by Harriet Willis
Whilst I don’t always manage to stay on top of every to-do list I write, I am obsessed with the idea of being organised. I will be the first to admit that a slightly-too-large proportion of my student loan gets spent on planners, notebooks and calendars, all in an attempt to make my daily life seem a little bit more put-together.
When it comes to planning, the most important rule is that anything that needs doing should be written down… immediately. Whether it’s scrawled on a post-it note or written neatly in a diary, if it’s somewhere visible then you are much less likely to forget about it. You may pride yourself on having a reasonable memory, however, satisfying your ego really isn’t worth running the risk of forgetting an important commitment.
If you want to become a more effective planner, then you need to experiment to find out which method works the best for you. You should also look for a method that you can most easily integrate into your life. Perhaps you use your phone a lot, and it’s always nearby – why not try making use of the built-in calendar app? Generally, you can sync these calendars across multiple devices and you can access them online too, meaning that your agenda will always be accessible. When it comes to tracking assignments and exam dates, I find it most effective to display them on a monthly view calendar. This way, it’s a lot easier to see how much time you have left before any deadlines, which avoids them creeping up on you, as they might in a week-to-view calendar.
Although calendar apps are useful to keep track of events, they are not the best way to display a to-do list. Instead, apps such as ‘Wunderlist’ or ‘Google Keep’ are popular ways to easily make a list of tasks on your phone. Most apps let you send notifications to your phone a set time before a task is due to be completed – with your phone likely sitting inches away from you, there’s no chance of “forgetting” about something!
A fairly recent addition to the world of planning has been the bullet journal. The beauty of the bullet journal is that it can be as simple or complex as you wish. At the start of each week, you write out the days of the week and leave gaps below to write in events or things you need to do. You can tailor your bullet journal completely to your needs; some users have added in a space each day to keep track of how much water they drink, others have implemented a key to categorise their daily tasks. Another advantage of having a bullet journal is that there are plenty of blank pages that you can fill with other information that you need to refer to regularly, such as a weekly timetable or a master list of all of your deadlines for the academic year.
Aside from being a good excuse to go stationery shopping, using a colour coding system can be helpful to pick out which tasks you need to spend more time on. Generally, if something needs doing quicker than others, I’ll highlight it in a different colour to make it stand out. If you have trouble trying to identify what tasks need prioritising, then use the ‘prioritisation matrix’ method. First, draw a square on a piece of paper and divide it into four. The top left-hand box should be for important and urgent things, the top right-hand box should be for important but not urgent things, the bottom left-hand box should be for urgent but not important things and finally, the bottom right-hand box should be for things that are neither important nor urgent.
When trying to select an organisation system that works well for you, it’s important to bear in mind that it often takes some getting used to before it becomes fully effective. There will, of course, always be forgotten birthdays and the occasional meeting missed, however, journalling will hopefully help you get one step closer to being organised. Also, don’t be put off by starting a journal mid-year. January 1st may seem like the perfect date to become organised, but please don’t let yourself feel restricted by everyone’s favourite saying, ‘new year, new me’.
Photograph by Harriet Willis