Using notebooks for beginning-of-semester planning

Written by: Spencer Greenhalgh

Primary Source: Spencer Greenhalgh

One of the first posts I published to this blog was a lament that I just couldn’t get notebooks to work for me. About a year ago, though, I finally found a routine that got notebooks working for me. I started off working my way through two copies of a Self Journal before borrowing some of the best elements of the Self Journal and adding some features I felt were missing in a homebrew, quasi-bullet journal style mashup. I’m still highly dependent on digital tools—mostly Things 3—for task management and reminders, but I’ve found a few areas where analog works better for me than digital:

  • Note taking: I have never been good at taking notes digitally because I feel like I have to have a comprehensive system. With a notebook, I can just give myself permission to scrawl a few things down on whatever page is handy and flip back to it when I need to, and that seems to do the trick.
  • Goal setting: Things 3 works great for task management, but I’ve been trying to work harder to actually set goals for myself. Writing goals down rather than entering them into an app feels like a better way of reflecting on what goals I want to set and getting them present in my mind.
  • Planning: Just as Things 3 works great for task management, digital calendars do the trick wonderfully when it comes to scheduling events. However, there are plenty of non-scheduled parts of my day that I need to plan, and there are way too many office hours that I’ve been late to because an event being on my calendar doesn’t mean it’s on my mind. Taking the time to write out a plan works much better for my awareness of that period of time.

With goal setting and planning in particular, I try to take the time to sketch out every day, every week, every month, and every semester. When those line up, it leads to a busy Sunday night, as it did this past weekend. This is a pretty big semester, though, since I have plans to defend my dissertation proposal and start applying for jobs, and it was great to think about how those two big goals and corresponding plans look at those four different scales. I’m really glad that I’ve found a way to fit notebooks into my routines!

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Hi there! My name is Spencer Greenhalgh, and I am a student in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology doctoral program at Michigan State University. I came to Michigan State University with a strong belief in the importance of an education grounded in the humanities. As an undergraduate, I studied French and political science and worked as a teaching assistant in both fields. After graduation, I taught French, debate, and keyboarding in a Utah private school before coming to MSU, where I plan to study how technology can be used to help students connect the humanities with their lives. I have a particular interest in the use of games and simulations to promote ethical reasoning and explore moral dilemmas, but am eager to study any technology that can help students see the relevance of studying language, culture, history, and government.

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