no easy feat, and sometimes I’m surprised that I am able to do it, but since taking up planning and finding ways to better suit it to my needs, my whole life has become immeasurably easier. If you find yourself struggling with a busy schedule or an overwhelming workload, try out planning! Undated planners make planning feel like a choice, not a requirement, and all the bright colors will have you looking forward to creating your next month’s spread. Try it out and see if it works for you! 

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