Productivity 101: how I use my academic planner

I remember the old school days in Pakistan when our course book and notebook sets would include a ‘diary’. It was to remember assignments, dates and deadlines. If only they came in pretty pink paisleys or funky geo prints – they didn’t, thanks to school logos. So, as soon as my school didn’t ask me to buy them I stopped having any kind of a planner.

Fast forward to 2015: I am a university student and forgetting things is a more expensive option than school now. I get one of those cute leather-bound agendas from Marshall’s and rest is history. Its been 3 successful years of keeping some sort of record of what I have to do and what I have done.

Don’t get confused, this is different from journaling, which I talked about in a recent post.

A planner is to keep a track of important events, tasks and deliverables associated to specific dates. It’s October 10 today when I am drafting this post, and today’s agenda had writing drafts as a task – it was in my Kate Spade floral planner!


What goes in the planner? 

Dates are an important part of student life. I have classes on some days, work on some and social events on others. How do I keep track of all? My planner is where I consolidate important dates across the month and year from various places – events posted on Facebook that I am interested in, or that my friends invite me to, recurring deadlines and such.

You can see below in the picture that my monthly spread is a broad overview of specific days I have important stuff scheduled. This is from birthdays to events at a day or two’s notice.


The monthly spread in my planner


This planner also offers weekly spread pages that I use to plan out individual smaller tasks to accomplish throughout the week, on specific days. The key is to create a system that suits your need and is something you can complete. Personally, the joy of checking off a small task that I have broken down over the week is great so I use the weekly spread for that.

A weekly spread from my planner (pictured is only Thurs-Sun)

How do I stick to it?

You can have different motivations for maintaining a planner. For some people, its just putting pen to paper to actually remember stuff, and for others its about visualizing their responsibilities outside of their head.

I am motivated by a mix of these and other reasons. I want to start living intentionally and build good habits for work and school. This means I want to create an activity out of productivity and make it fun so I am not all over the place, leading to avoidable stress.

But often motivation is not enough – what to do then?

That’s where the frill and fun of planning comes in. These days productivity is as commercialized as everything else, and I have somewhat bought into it. This is where my dozens of different kinds of pens, stickers and foremost, an exciting planner comes in.

I mentioned at the beginning that I started with a planner from Winners – it was soft, small, cheap but still delightful. I now use the more expensive Kate Spade planner. Over the years I have built the habit and interest enough to actually get my money’s worth when I make an investment in a planner. It keeps me motivated, but I am already motivated enough to not let it eat dust for a year. So the fancy pens, Zebra Mildliners, stickers, everything is to help you make planning a fun activity but it is not the sure-shot way to make you develop this habit.

Needless to say, I’m not a 100% productive just because I plan my days and week. But I can say this much that I forget way less things from my day and am less stressed about remembering them because I know I’ve put it down in one place.

So, plan away lovelies!


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