For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Aug 20 2015
by Mia Renee Cole

How to Successfully Keep a Planner in College

By Mia Renee Cole - Aug 20 2015

It's no secret. You've heard every beauty guru on YouTube say it. Your mom, older sibling, and former teachers have constantly reminded you about its benefits. You've just never done it...well, you've never done it successfully.

Keeping a planner takes some practice. For some of us, it comes naturally. For most of the population, though, it's a disaster waiting to happen. The thing with organization is that it takes practice. So why not start practicing your first year in college when you're taking on a whole new workload?

Continue reading for my tips and tricks on keeping a successful planner!

Let me begin by introducing you to my planner. It's kinda top-of-the-line. I own a Kikki-K personal time planner in the A5 size. This type of planner is refillable so its reusable year after year, plus it's cute. If you're new to this (which I'm assuming you are), I'd suggest going with something cheaper and simpler. A yearly planner from the dollar store or Target will suffice, but if you want something cute with perks (such as a page of stickers, daily quotes, cute drawings, etc.), I'd suggest going with a branded one such as a Vera Bradley, Lily Pulitzer or--my personal choice--an Erin Condren.

Mia Renee Cole

I've owned my Kikki-K for almost six months now and I love it. I've successfully been keeping a planner since about my freshman year in high school and it has proved incredibly effective in my daily routines, productivity, and overall mindset.   Planners are great but keeping them is whole different story, so read on to learn the planning magic.

1. Color Coordinate

This is the most obvious and cliche piece of advice that I can give you, and that's why I'm starting with it. Don't skip this section. IT ACTUALLY WORKS. 

I've been color coordinating my planner since my sophomore year in high school and it is a blessing! For academics, simply assign a color for each class (i.e. green for math, purple for English, red for foreign language). When writing down assignments, meetings or study sessions for each course, all you need to do is write it in that color. For example, instead of writing in boring black, "Psych pgs. 100-130" all you would need to do is write the page numbers in your psychology color. It saves you time and room plus it keeps your planner colorful!

You can also use this system for your personal or daily activities as well. Assign colors for your work times, gym times, and friend times. It makes things appear much more organized and helps you read them better!

Mia Renee Cole

2. Take Time to Plan in Advance

This is the biggest mistake made when keeping a planner. Many people choose to write down important things the night before or the day of. This is not effective. I REPEAT: this is not effective. Take time at the beginning of your week (Sunday evening for me) to sit down and write down all of your scheduled activities or planned events for the upcoming week. Also, check your monthly calendar and fill in any missing spaces. This way, all you'll need to do each night is check your planner for the next day's activities without worrying about writing anything. Planning in Advance also allows you to better plan meetings with advisors and dates with friends, which leads me to my next suggestion.

Mia Renee Cole

3. Refer to Your Planner when Making Decisions

How "duh" can this suggestion be? You'll be surprised at the amount of people who don't do this and find themselves overbooked or stressed on a certain day (or entire week). When planning meetings or free-time fun, make sure to consult your planner and check to see if you're available. Have something important coming up like a dentist appointment or concert? Make sure to mark down these plans as soon as you make them, so there's no confusion to the date or time. This tip doesn't, of course, apply to everything. Your friend wants to grab coffee after class? Unless you know of something that you must do, more than likely you're free for the impromptu coffee date. 

4. Don't Just Plan for School

Whereas planning your class and study schedule is important, if you're gonna keep a planner you might as well plan out other important things as well. I've already mentioned social plans and obligations, but what about other things such as fitness and finances? If college is the place for you to finally establish a fitness routine, use your planner to help! Write on your calendar the days you plan to go to the gym and for how long. This will encourage you to go the gym more since you'll probably feel guilty for skipping a day you have scheduled for a workout. Keep track of your favorite workouts on a scrap piece of paper and make sure you're drinking eight glasses of water a day with this free printout. 

College is also the first time you become more financially responsible for things. Use your planner to scope out your future spendings. Plan a budget and keep old envelopes, labeling each one (hygiene, movies, emergency, gifts) and put an allotted amount of money in them. This will keep you from overspending and will give you a visual representation of what you are spending/need to be spending!

Mia Renee Cole

5. Make Important Things NOTICEABLE

We always forget things, that's a part of being human. Don't forget the important things, though, by making them stand out in your planner. If you're like me, you're a very busy person so you already have a lot written down. Find a way to make what is most important stand out so you are sure to see it every time you flip to that page. Highlighting is standard, but useful. You can also use cool reminder stamps like these or draw cute sketches around your reminders. Whatever floats your boat, just make sure it's effective.

6. Keep School and Social Separate...but also don't do that.

Okay, this tip is weird. I would definitely recommend having a part of your planner dedicated to JUST assignments, study plans, or meetings. This way you aren't distracted by other things and can focus solely on your schoolwork. It is also important, however, to put the school activities next to the social plans in order to better see how your day is going to pan out. Use a monthly calendar for this or print these free pages to use just for your school assignments and classes.

7. Keep a "Dashboard"

Mia Renee Cole

What is a dashboard? A dashboard is basically what the planner community calls the front page of a planner. This is where a lot of people choose to keep daily reminders on sticky notes. A dashboard is super helpful because you will always see it when opening your planner, so you're sure to notice the notes you've left to yourself. Plus there are plenty of ways to decorate them as well! Don't have a page you can designate as your official dashboard? Use the inside cover of your planner instead! A dashboard is simply a place that you know you'll go to everyday and that you can leave yourself notes at.

8. Use Lots & Lots of Sticky Notes

I can't even express to you how much I loooove sticky notes and how grateful I am for them! Sticky notes of varying sizes and sticky flags are a great way to leave extra notes to yourself so you don't forget anything. If they're colorful and bright or decorative, they're fun to look at too!

9. Make It Pretty!

Mia Renee Cole

I realize that some of you may not be artistic. I also realize that some of you are guys and aren't keen to keep a pretty planner. That's totally cool! I've found that this tip helps me tremendously, though. The fact that my planner is decorated and fun keeps me excited to open it and write new things in it. Plus there's no better feeling than reading reminders written in neat handwriting with stickers and washi tape adorning them.

10. Take it Outside of the Planner

I know I've spent the last ten minutes of your life talking about how to keep a planner, but it's also important to keep these reminders somewhere else so you have a backup! Type them into your computer or phone calendar, leave sticky notes on your desk and put to-do lists beside your bed for when you wake up. I'm making my own large cork-board wall calendar for my dorm to go in front of my desk. This way, whenever I look up from studying or working, I am automatically reminded of the month's plans and work to do. 

Lead Image Credit: Mia Renee Cole

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Mia Renee Cole - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mia Renee is currently the Senior Editor with Fresh U and a student at UNC Chapel Hill, where she is studying Spanish and French. In her free time she enjoys knitting, photography and drinking hot tea while writing on her personal blog. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @miareneecole or her blog at!

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