Originally published on 11 March 2007.
I came across the DayTimer system while working a summer job after my second year at university. The sleek binders caught my eye, as well as the idea of having it all together. I had had enough experience to realize that the calendar type student planner only went so far, and that I needed to get a handle on both phone numbers and things I needed to do. The DayTimer put a calendar, to-do list, and addresses all in one very nice little bundle, and it was within my student price range. I ordered and received the smallest (about 3 inches by 5) planner.
What the System Offered
The DayTimer system came with spiral bound pages that had a multitude of formats. I first picked the two page per week, which was very similar to my student planner, except that it had a to-do list section for each day as well as a formatted section which contained lines for times. There was a separate address book that tucked into the back, and project/action cards that tucked into the front. I think these cards were supposed to make me think about what my goals were, but I used them for notes on projects I was working on. The DayTimer system also came with a small instruction manual that introduced the principles of time management.
How I Used This System
I used this system much like my student planner, writing in my classes and meetings, but also to track things I needed to do. I was able to record the due dates on assignments and then a few days before it would go on my to-do list for me to actually work on the assignment. This eliminated the all-nighters for me to finish my homework. About this time I transitioned from liberal arts into engineering, so the assignments were also more concrete – more problem-based than read/draw conclusions, so this type of planning helped me.
I also transferred all of my phone numbers into the address book and started carrying it with me. This was helpful when I needed to mail something on the way to class, or when someone asked for a phone number. The days of little pieces of paper everywhere were gone.
What I learned from the DayTimer Days
Having Everything In One Place Saves Time
Once I had everything in one place, and kept it with me, I never had to flounder with trying to remember information. I stopped having to write things on pieces of paper to be entered somewhere else later. I had information with me when I needed it. And I never had to search for things: I wrote them in my planner, and they were always there.
Having a Longer-Term View of the Calendar Can Help Me Plan
I still had to remember to enter things in my calendar, but I was getting better not only at checking it to see what was coming up, but also to see how busy a week was. I was conscious that if I had to work three evenings in a row before a big assignment was due, I had to find some time during a weekend or between classes to get the work done. But I still hadn’t been able to plan effectively for what I needed to do.
I Used The DayTimer for Years
I used my DayTimer for years. I went from the smallest spiral bound book to the next size up by the time I finished university, and when I started my first real job, I graduated to the 5.5 inch x 8.5 ring binder. It was a good record of everything I needed to do, but I still drifted, unable to make goals or effectively get things completed.