Staying organized is a critical skill to develop and maintain during high school. As your workload increases and your responsibilities begin to add up, it’s important that you keep track of all your commitments. This isn’t always an easy task.

 

As you near junior year and beyond, you’ll have to balance school assignments, exams, standardized tests, scholarship and college application deadlines, and extracurricular commitments. This can sometimes turn into a real juggling act, especially towards the end of the school year when finals and AP exams take place.

 

If you want to ensure that you’re prepared for the work ahead and that you don’t drop any of the important balls you’ve got in the air, you’ll need to come up with a foolproof organization system. This means using your time wisely, developing stress management techniques, and, of course, staying organized.

 

One critical key to your organization should be the use of a planner or calendar. Using a planner or calendar will help you to visualize the many commitments you have made and will also aid you in keeping track of them. Having a visual reminder of what is happening when can also deter you from biting off more than you can chew.

 

There are many different systems for using these important tools, but ultimately how you maximize your use of them will be up to your personal preferences. In this post, we’ll outline the benefits of using various calendar systems, the various methods you might employ in using them, and the types of things you should include on your calendar. To learn more about how using a calendar or planner can help you to stay organized and on track even during the busiest of times, read on.

 

Benefits of Online Calendars

One type of calendar to consider using is an online calendar. This type of calendar can generally be accessed as an app or through a website, and it is generally a very popular choice for high school students and professionals alike.

 

One major benefit of the online calendar is that it can be shared across devices. Once you add something to the calendar on your phone, it will automatically sync so that the event shows up on your computer, tablet, or any other device you might access it from.

 

Online calendars also allow you to overlay different calendars onto the same template. This way, you can add events for an extracurricular calendar, school assignments calendar, college applications calendar, and more. Typically, each calendar you create will list events in a different color. You can view all calendars at once, or you can choose to view only the events from one of your calendars at a time. This is helpful for getting an idea of the big picture while also allowing you to hone in on a particular area of commitment.

 

Another benefit of the online calendar is that it is easily shareable. You can add other users to your calendar and choose what type of access each has, including whether they can edit the calendar themselves or just view what you have added to it. This way, you can add your parents or mentors to your calendar. You could even create a sports calendar and add your entire team to it, or, when coordinating group projects, you could add group meetings and invite all members of your group to view the calendar.

 

Notifications are also fairly simple to set on an online calendar. You can set a notification to alert you at a set time before a scheduled event takes place, or you can set a daily alert to update you with that day’s agenda. These alerts can be synced directly to your phone so that you’re sure not to miss them, even on a busy day.

 

Another bonus of having multiple calendars overlaid on the same template, paired with the ability to share each with anyone you want, is that you can easily create and share appointments with others in the form of invitations. While it is great to have a meeting arranged with a study group, it won’t do you any good if you are the only one who remembers to show up for it. Sharing the meeting as an appointment with the rest of your group will allow them to set notifications for it so that they won’t forget either.   

 

Online calendars are a very popular choice due to the ease with which you can access and coordinate with others through them. Being able to filter your view and access all events from all your devices is certainly a major advantage.

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Benefits of Physical Planners or Calendars

Of course, online calendars and planners aren’t the only option available. Sometimes, you might find that a physical planner or calendar is a better choice for you.

 

Physical planners or calendars exist in nearly every format imaginable. You might have one that shows one day per page, or you might have one that shows an entire month. If you can’t find the template you prefer at an office supply store or for purchase online, it is fairly easy to make your own using a slim three-ring binder and a hole punch. Simply create your own template exactly how you want it using a program like Microsoft Excel and run off enough copies to last for the year, or find a blank template online that you can print yourself.

 

While a physical planner or calendar won’t allow you to sync between electronic devices or share virtually with other users, it does offer at least two major advantages.

 

First, a physical planner can be accessed anywhere, including during classes when phones or other devices are not allowed. You can use your planner as an assignment book, bringing it along with you to every class and adding assignments or other important commitments immediately as they arise. Generally, phones or other devices are often not allowed to be used in the classroom, so if you are using a virtual calendar, you’ll need to wait until after class to add important assignments. A physical planner allows you to enter these important deadlines immediately.

