Staying Organized and Motivated: Planners and To-do Lists

29 10 2009

For the past couple of years I have been struggling to find a planning device that met my needs as a student.  I tried Franklin Covey – too bulky.  I tried a small Day Runner – not enough space.  I tried a PDA – too clunky.   I tried no planner – too many missed deadlines.  I even resorted to using my phone’s calendar, but texting every appointment gets old really fast.  After all this searching, I have finally found the ultimate planning device – I found Google Calendar.  Here’s why it’s great:

1. Versatility – Create appointments, move them with the drag of a mouse, create repeating appointments, set up SMS reminders, and the list goes on.

2. Integrability – Seamless integration with other google services.   Gmail recognizes event information in emails and can send it to Google Calendar in just one click.  One click will also bring up a google map of the event location.

3. Ubiquity – On campus, most organizations now have google calendars.  Many students (especially in the business school) are also adapting.  The power of this comes in the ability to mash multiple calendars together.   Consider the situation in the screenshot below.   Not only do I see my personal events, but I can see the BYU Academic calendar, events from Students for Social Entrepreneurship, my internship group’s calendar, and Management Consulting Club events.  All of these events are updated and maintained by someone else so I can focus my attention elsewhere.



On top of the calendar, a surprisingly effective tool for staying organized and motivated is the to-do list.  The beauty of a to-do list is in it’s simplicity – all you really need is a piece of paper (although Google Calendar does have a nice to-do list feature).  A couple of semesters ago I stumbled upon an end of semester ritual that has helped me immensely to stay motivated.  About a month or two before the semester is over, I gather all my syllabi, take inventory of  my remaining assignments, and make a giant to-do list of everything.  Then I count how many items are on the list and calculate how many items I need to cross off each day.  There is a certain satisfaction in having a large list to plow through – it almost becomes a game of ‘let’s see how far ahead I can get’.

So there you have it.  Two great productivity tools.  Both free and easy.  If you don’t already have a good organization system, get your calendar and to-do list off of your mind and onto paper (or computer screen).   You’ve got more important things to focus on.