PhD, Planner Accessories, Planners, Student

Planning my PhD with The Happy Planner(R)

I have used quite a few planners through college and graduate school, but none of the systems I used previously were effective for the mid- to end stages of my PhD degree. The types of tasks and deadlines I needed to track are very different from those I had while working on my Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, and early PhD program. While before I had small and defined tasks, and specific deadlines, now I have research and paper ideas, various conferences to consider (I apply to conferences only if my research topic matches the theme of the conference, and if I have something I can write a paper on in time for the deadlines), and teacher assistant tasks. Some of these tasks can be broken down into smaller, list-able tasks. But sometimes, I don’t have enough information or direction to break down a large task/project into smaller tasks – mostly the case for research and paper ideas.

In March 2017, I found and bought The Happy Planner 24 Month Creative Planner Kit for a discounted price (about $30). The deal was too good to turn away from. Only $30 for the following items:

  • 2 Sticker packs, totaling of 12 Sticker Sheets
  • Three Colorful Pens (black, blue, pink)
  • Five Rolls of Washi Tape
  • Two List Pads
  • Elastic Band with Pen Loop
  • Two Pocket Folders
  • 20 Sheets of Note Paper
  • 20 Sheets of Grid Paper
  • 24 months of Monthly and Weekly Planning Pages

I quickly realized that this planner’s format worked well for me to plan the remaining of my PhD degree; specifically because:

  • The small monthly quick-view can be used to remind myself of nearing deadlines or events, and how much time I have until I reach them.
  • The sidebar allows me to list and remember what I want to accomplish that week, deadlines, and/or ideas.
  • The amount of space is just right – not too much and not too little. I can realistically only work on 2 – 4 research items, and maybe 2 – 4 other tasks in a day. The size of the sections allows me to list what I think I can accomplish, plus 1 or 2 more items to strive to get more done.
  • I typically use the three daily sections for research, other tasks (this includes teacher assistant and personal tasks), and body/health reminders. I can and sometimes do change these sections, as needed. In my pictures, you will notice I sometimes label them, but not always if I don’t have the time.
    • I noticed I don’t always color in the body/health reminders, because these things need to be done throughout the day but I only look at my planner a few times in a day. I have considered not using them at all, since I am not consistent in coloring them and they take time to set up. But, I found that having them do help me drink more water, for instance, even if I don’t actually color in the glasses (or other icons).

I have not used many of the accessories, yet. I currently don’t need the list pads – I use my phone for grocery or shopping lists. I own a set of the Bic Cristal colorful pens, which I like to use to either color-code tasks or make my planner look colorful. I am using the remaining accessories, such as stickers and washi tape, as rewards for accomplishing goals. As I accomplish personal goals, I will allow myself to buy and/or use fun planner accessories.


18 thoughts on “Planning my PhD with The Happy Planner(R)”

    1. I’m studying Software Engineering. I honestly checked the price at least twice, because it seemed too good to be true! I guess that’s the benefit of getting planners after a good portion of the year has passed (which I never would have done before this year – I like to have my planners ahead of time). But since I wasn’t using one, it worked out really well for me!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love this idea and your images prove just how well this set up is working for you.

    I am still studying my degree and have never quite been able to find a suitable system for my distance learning courses but I do use a happy planner for my freelance writing business which has. like yourself, some solid deadline and some that are rather vague. Thank you so much for sharing this, its given me a lot of ideas to improve my own systems and also that I don’t ‘need’ to worry about accessories in my work planner but can use them as rewards.

    I think people, myself included, just assume the happy planner is a decorative planner, but it is refreshing to see it used in a functional way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I was quite hesitant to start a blog because I wasn’t sure if it would serve a real purpose, especially since my planner is more functional than decorative. But one of my friends said to do it for fun; and you never know, you might give someone even 1 idea, which will be enough to make it worthwhile. I did recently earn myself printing some free sticker kits, so I’ll see how well that works! My main purpose still is for my planner to be functional, so I focused on getting kits that have functional stickers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I make all of my own inserts for my personal A5 planner, so there is not much room left over for stickers, so I do ensure that any stickers I do use are functional. I don’t believe that you have to have either a functional or pretty planner, you can have both. I always find color coding rather pretty to look at anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree! I think my planner looks pretty with just the color pens and highlighters 😉 the stickers I think could be helpful are checklists and squares. I think the squares will help group tasks by category or add emphasis. I’ll see how it goes! Of course, printing and manually cutting stickers is a time investment, though.

          Liked by 1 person

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