The Case for a Paper (Yes, Paper) Planner

The Case for a Paper (Yes, Actual Paper) Planner

Back to school – the very phrase can seem a bit intimidating when you’ve been away from academia for a few years. Back to school for an MBA – that’s more intimidating yet.

There are a lot of demands on the MBA student, and seemingly endless tasks, deadlines and responsibilities to keep track of. In my professional life, I’ve always been organized, efficient and on a highly intimate basis with my calendar app. But when I enrolled in an MBA program, I knew I’d need more than an app.

MBA candidates are busy. You’ve got classes, team meetings and assignments, homework, employer events, TA office hours, and plenty of other things to track. The Google calendar is nice, but here, a physical calendar, made with actual paper, becomes a necessity.

Seems kind of dated, doesn’t it? After all, this is business school, not middle school, where you’re required to use the supplied school agenda/planner, right?

This is business school, yes. But it’s still school. Transitioning back into the school mindset after years in the professional world can be challenging. Having a physical planner that allows you to keep track of your classes and your group meetings, and that also has space to keep track of your homework and assignments – and all the other moving pieces – can really help you manage your time.

Fortunately, there are a lot of different planners out there. Here are some that work well for MBA students:

For the date-obsessed: If you appreciate having a month view and week view, you’ve got options. Weekly planners offer a small writing space for each day and a chance to view your life by the week. Here are some of the best weekly planners, at varying price points: one, two, three).

For the checklister: If you want more space to write notes for each day, go for the daily planner. These usually include month views, as well, but offer a lot more space to keep detailed information you’ll want on each day, hour-by-hour. These calendars are popular among MBA students because they allow you to record all the different events going on each day, along with due dates for assignments. Plus, you’ll have everything in one place rather than hopping between your phone calendar and your class notes for deadlines. For a great daily planner, try this or this.

For the goal-setter: Lots of planners include note sections where you can leave yourself reminders of things to do. (“Go to spinning class tomorrow!” “Drink more water!”) Some, like this one, even help you set goals for the whole year, creating benchmarks and check-in points for reaching those goals. That may be the ideal mindset for a business student entering a new school year, focused on goals and intentional in reaching them.

–Samprithi (Sammy) Santosh is a Class of 2021 MBA candidate at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

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