It was the start of my first year of college, right in the heart of a global pandemic, so I figured it was just the right time to start getting my life together.
All four of my classes would be fully online for the whole semester. It was imperative that I bring my A-game to stay on top of all of my assignments— my academic life depended on it. The obvious first step was to buy the planner of my dreams; thus, my quest for the ideal academic planner commenced. My perfect-planner requirements list included: one page per day with an hourly schedule section, a notes/to-do list section, and a cover design that was sleek and neutral— all at an affordable broke-college-student price.
I turned to the first website I could think of: Erin Condren. My type-A, overachiever, Columbia-University bound friend from high school was gifted a new Erin Condren planner yearly. Glancing over her shoulder regularly as she copied down our AP Psychology assignments, I admired the perfectly-organized pages that she had filled with colored gel pen ink. This planner was going to be the one for me! Until I saw the ticket price: the Daily LifePlanner Duo (which conveniently checked off all of the boxes on my requirements list) came in at an inconveniently whopping $68. Okay, moving on.
Next, Etsy. Oh, the choices! I was overwhelmed, but still determined to find that perfect planner. Why were there so many PDF-format printables in place of a tangible notebook? I needed something bound together, something with heft. After scouring and scrolling, clicking and coming back to the search page, then bouncing to Amazon to see if I could find anything comparable for a lower price, I found it. Each daily page came complete without dates, a daily schedule to mark my commitments, and a notes section for my to-do list. Bonus: I could track my workouts, 3 main goals for the day, meal plan, and check off how much water I drank! The only catch was that it was made by hand in Estonia and would take approximately 2-3 weeks to get to my house once ordered. I decided I could be patient for a planner that fit the bill.
Two to three weeks went by. I was giddy to open my custom planner, eager to see its black and white marble cover with the gold embossed “L” on the front. Once opened, I got straight to work. I had plans to conquer, after all.
Planning my day, from that day forth, gave me a feeling of power and control. As someone who struggles with anxiety and is easily overwhelmed with juggling many commitments, putting pen to paper helps me to prioritize my day and set productivity in motion. I made it my pre-bedtime
routine to sit on the couch with my pen and planner. My fingers would first guide my pen in sweeping arcs across the top of the paper to announce the day of the week. Going through my Google calendar shortly afterward, I would section off my daily schedule, then create checkboxes for myself to complete work assignments, school assignments, and any other menial tasks for the next day. Sometimes, if I really needed it— which I found was quite a bit— I would write down an encouragement or affirmation at the top of the page. They read along the lines of “You got this!” or “Just breathe.”
Writing down my tasks for the next day allowed me to visualize what I was about to accomplish. It gave me peace of mind knowing that I understood what needed to get done. But I can’t lie; it often daunted and challenged me. I would look at that cute little sheet of paper, filled with angry-looking appointments and assignments, and feel like I just didn’t have the capacity or strength to do it all. I had to remind myself that I would be okay if I didn’t mark each to-do with an “x” for the day. If I had to move a to-do to the next day, I would live. The planner couldn’t be the end-all, be-all controller of my day-to-day life. In the end, I had the power to choose what to prioritize; the planner was just the vessel to help get me there.
Fast forward to a year later. Sophomore year of college is going to be majority online again this year, and I figure that a new start gives me a new opportunity to get my life together again. I’m currently waiting for my recent perfect-planner-purchase to make its way to my mailbox. My schedule is going to be even more hectic, but I am grateful that I have access to tools that make me feel empowered in the midst of all that is on my plate. So, grab your pen, Lauren! You have some planning to do.