As the new academic year rolls in, the stationary addicts among us are eagerly clutching our diaries, ready for some serious planning. But perhaps you’re feeling like you’re spending more time re-arranging your new pastel highlighters rather than actually pencilling in the next week’s tasks. If so, here are some handy tips to help you plan effectively.
Plan your week on a Sunday
Planning for the week ahead on a Sunday means you can start the following week feeling motivated, knowing exactly what you need to do and when. It can be really helpful to come up with a big to do list first – a ‘brain dump’ – and then assign these tasks to different days, or perhaps highlight what you’re going to prioritise. That way, you won’t find yourself suddenly remembering you have an assessment due on Wednesday morning during a Tuesday-night Netflix binge.
Know your limits
One of the most counterproductive things you can do when planning is listing everything you want to do, rather than what you know you realistically can do. There’s nothing worse than starting the day with high hopes of completing a lengthy to do list and finishing the day having barely made a dent in it. Try to think about how long each task will (realistically!) take you and how much time you have in the day.
Separate university work from other commitments
When deadlines are approaching, it can be easy to forget about the other things you do on a day-to-day basis (such as going to the gym, or remembering to put a wash on when you have zero clean socks left). Splitting your day into two sections – for example: ‘uni’ and ‘life’ – can help to overcome this. There are some great planners which come with this feature already, such as Busy B, but you can just as easily draw a line down the centre of any diary page. If your ‘uni’ column is looking a bit sparse, perhaps you’re burning yourself out, and need to go back to that society meeting, or text that friend you haven’t seen in a while.
Allow for procrastination
Everyone procrastinates. It’s not just you; even people who are being paid to do actual jobs are procrastinating at their desks at this very moment. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself checking Instagram instead of checking off your to do list. However, if you’re really struggling to stay concentrated, there are some great apps to help you stay productive. Check out Forest, which motivates you to keep off your phone by growing an adorable tree, that will wither and die if you close the app.
Sometimes, the lure of a well-designed planner is just too much, and you find yourself filling out to do lists in for the last hour, instead of actually getting ahead with your goals. Instead, it can be useful to set yourself a time limit – spend ten minutes making a list, for example, then get on with what you’ve planned. It can be tempting to try and plan your whole week down to the minute, but this is unrealistic. If you don’t know how your week will pan out, try just scheduling in the next day, or even just the next few hours.