The Plan Fan: My Organizational Systems

Hello! As I head into a new semester of graduate school this week, it’s the perfect time to share how I keep my life organized with my favorite tools.

My strategy is pretty much “have all organizing methods available at all times, and use whichever method is currently most helpful.” I have a digital task app, a physical planner, the Outlook app, a dry-erase board, and plenty of Post-It notes! I don’t use every method simultaneously, but each has a specific use.

Let me start with my planner. I’ve always been obsessed with the pretty planners that Target sells every August and January. But I can’t say I’ve been consistent and used any planner for a whole semester. I don’t even want to calculate how much I’ve spent on half-used planners. 😳 I had a Panda Planner for a while, and I appreciated the undated method. But the Panda Planner has so much happening on every page, and I only used two sections consistently.

I recently found the TUL planner at Office Depot and it’s genuinely a game changer. I’ve had it for a little over a month and I love it. It does cost $50, but it can be reused from year to year, so it’s a longer-term system.

The unique binding and specific hole punches mean I can add and remove pages easily, and NOTHING has a date on it. Not even the months. I can put it down for a month and waste no space at all!

I made this spread on Monday night, to get a grasp on my Tuesday. I’m a big fan of color coding.
This one is a few weeks old, and shows how I fully utilize the TUL templates.

Another option is to fill out an online template and print it, as the example below shows. I like that this one is more colorful and a bigger page size, with room to add more info, but continually printing online templates seems like an excessive use of paper and printer ink. I also generally prefer bound and contained papers to loose floating papers. I only do this when I have easier access to my iPad than my physical tools.

A third option for big-picture task lists is Microsoft To-Do. I tried a few different task list apps in college, and this one works best for me. I love that I can set and adjust due dates and reminders, along with categorizing tasks in specific lists.

This is a snapshot of all of my assignments for one class this semester. On the left are all of my lists representing various categories

These systems help me keep track of all my work and stay ahead of the game, but they’re still flexible. If I need a rest day or an unexpected plan comes up, I can prioritize what truly matters. I’m excited to use all my systems to ace another semester of grad school!

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