EF 1.4 – Setting up your planner

What should you put in your planner?

The short answer: everything.

The longer answer: everything, which I divide into three main categories: events, reminders, and tasks.

Events

Events are…well…pretty much what they sound like. For example, today, I’m attending a luncheon focused on the barriers that left-handed women face within the freelance cashier industry, after which I’m heading out to the Amateur Acrobatics Convention (conveniently located right next to the hospital). So, yeah. Events.

If you use a digital calendar, you might want to set alerts about the events before they happen. Digital calendars can also let you know when you need to leave if you are lucky enough to be leaving your house at all.

I also consider deadlines events. I suppose that you could loosely define events as “organized things with a fixed date and location that mostly happen outside of my control.” If you belong to a club or a family, you can do that fancy shared calendar thing, which can be helpful. Or it can culminate in the weekly flea market being on your calendar for four years, even though no one in your family has ever been to a flea market. Well, not voluntarily.

Usually, you can find an academic calendar for your school online that should have the main dates for the entire year. I would highly recommend putting all of those in at the start of the year. I would also recommend that you include:

  • Class start and end times
  • Office hours (good to have even if you don’t plan to go regularly)
  • Due dates from syllabi
  • Midterms + finals week
  • Deadlines for class enrollment
  • Holidays (e.g., those random Mondays where you don’t have class)
  • Move-in/out days
  • Due dates for forms
  • Meetings with other humans – If you’re unsure how long to make the meeting, a good rule of thumb is 30 minutes for advisor/professor meetings, two hours for doctor appointments, one hour for anything else. Group project meetings are usually three or four hours.

Other events I include in my planner:

  • Club meetings
  • Plans with friends
  • Dorm activities
  • Birthdays, friend events
  • Life
  • Time to exercise, eat, sleep
  • Taxes
  • FAFSA deadlines
  • Free time

This last one is crucial. In high school, I figured that I needed to wring the productivity out of every waking moment and that even a minute spent not being productive was pretty much the end of the world. This didn’t work out well for me, so I eventually learned to give myself some time to relax and that doing so is not just okay, but helpful. Then I ran up against another challenge: I need free time to rest and be less anxious, but the prospect of having free time – and the question of what to do during said free time – make me more anxious. Fortunately, I found a solution, and I now have a handful of options (a menu, if you will) of what to do during free time. This includes:

  • Going on a walk
  • Watching Modern Family
  • Reading
  • Stretching

I will admit that I thought that list would be longer once written down. But still, it’s progress. Oh, and I also like going to the library, but I can’t do that right now because of COVID.

Reminders

I think this part is pretty self-explanatory. This is where modern technology comes in handy because setting yourself reminders on paper sounds like an excruciating task. I just switched to Google calendar (less than a week ago), and I automatically get reminders before a scheduled event starts. I didn’t even have to go into the settings and select that option. It just does that automatically, and it’s useful when I am caught up in something special-interesting and thus losing track of time. This is one of those tricks that I never even thought of using, but it’s turned out to be so helpful.

A few tips for setting effective reminders:

  • The more annoying, the better. If I set five incredibly exasperating alarms to remember my Russian notebook, I will remember my Russian notebook. Ultimately, that small exasperating outweighs the greater exasperation of having forgotten.
  • Watch out for desensitization. I often forget to drink water, so I got an app that sent me a “пейте больше воды” alert every hour (are you sensing a theme?). This was great – for about 30 hours. Then I promptly began to ignore the notification.
  • Don’t forget about visual cues! I have two bright pink water bottles. I don’t drink water out of any other container. The water bottles are hard to lose, and they’re always somewhere nearby. Every time I see them, I remember to drink. Problem solved.

Here are some of the other things I set reminders for:

  • Hygiene/medical
    • Refilling prescriptions
    • Making doctor’s appointments
    • Taking meds
    • Filling my weekly med case
    • Brush teeth, wash face
    • Wash retainer
    • Wash face mask
  • Chores
    • Dishes
    • Laundry
    • Grocery shopping
    • Take out trash
    • Vacuum
    • Wipe counters

And then, if you want to get really meta, you can (and should) add a reminder to fill out your planner.

One last type of reminder I like: reminders about humans. My autistic brain does not seem to keep track of humans well. For example, if my friend tells me that their a cappella group is performing in two weeks, the combination of atypical socializing + executive dysfunction might lead me to forget they ever mentioned it, even if I have every intention of going. Or at least texting them to ask how it went. I’m also working on setting regular reminders to stay in touch with friends since I often forget to send texts (for weeks on end. It’s bad.).

Tasks

This is the most important and the hardest part, which is why it gets its own section.

In theory, using a planner to finish tasks should be simple. I have to do stuff. I write it down to remind myself. I see what I wrote down. Then I do it.

Ha. I wish. Head on over to the next post to learn the secrets to enlightenment. Or organization. They’re pretty much the same thing.

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