How to Use a Planner to Successfully Build Your Career
Senior year of college is exciting because unless you’re headed straight to grad school, it’s possible that this is your last year of being a student. You might be itching to be done with school. If you’re anything like me, you’re both excited to finally start building your career and nervous that you’ll fail.
I’m happy to say that unless you completely stop trying, you won’t fail.
But, I will say that you may climb a mountain and tumble down a bit every now and then. Don’t worry. You won’t fall all the way down to the bottom. And just as a warning, tumbling can feel like failing. But it isn’t.
I created this blog post to help you with those moments of tumbling.
- If you don’t use a planner:
- You’re going to want to start
- Each section will show you how you can use planners to your advantage
- If you do use a planner:
- The tips & tricks in this blog post will help you maximize your planner!
Here’s how to use a planner to successfully build your career.
Right after graduating from college, you go through a ton of changes. Here are a few that my friends and I went through:
- Rather than classes, our daily schedule consisted of working or job hunting
- We didn’t live in close proximity to each other anymore
- Our housing situation. Some moved
- Back in with their parents
- In with new roommates or lived alone for the first time
- To a new city or country
- Our financial situation:
- It was the first time some of my friends had to start managing their budget on their own
- Some friends had been managing their budgets, but it was the first time they had to be completely financially independent
- Some friends got to move back in with their parents and weren’t charged rent. Others were charged rent
How to use a planner to get organized:
Having a planner helps you stay organized because you can keep track of:
- The job-hunting process
- Where and when you applied
- Where and when your interviews are
- When and to whom to write thank you notes to
- Networking events
- Where and when the events happen
- Who you met and something notable about your conversation with them
- Important dates in your friends’ lives
- Since some of your friends won’t be living as close to you, you’re going to want to note things down (like birthdays or their job hunting process) so you can stay in touch
- When bills are due
Productivity & Time Management
Whether you’re job hunting or working, you’ll have a lot on your plate. You’re going to want to take on so many things (at work, socially, and/or for yourself). A planner helps you keep manage your priorities.
When you use a planner with an hourly layout, you can maximize your time with time blocking. Time blocking is when you:
- Section out your day into different categories. For example:
- Morning block 4 am – 8 am
- Work block 8 am – 4 pm
- Afternoon block 4 pm – 6 pm
- Night block 6 pm – 8 pm)
- Then assign tasks to each block. For example:
- afternoon block = workout class on Mondays, happy hour on Tuesdays, networking on Wednesdays, and self-care on Thursdays
This helps put some structure in your day-to-day life (ex. if anyone asks you to happy hour, you know you have dedicated time during your Tuesday afternoon blocks).
How to use a planner to manage your priorities:
- For work, you’ll want to create subblocks for repetitive tasks.
- Don’t forget to schedule in times for things like getting ready, eating, showering, working out, and self-care.
- Also, don’t forget to account for commuting to and from work or appointments.
- It may seem silly, but the first time I blocked out time, I completely forgot these things and felt like I was behind the entire day.
Building off of the last section, when you use a planner, you know exactly what and how much you have on your plate. This makes saying “no” easier for you to do and easier for other people to understand.
When you’re just starting out in your career, it’s hard to say no because you want to show how helpful and dedicated you are. This is great when you have some time on your hands to help someone out with their project or take on a new project.
But, this can become a problem if you take on too much. You’ll end up working crazy hours (which will take a toll on you physically and emotionally over time), not being able to deliver quality projects (which is not a good thing for your career), or won’t follow through (also not good for your career).
How to use a planner to say no:
- When you have to say no to someone, always point them in another direction. This way, you can still be helpful. And you never know when you’ll need their help
- If you are assigned a new task and know you don’t have the bandwidth to complete it, let your manager know so they can help your reprioritize
- Don’t say, “I don’t have time to finish that.”
- Do say, “I’m worried I won’t have time to finish this task. Can you help me reprioritize my projects?”
Space for Positivity
At work, you won’t always be thanked for a job well done and there’s no grading system in place to indicate how good of a job you did on a project. So it’s easy to get confused about whether or not you’re doing a good job.
Using your planner to record highlights of each day will help you see how good a job you’re doing. It also gives you more power on your state of happiness because you won’t depend on praise from other people to feel like you are doing a good job.
How to use a planner for positivity:
- You can use the monthly layouts to write one thing you want to remember from that day.
- You can also section off a small portion of each day in the daily layout to write one thing you are grateful for. By doing this, I was able to start a gratitude journal habit without even realizing it until I saw results — I started being more positive.
Stress Coping Mechanism
Whenever I feel like I have to much to do, I take a deep breath and pull out my planner. It gives me a chance to prioritize and set due dates.
This is especially helpful at work because once you’ve laid everything out you can either:
- See that everything can be done
- See that there isn’t enough time to get everything done and can ask for help.
- Here’s an article on how to ask for help in a work environment.
You’ll have goals that are given to you at work. You can use your planner to keep track of your progress.
You’ll also have goals that you set for yourself whether it’s professional (get promoted) or personal (get active for 30 minutes each day).
This study from the Dominican University of California found that writing down your goals is a key tool to accomplishing them.
How to use a planner for goal setting:
- You can easily find a planner that has empty spaces at the beginning and end of each month.
- Use the empty space at the beginning of each month to write down your goals
- Use the empty space at the end of each month to reflect on how you did and what goals to set for the following month
- Examples of goals to set:
- Drink half of my weight in ounces a day
- Work on my presentation skills by asking my manager if I can present more often during meetings
- Eat lunch somewhere other than my desk (even if it’s for 10-15 minutes)
- Reflection questions to ask yourself at the end of the month:
- What were this month’s wins
- Was I able to reach my goal for this month
- What can I do to improve or keep tracking toward my goals
Bonus: An Opportunity to Unplug
I didn’t realize this until after I started bullet journaling on my iPad. But when you sit down to plan out your week, it’s nice to be able to put away all technology for 10-30 minutes.
Now that you know how using a planner can help you, are you ready to start using a planner?
The next step if for you to find the planner that’s right for you. Check out this detailed blog post that compares three popular planners.
Thank you for reading this blog post! I hope it’s helped you learn why and how you can use a planner to build your career successfully.