Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My System

Before I returned to class this fall, I thought about how I wanted to change my organization and planning system.  I wasn't satisfied with what I had been using before, and there were also three main issues that made this difficult:
  1. I didn't want to carry a planner around with me.  Most planners contain many pages that I have no use for (address books, notes pages, maps, etc.) and just add extra bulk and weight to my backpack.
  2. The majority of my instructors present their lectures using Powerpoint.  Most students (myself included) print out the lectures ahead of time and add notes to them in class.  Before, I was keeping these pieces of paper in plastic folders, but this got a bit messy, so I decided to keep them in a 3-ring binder instead.  Perhaps my planner could also be incorporated into this binder?
  3. I thought that I would use some of the forms available at D*I*Y Planner, but there were none available in the 8 1/2 x 11" format that were suitable.
Eventually, I created some very simple and plain planner pages myself using Microsoft Word.  The first page has monthly overviews, 2 months per side (shown on the left-hand page below).  This makes the squares fairly small, but they are still large enough for me to write in due dates of assignments and dates of exams (I have small writing).  The next pages contain weekly overviews, 2 weeks per side (shown on the right-hand page below).

I use different colours on the weekly pages for further organization.  Exams are in red (and in capital letters) to stand out, assignments due are in green, tasks to complete are in black, and planning for my blogs is in blue.

The binder I am using for this is a Staples Better Binder.  It also contains my class schedule, and tabbed sections for each of my classes, labs, and seminars.  I only keep the papers that I need for the current week in here; old papers are removed and placed in another binder that stays at home (otherwise this binder would get way too heavy and bulky to carry around with me).

I have been using this system for almost a month now and have encountered no major problems.  I feel more organized than ever (although I still can't seem to post here more frequently!)

What is your system for planning and organization?  How has it changed?  Do you even have a system?


  1. Excellent problem solving! I particularly like how you "clean house" and only keep what you need in the binder. This also keeps the material fresh in your head, I'm sure. Very well thought out. **scribbles notes on stealing this idea**

  2. Thanks for the comment, Joni, but I don't know if it really keeps things fresh in my mind or not! It probably does help, but I have so many things to do and remember anyway... aaarghh :)

    Go ahead and steal all you like, and I hope it works for you.

  3. My school days are way behind me, Heather. If I recall correctly, no system I cooked up survived more than a week or so of classroom lectures. There'd be lecturers' dead space, and I'd start doodling.

    Later in life, as a tech writer and salesman, I used 8 1/2" X 14" legal pads in a clipboard or padfolio. I'd doodle freely without worry. Afterwards, I'd transcribe my notes fairly neatly, possibly with some commentary jostled by my doodling. I'd either toss my original notes, or, at most, save them for a few days in a cheap labeled folder. Worked for me.

    As an aside, I've worked among people who seem to take verbatim notes religiously. I'm sure they're well-intended, but, in some cases, the note-taking appears to be a pose. Jack/Youngstown


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