Being a full-time Mama, Registered Nurse and part-time law student, while focusing on having some sort of social life with family and friends alongside my mental and physical well-being; it can be quite challenging. When it comes to balancing all of my varying aspects of lifestyle, I not only have to be organised but also plan my time effectively and efficiently. Over the past few years, I’ve been using the same hacks when planning and I wanted to share them with you in a post, today.
FINDING PLANNER PEACE
The one exciting thing I loved about a new academic year was my school’s hideous planner and making the hard decision of which Dolly poster (oh the good ol’ days!) would make the front cover. As an adult and my planner’s front cover continues to remain plain, the way I ultimately choose a planner and how I use my planner has dynamically changed over the last several years.
When choosing any type of planner, there are two common elements: A. it is a personal choice to which one feels right and B. you need to make sure the planner that’s going to be used is not only practical but it satisfies all of your planning needs and desires. For me personally, I have used nearly every paper based planner known to mankind (I’m reluctant to use digital planning as I love the smell of old paper) and after a few months, I would stop planning as I often felt constricted by the outlay. That was until five years ago when I discovered bullet journaling (or bujo for short) and since then, I’ve found my ‘planner happiness’ (this is a thing!) and have stuck to it.
My must-haves when it comes to planning in my bullet journal is: having a black pen on hand (I cannot write in any other colour), whiteout for those occasional mistakes made and a ruler because my OCD cannot handle wonky lines. As for notebook preferences and while the market is huge when it comes to bujo-ing notebooks, my personal preference isn’t one of your popular bullet journal book. For the past four years, I’ve been in love with the Tekukor notebook* and its rather safe to say, I am never going to change my personals tastes because, it’s all about ‘planner happiness’. As for planning preference, this leads me on to my next point.
*I brought mine from Amazon.com and have purchased it several times.
PICKING A PLANNING STYLE
Being someone who cannot draw for the life of her and doesn’t particularly like bold and bright colours, I approach planning with a minimalist mindset. While I am jealous of those who can beautiful design flamboyant pages, decorative pieces or have amazing faux calligraphy (the joys of being dyslexic and left handed!), I’ve found my planning preference or style to be one that is aesthetically pleasing to my eye and mind.
While I mark assessments/exams, important meetings or appointments with small planner stickers as it stands out among my handwriting; I tend to go for a minimalist colour scheme. Especially when it comes to highlighting key dates for my semester. As a result, my key dates such as public holidays, mid-semester break and when I can drop/add classes are highlighted with a slightly darker grey highlighter.
However, when it comes to my courses for the semester or any assessment/exam due dates, these are highlighted in a specific pastel colour (I detest bright highlighters!). Each course/subject is allocated a particular colour and anything relating to this subject, for example lectures, reading assessments or notes that need to be rewritten or edited; I find it not only helps with jogging my memory, it keeps my anxiety at bay and the colours are muted in such a way that it brings comfort.
CREATE A MONTHLY OVERVIEW
One of the most important things I remind myself is to keep an eye on the bigger goal when creating plans or scheduling key dates. Which is why at the end of each and every month, I sit down at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee, a piece of paper containing everything that’s due for the up and coming month, anything that hadn’t been ticked off for the current month by rolling into over into the new month and I start planning my monthly overview.
First off the bat, I open up my bullet journal and begin drawing the next month’s calendar. Depending on how busy the month is going to be and how much space I’m going to need, I either do my calendar layout in your regular format (a grid) or for months where I’m going to be extremely busy, I write down the dates and letters for the days in two columns. Like anyone else in the planning game, I write down everything from what law school assessments/exams are due and when I need to start researching or studying. To any important meetings and appointments I have with my tutor/s and which reaching I need to complete, by what week.
As for the rolling section, I also write down any goals or tasks that hadn’t been completed that month and tend to make these a priority. Overall, my monthly overview allows me to see when I’m going to be living a ‘head down and butt up’ day, what class I need to see the tutor to discuss help and when I really need to crack on with that looming assessment.
PLANNING A WEEKLY SCHEDULE
Hands down, this has got to be the most important part of planning my life for law school and that’s: creating a weekly schedule or routine. Unlikely the monthly overview that gives you a look at what needs to be accomplished or started for that month, a weekly schedule often tends to show you the ugly side to planning and with that, the nitty gritty. This is where the bullet journal really packs a punch and brings me utmost planner joy.
Unlike other planners with already established weekly or day to day layouts, the bujo gives you free range when it comes to designing and formating your own weekly layouts. Or, if you’re anything like me and cannot draw, I tend to do a running weekly schedule for each week. I begin by writing headings of the week, starting with Sunday and finishing on Saturday and under each heading, I list in dot points all of my class lectures and tutorials for that week.
Secondly, I write down my tutor’s office hours if I need assistance, any important dates relating to my university and when I’m going to study or write assessments. Last but not least, I also put in my shift times as I work full-time as a Registered Nurse. Reason being: I get to have a good overview of the month, I can see how much I’m studying/working whilst making sure I have plenty of time with my son, husband and family.
MAKE A TO DO LIST
The one thing I find about planning my monthly and weekly schedules is it can often become quite overwhelming and I start feeling anxious. In return, my anxiety turns to fear of failing or letting down my family. Whenever I start feeling this way or it simply becomes too much, I tend to put away my bullet journal and go back to basics of writing a simple to do list on a notepad.
My simple list contains a few key and easily achievable bullet points. By doing this, I don’t feel the ‘pressure’ of having to follow such a confining schedule as I have the freedom to think clearly, absorb the information required and are able to easily accomplish those tasks. Only then do I reopen my bullet journal, write down the accomplished goals for the day or study session and with a quick flick of the wrist, I gleefully cross them off the list.
Call it therapy or insanity, but this is how I plan for law school. I find myself coping with the stresses relating to university a lot better than what I was with my first degree. For anyone who is planning on taking up bullet journaling, I definitely recommend watching Ryder Carroll’s video (here) before grabbing a blank notebook from the back of your wardrobe and giving it a try.
Definitely let me know in the comments down below if you’ve previously tried bullet journaling, are interested in the scheme of how it works or you have a different method of planning.