Through out the last few years I have really struggled with prioritising my workload, between home duties and uni I have often been completely frazzled before week 3! Let alone by the end of semester, and that can be tracked by how fast my blog posts trailed off.
I have always used a planner to run my life, and it has taken various forms from the A5 monster that I used in my first year of uni which was awesome for having enough room to spread out my tasks and daily notes and other things that I wanted to track. But it was HEAVY and big and difficult to carry around (there was no way that was going to fit into my handbag!).
About a year ago now I transferred everything into my personal sized travellers notebook similar to my old (pre-uni) planner which has meant huge changes for the way things work.
First there is less room on each page to make notes and list to-dos and keep track of things. Secondly I have found that for me a highly structured page doesn’t work for me in a smaller format, I have seen that other people love it but for me I find it too restrictive.
In the end I have figured out that i needed to branch out of simply using the booklets of my planner and utilise different formats for different things.
One of my biggest problems has been getting distracted with “life” stuff when I needed to be doing “study” stuff. I would sit down to do a lecture and see on my list of To Do’s that I needed to order a shirt for my son for school… so I would order the shirt and then remember that they needed something from office works and think “I will just dash down there (a 20 minute drive one way mind you) real quick and grab that!” and before I knew it the whole day would be gone and the kids would be home and my nice quiet study time would be GONE with nothing to show for it! I can order shirts and drive to officeworks with my kids without much fuss… but getting through a lecture uninterrupted… not so much.
So the first thing that I have done is separate out my responsibilities. I have 2 categories: STUDY and LIFE.
But only my due dates and work required go into my study list, things like buy X text or get pens doesn’t hit that list because it’s PURELY about the work. What I have ended up with is a printed document that takes up 3 or 4 pages which I then cut and tape together and which folds out like an accordion from my planner with everything that needs to get done. Anything extra for study like buying pens or text books or fetching random things gets added into my planner or stuck onto the original list on a post-it.
My life list is in a completely different section, and is a hand-written running list that I keep going for an entire month. At the end of each month I migrate anything not completed into the new month which starts on a new page, old openings get clipped shut so they don’t bug me. I normally check the list each day and I will generally try and transfer stuff into my actual planner booklet to make it easier to deal with during the day to avoid flicking back and forth.
If I am supposed to be studying and I think “shoot I need to grab that birthday gift for the party tomorrow” I stop for a second and write it into my planner either on todays page (if it has to be done today) OR on my life list. I usually will transfer 3 things from that life list to the weekly page of my planner for each day just so that I have some direction for the day aside from just uni stuff, if those tasks don’t get done then I just either leave them (because I can still see them in the week view) or transfer them to the next week if this week is done for. I will also sometimes add “extra” work from uni or TAFE onto the weekly pages so that I remember that it is there.
It seems like a really complicated system but it works for me and gives me the flexibility that I need to get everything done. This is the very first semester that I haven’t felt completely swamped and out of control by week 3.