Services for Students with Disabilities

Planners and Calendars and Smart Phones…Oh My!!!

With so many options available to track important information and appointments how do we know what’s best for us?  Are paper planners better?  Is electronic the way to go with calendar programs on computers and smart phones?  And should we use both or maybe neither? Why write things down anyway?

Well most experts agree that writing down appointments, due dates, reminders to return phone calls and emails, etc. is a ‘good thing to do’.  Our days are busy and often filled with some stress.  So it is all too easy to forget something unless we create a way to remind ourselves.  But what we choose for these check-ins or reminders is as individual as the options available.

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Wall Calendars - One to Four Month View

Some people like to have visual representations of their days that are as big as possible to “catch” their attention.  Large wall calendars can be helpful for this.  There are large monthly calendars that are inexpensive and light weight for hanging. There are also white board varieties that show three and even fourth months at a time.  The latter is perfect for a full semester view of big due dates.  But space is limited in the slightly smaller daily sections.  White board markers allow for changes in test dates or deadlines for papers and projects. (Check your office supply stores to find these options and see if this option seems helpful. Then think about where you could put it for viewing before walking out the door.)

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Paper Planner vs. Electronic Calendars

Whether or not you choose a wall calendar, most people like to have a smaller version of a calendar with them to check availability before adding new commitments and to stay on schedule.  But with this common goal, the options are many.  The main choice seems to between paper and electronic planners.  So let’s look at both.  Consider your preferences as you read.

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Paper Planners

Academic Planners

There are paper planners set up with the academic year in mind.  These are usually called academic planners.  But there is a great deal of variety here.  Some are put together for a particular college or university and include the important dates for that school’s calendar, such as vacation days, dates for dropping or withdrawing from classes, final exam days, etc.  This feature can be helpful in setting advising appointments and scheduling travel plans.

But even at a particular school, several planners may be available, each with other features added.  Many have a place to write out your schedule of classes with enough space for class locations.  Some planners have a page for noting the names of instructors, contact emails and phone numbers, faculty office hours, and the locations of those office hours.  If this page isn’t included, it can always be created. Look at various planners offered to see what features catch your attention as be helpful.

Action Day Planner

One particular planner, available through Amazon and online, is called Action Day Planner.  It was brought to my attention by an engineering student who found he had significant group work to track.  This planner has:

  • The usual daily space for hourly activities like classes and group meeting 
  • A “tasks to execute” section to capture reminders for calls, emails, appointments, errands, and paperwork as they come into the week
  • Space to track tasks that others are taking care of for group projects and
  • A section for small-goals toward individual and group projects.  This project-management feature not only allows heightened accountability; it has space to note results for personal actions taken and next steps planned.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Paper Planners

The main advantage some find in paper planners is that they do not need electricity or taking electric cords along for recharging.  Some people also find it easier to read and locate information in paper format rather than on a computer screen, where scrolling up and down and clicking in and out of programs and pages is required.

A disadvantage of paper planners is that they can become messy depending on handwriting and changing due dates or cancelled plans.  White out helps here, as does using a mechanical pencil rather than a pen.

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Electronic Planner Options for Computer and Smart Phones

Google calendar is the currently used option by the University.  Many students, faculty, and staff link this calendar from their computers to their phones.  This allows them to add meetings and goals to either phone or computer without the need to remember to add it later to the other calendar.  It also has the advantage of allowing shared viewing of calendars to help with setting meeting times.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronic Planners

An advantage in using electronics, especially phones, is that it is easy to change test and assignment due dates when they are adjusted by the faculty.  If we keep phones with us, and most do, this change can be made quickly and easily.  Another advantage as mentioned above is the ability for information added to a phone or computer to be retrievable on other electronic devices.   This insures that information is not lost.

A disadvantage is the need to keep phones and computers charged.  If the electricity is out, so is your connectivity to schedules and making and registering new plans.  **Best thoughts here are: To keep electronics charged.  And always have power cords for computers and phones with you for ample power.  This enables work to be done should a person be away from room or apartment and be in a productive space for longer than usual.

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Send Us Your Thoughts and Preferences on Planners

Please share your picks of most useful ways to track plans and goals.  This can include types of planners or software you use and what features you find most helpful, as well as tips for better management of tasks and scheduling.  What you have learned can greatly help other students. 

Send your thoughts to: grubaugh@umich.edu  Thanks!!!!

To read other articles in the Right From The Start series, check out...

 

Which Courses to Keep for a Balanced Semester

Where To Get Information About Your Courses

Managing Transitional and Other Stress

What's in a Syllabus and Why Does It Matter?