Like our previous article on figuring out where you stand, this is a series of posts about organizing your life, even if it is nearing the end of the semester.

Today, I wanted to discuss the use of planners. If you’re lacking in one this is the time to pick one up. Often you’ll get a school branded one for free or cheap at the bookstore, riddled with advertisements and pictures of happy students. I always avoid these planners because they don’t stand up to the beating of normal college life. But if price is the biggest feature in planner picking, this is a good option.

Another option is to go a bit higher end with a Moleskine planner/diary. These are bit more expensive, think around $15, but feature a nice hard cover that stands up to beating, as well as a small built in pocket for scraps of paper. You can pick these up either in your art store or a Barnes and Noble. They have a variety of options, but I prefer either the thick but useful Daily Planner or the thinner Weekly Planner.

The final option, which I personally like as much as a nice Moleskine notebook, is the cheap, plentiful index card.

If you’ve gotten a planner from the school store or Barnes & Noble, it will already have the lines and grids to mark off days and weeks. It’s a good idea to place to do items, like assignments and coursework in the day before they are really due. This way you see it on the day you should be working on it, and not just the day that it’s due. This way you’re not missing anything and scrambling the day of to get something done.

If you’re working with the index cards, I always divide the index card in half with a pen. The left side I use as an “inbox” where incoming things like assigned tests and assignments are put. On the right side, I place all the todo items for the day. Then the night before, I grab a fresh index card and mark up the right side with everything that I need to do this day. It’s pretty simple and cheaper than a planner. If you’re worried about assignments that are upcoming, you can grab a set of 7 index cards and use a binder clip to hold them together. This way you have a week’s worth of days, in a small pocketable stack. It’s a bit hacky, but is about as low friction as it goes.

I know it might seem useless to get a planner this late in the game, but finals and the end of the year is always the most hectic for students. A little investment might pay off with less stress and better grades. Next up, we’ll cover going digital with your planner and tasks.

Photo by: koalazymonkey.