A High School Teacher Taught Me the Life-Changing Calendar Tip I'm Using in College

POPSUGAR Photography | Carley Stickney
POPSUGAR Photography | Carley Stickney

I used to be a disorganized student. You know those classmates who just shove loose papers in their backpack with no rhyme or reason? That was me. But something changed when I entered high school — maybe it was the workload being larger, maybe not — and I became interested in getting things organized, falling in love with planners, notebooks, and just about any stationery. Shortly, my backpack started to fill up with tab dividers, binders, and color-coded notebooks. I knew where everything was and my life felt a little less scattered — but I still had no idea how to organize my planner and therefore my day.

School comes with a long to-do list. With class schedules, homework assignments, and important dates for tests and papers, having a planner organization system locked down is key for success. I knew I was a paper planner person — a digital calendar just doesn't work for me — but I tried so many different layouts and I just couldn't find one that worked for me. All of my pages were jumbled messes of assignments, due dates, work and class schedules, and plans with friends, and my writing would turn into hieroglyphics the longer I stared at it. Then one day, a teacher sat my class down and gave us some advice she said would help us through high school and into college: "Separate your days, weeks, and months." Simple, but that teacher was right, and somehow I had never thought about it that way.

I bought a planner that was separated by weeks, with enough space in each day to write down all of my tasks and a whole month overview, so I could write down important dates and keep them separate from my daily to-dos — you could also make your own bullet journal design if you're artsy. I've made some tweaks to the system since I started college, but it's the same method that's been working for me for years.

POPSUGAR Photography | Carley Stickney

On the month layouts, I write down any trips, important academic dates, and personal dates (like my moving day) so I can keep them organized and remembered without cluttering my week and day pages. On my day pages, I write my work shift schedules and any daily notes and reminders I may need, with stickers for inspiration and fun. In the weekly sections, I write down all my weekly tasks to be done, usually in order of importance. Once I'm finished with the task, I cross it off the list, which we all know can bring a high level of satisfaction. It seems like such an insignificant thing, but the physical act of crossing it off the list provides the reinforcement we so often need to keep motivated and organized.

Now, this is the system that works for me! Everyone looking for a new calendar organization system should try a few methods to see what works best for you; maybe you're more visual or more tech-inclined than I am. But I couldn't recommend this way of organization more. Keeping things separated is the small yet crucial step I needed for my productivity. When I am feeling organized and calm, it's easier for me to outline a game plan and muster up the motivation to get work done. Thanks to this planning technique, I'll hopefully never feel overwhelmed by my own agenda again.