 

Second, a physical planner requires that you handwrite each commitment. While this might not seem like a big deal, studies show that that students who write their notes by hand are more likely to commit them to memory than students who type notes during a lecture. If the same theory is carried over to a calendar, then it would stand to reason that students who hand-write their commitments into a physical planner may be more likely to remember them independently than students who type them into an online calendar.      

 

What Types of Events or Commitments Should I Include on My Calendar?

Your calendar should include every important commitment or responsibility towards which you need to devote time in the upcoming weeks or months. It might also include activities that you’d like to participate in or events you’d like to attend.

 

For example, your calendar should most definitely include school tests, assignments, and exams. All of these things will take significant preparation and time during the weeks leading up to them. The same can be said for standardized tests. These types of responsibilities will often take center stage on your calendar.

 

You should also include important meetings or appointments on your calendar. These could include doctor appointments, college advisor appointments, or group project meetings. Basically, any specific time that you have committed to spending with someone else should be included as an appointment or meeting, and if you are using an online calendar, go ahead and share the meeting with the other parties who will be present.

 

College application or scholarship deadlines should also have a prominent spot on your calendar. Because these types of events carry strict deadlines, you should set an alert on your online calendar or include several reminders leading up to the actual deadline in your physical planner. You don’t want it to come as a shock when you turn the page to see an important deadline staring back at you, so be sure that reminders are frequent and prominent.

 

In addition, include things in your planner or calendar like important extracurricular activities, sports events or practices, and social events. You probably wouldn’t want to forget your senior prom, or schedule a college interview that conflicts with it, so be sure that all of these important events have a spot on your calendar.

 

Finally, one element that some students forget to include on their calendars is dedicated study time. While it’s common to include deadlines and test dates, it’s less common to include an hour of study or prep time several times a week leading up to these important events. By scheduling time to study, you ensure that your prep is prioritized over other commitments. You can treat your scheduled study times with the same degree of commitment and seriousness as you treat group meetings or sports practices.

 

What Programs Exist for Online Calendars or Planners?

Google Calendar. Google Calendar is one way to keep track of important dates, deadlines, and events. It syncs across devices and is easily shareable with others, so you can keep your family and friends informed as well. It also allows you to set alerts or notifications to make sure you don’t forget important deadlines.

 

Microsoft Outlook. Microsoft Outlook Calendar is another popular choice. It includes many of the same options as Google Calendar, and also allows you to set recurring events, for example on the first weekday or first weekend of the month. One drawback of MS Outlook is that it only allows you to schedule reminders two weeks in advance of events.

 

iCal. iCal is another solid option, not particularly dissimilar to Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar. If you are already an iOS user, though, you might find iCal more convenient since it is the default calendar app included with your Apple devices. Additionally, when you are signed into your iCloud account, it will automatically sync across all devices associated with that account.

 

While there is no single one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to planners and calendars, there are enough options out there to suit just about any personal preference you might have. It’s always a good idea to try out a couple of different organization systems to see which fits your lifestyle best.

 

Also, don’t feel like you have to stick with one single solution. Many students will find that keeping a physical planner with them during the school day and then transferring it onto a shareable online calendar is a functional system that offers the best of both worlds.

 

Staying organized in high school is a learned skill that comes more naturally for some than others. By creating and maintaining some kind of calendar or planner system, and being sure to follow through with it consistently, you’re doing yourself long-term favors. You’re more apt to stay on top of important assignments, less likely to forget long-term commitments, and can often develop organizational skills and habits that will stick with you into college.

 

When you do start college, continuing with an existing organization system will make your transition to college life and coursework more seamless and consistent.

 

If you’re a high school student who has more questions about organization or needs a little help designing and implementing an effective organization system, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.

 

For more information about organization, time management, and stress in high school, check out these posts:

 

Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist