This past weekend we organized one of our big events for the semester for the university students here in Mostar. It’s called EQ Seminar and focuses on how to become more emotionally aware and intelligent.
It was a long, full day, and we had over 100 students attend, it was a lot of fun. One of my roles was to lead a workshop on how to make and keep a weekly schedule.
I’ve always been a planner so these things come more naturally to me than they do to others. However, I’m not always the best at being able to communicate ideas or teach concepts that come easy to me, so this was a fun stretch.
As I was preparing I was looking for some articles or blog posts aleady on the topic and was shocked to find that there weren’t many. Most posts that you can find are about how to decorate your $50 planner with even more expensive supplies. I kid you not, I read more than one post where someone deemed washi tape an “essential supply” for planning.
*Insert my favorite eye roll emoticon*
I’m all for washi tape and fun planners….but that’s not one of the first steps you need to take when you’re first learning how to keep a schedule. So I started to think of the most basic planning concepts that I could think of and went from there.
I thought I would put together a post version of my workshop for anyone out there who might be super overwhelmed by the planning (and planner decorating) craze…it doesn’t have to be that elaborate!
I think that planning is definitely a skill that not everyone was born with. But, like other things such as playing a sport or learning an instrument, with time and practice, you can get better at it!
My first tip for the students was to write everything down.
And I mean everything. No matter if you think you’ll remember it, or it seems way too far in advance. Appointments, birthdays, remembering to buy presents for said birthdays, everything.
Sometimes I literally have to write “do the laundry” in my planner on that day’s to-do section so I’ll remember to do it.
There are many options for how to keep your schedule, the two main ones being paper or digital.
Almost everyone these days has a smart phone with a calendar function. That’s a perfectly acceptable and increasingly more common place to keep everything.
Paper, like notebooks and journals, are still prevalent though and another main option for where to keep your schedule.
Regardless of what you choose, pick one app or one notebook for everything. It gets too confusing if you have one notebook for appointments, one for birthdays, one for to do lists, one for your hopes ad dreams, etc. I think this is why bullet journaling is becoming so popular.
In that vein, it’s also important that whatever you choose, that you keep it somewhere where it’s useful. I [try to] carry my planner wherever I go, and when I am home I [try to] keep it open on the counter to that week so I can see what’s going on.
Craig carries the absolute smallest notebooks he can buy so that there is always space in his pocket for it or it doesn’t take up much weight in a bag when he’s on the go.
It doesn’t do you any good to have a planner that you don’t have access to or aren’t looking at.
This is probably the most important piece of advice I have. Plan time to plan.
Like I mentioned, before, planning is a skill to be learned and practiced. Planning muscles need to be exercised often for the habit to be made.
I sit down once at the beginning of the month and go over my monthly calendar and to do lists, and write in what I already know for the weekly schedules. Of course things will be added in as time goes on though so I also try to sit down on Sundays to plan for the coming week.
A really practical thing to try here is to do this with a friend or spouse! Craig and I used to have family “staff meetings” once a week just to do our planning and scheduling. It’s not that you have to go over your plan with the friend, but just the accountability of knowing someone else is waiting there for you and you guys are going to get work done together. Plus, seeing friends is fun!
Here is where you have to make a decision…you have two options…keep it simple…or make it fun.
I cannot stress enough that planning and planners do not have to be elaborate! You can buy a graph paper notebook at most grocery stores for ridiculously cheap and make it into what you need it to be. Here in BiH they’re the equivalent of 50 cents.
However, if being creative and making the planning/planner process pretty and fun will help you be excited about using it, then by all means, be creative!
- You can spend lots of money on a planner (mine is Erin Condran and I love it!)
- You can spend a small amount of money on a planner from an office supply store
- You can buy a pretty journal and transform it into a planner
- Or you can even take a simple dollar store notebook and make it your own
Here is an example of a dollar store re-make that I made as a giveaway for the seminar.
What’s important here as that you choose what will make you most likely to keep up with it. Something simple, or something pretty (or maybe a little bit of both).
For me this is a must. My planner needs to have some aspect of daily, weekly, monthly, and a to-do list section.
This just ensures that you don’t have too much or too little in one place. If you’re operating on just a month grid, you can’t do things like schedule time for studying, shopping, doing the laundry, etc. On the other hand, if you only work on a day per page view, sometimes things get lost and you don’t see the bigger picture and things sneak up on you.
All you have to do is google “Weekly schedule layout” and you will find literally hundreds of options (many of them free printables) at your disposal.
What’s important here is that you don’t spend too much effort re-inventing the wheel, but you do spend some time (and perhaps a few different weeks) trying out what works best for you.
This is what I have found to work best for me. I have a monthly view, with weekly views that follow. What I love about this layout is the weekly and daily to-do space and being able to horizontally see the whole week at once. It helps me to know how many mornings, afternoons, and evenings I have filled or need to leave free.
If you’re in the keep it simple category, you can still take certain layout ideas and make them your own. Here are just a few examples.
That’s about all the tips I have for you guys.
All you need is a few dollars and some time and you too can work on your scheduling skills. But if the washi tape and markers excite you..go for it! Happy Planning!
What did I miss? What was helpful for you? What is your best planning and scheduling advice?