Organization at its Finest

The start of the semester brings new classes, schedules, and commitments. Harvey Mudd starts off at full speed and students have adapted a variety of ways to keep themselves on top of their assignments and hectic classes. As a planning fanatic, I’m going to highlight some of my favorite methods I’ve seen! Whether you’re a wizard at getting things done or you need some help to remember tasks for the day, I hope this guide will inspire you to try new ways of staying on top of work. Most importantly however, remember to take breaks regularly and to keep trying things out if something isn’t sitting right with you about your current organization method!

Keep in mind that planning is really personal to each individual and what works for us might not work for you! I recommend trying out different styles until you settle down on something that brings you “planner peace”. For example, as a sophomore now out of Core, I’ve found that my planning style that I’ve been using for the past 3 semesters isn’t really cutting it out anymore and some of these suggestions are derived through my own experimentation and some are from investigating I’ve done on how other students around the world keep track of their assignments.

Bullet Journals

These are a really popular way of keeping track of your tasks for the day. The main idea is that you have key of symbols you use to represent tasks, events, appointments, etc. and a to-do list for the day. Each night, you review what you’ve accomplished and migrate tasks that are yet to be completed to the next day. There’s tons of variations on how to set up your daily or weekly view. The original bullet journaling site has a few examples and BuzzFeed has done a few articles explaining the process as well as providing examples of spreads too! The aspect I like the most about bullet journals are that they’re easy to customize. If you want to track sleep, you just draw it in. One aspect I dislike is that setting up a week (especially if you care to decorate) takes relatively a lot more time than some of the other methods I’ll talk about below.

Three bullet journal weekly spreads showing off various ways to lay out a week and decorate.

Left and Right: Two bullet journal spreads from Pinky (’20) showing off trackers and different weekly layouts. Center: An example of a basic weekly spread from my first semester at Mudd.

Traveler’s Notebooks

These are a portable way of carrying lot of “notebooks” for different purposes on-the-go. They come in many sizes from something that’s the size of a photo (6″ x 4″) to something about the size of half a sheet of printer paper (8.5″ x 5.5″) and more! A typical traveler’s notebook has 1-6 elastic bands running down the spine and you can tuck in “notebooks” around these bands. A notebook is quite loosely defined here. It can hold anything from graph paper to a monthly calendar layout. BuzzFeed did a short article with some pictures here! I find that traveler’s notebooks (TNs) are also great for people looking for a lot of leeway in customization and you can always swap out a notebook that’s not working for you. A negative is that it can take a while to figure out exactly what you need. They can also get quite bulky if you try to shove too much paper in there. From personal experience, try out a few notebook styles before deciding TNs are the way to go for you! There are a lot of free printable options online such as the one linked.

Passion Planner

I found the Passion Planner when I was looking for a hybrid bullet journaling system. It has monthly views and weekly layouts (both Monday, Sunday, and undated versions) that have an hourly time strip running down the day’s column. Each day starts at 6:00am and runs to 10:30pm with 30 minute increments. They even have a planner that runs the academic year from August to July rather than January to December. I really like the Passion Planner because I’m able to block out my classes, appointments, events, and commitments and then I can visually see the amount of time I have leftover for a week. I found it really helpful for finding pockets of free time where I could get portions of my to-do list for the day done. I’ve used this system for almost 3 semesters now and the main problem I’ve found is that now that I’m out of core, my assignments aren’t always due with a weekly schedule anymore so sometimes I’m crammed for space writing all my tasks out for a day.

A weekly spread showing off time blocking and the hourly layout of the Passion Planner.

A weekly spread from Spring 2017 in my Passion Planner.

Google Calendar

If you’re not about analog planning, consider using Google Calendar. It’s wonderful because you can add events emailed to your school email directed to your calendar through Gmail. I use my Google Calendar to keep track of my class schedule (e.g if there’s no class due to some event on a random day), work schedule, and office hours. I also add all school events I plan on going to once I get an email so that my email isn’t clogged up with read emails.

A weekly view in Google Calendar featuring my classes and work schedule.

My current view in Google Calendar with office hours hidden.


This is a Japanese planner that comes in two paper sizes, A6 and A5. It’s made of a high-quality thin paper called Tomoe River paper which is suitable for fountain pens and wet inks. This planner lays flat on a desk due to its special binding and also features a unique year-at-a-glance, monthly, weekly, and daily section combination. It’s perfect for people who like to plan ahead and have a general overview of the week while keeping track of their to-dos on a new page everyday. The one caveat I have with this planner is that since it’s imported from Japan, it’s pretty pricey, even on Amazon at about $50. Covers for the planner (to protect the notebook it comes as) are also quite pricey.

The daily section in the Hobonichi Cousin that features an hourly section and lots of empty space for to-do lists and tracking weather/sleep.

The daily section in the Hobonichi Cousin Avec (A5 size) courtesy of Emily (’20).

Hopefully this overview inspires you to reevaluate your planning system if it isn’t currently working well for you! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. For those curious, I am currently using a compact size academic Passion Planner as my on-the-go daily planner, a weekly notepad and a desk pad monthly calendar for my room, and am trying to figure out how to move into a B6 size traveler’s notebook. Organization is a continually evolving process!