Back to School Week: Academic Advice from the Other Side of the Desk

Back to School Week Day 3 Academic Advice

So here we are at our last Back to School Week (that turned into two weeks because I’m still not quite back in the blogging groove) Post for this year! Some academic advice direct from your resident student-turned-professor. Being relatively young for a prof certainly has it’s benefits in being able to give this kind of advice because I am both familiar with professor expectations (having them myself!) and remember keenly what it’s like to be a student.

So here are Magpie’s top 9 pieces of academic advice for the college student!

Go to office hours.

Seriously. Your professors have that time specifically set aside to meet with and help students, and it’s a waste if you don’t use it! Most of us LOVE when students drop by, and office hours are your opportunity to get help with whatever you need. This is not high school – you get a bad grade on a test, your professors won’t chase you down and force you to get help. That onus is on you now. So do it!

Bonus to utilizing office hours: they will help you develop a personal relationship with your professors, which can be EXTRA handy down the road when in need of references for grad school, internships, jobs, you name it.

Plan ahead when you can.

Many professors will include a detailed schedule of lecture topics and assignments in the syllabus, and I can vouch for the fact that they do that for your benefit – not their own. Planning ahead will help you mitigate the worst symptoms of “hell week” around midterms and 2/3 of the way to finals by keeping you on top of all the little stuff. If you stay on top of reading and everyday assignments, you won’t have to panic when you get to that big paper or exam, because you’ll have the time built in already!

Take responsibility for your own screw-ups.

Admitting when you’ve balled something up and asking, “how can I fix this?” instead of making excuses and trying to act like it wasn’t your fault will earn you the respect of your superiors. Nobody likes excuses, and in general? We can tell when you’re making them to try to avoid consequences. We may not always call you on it, but in general – we know.

If there’s something going on in your life that is messing you up – talk to someone about it.

Schools have counseling centers for a reason. Going to talk to a councilor is NOT a sign of weakness, or just for people with “real problems*” or some other such bullshit. They’re there to help you figure out how to handle the things you can’t.

And as a side note to this one, when emergencies happen that interfere with coursework – let your professors know. I can’t speak for everyone out there, but if a student comes to me with an issue immediately after it comes up and before it starts actually having in impact, I’m generally a thousand times more capable of working with the student to figure something out than if they say nothing and then come to me at the end of the semester with a failing grade and excuses – however valid they might be. At that point, my hands are sort of tied.

*PS – if it’s impacting you enough to take a toll on your emotional health or your academics, it’s a REAL problem, even if you think it’s small beans compared to what other people in your life might be going through. Problems are not a competition, and there is no hierarchy… if it’s messing you up, it warrants fixing.

Utilize the resources your school provides you, particularly the academic ones.

Writing Centers, Tutoring Centers, you name it. You’re helping to fund them with your tuition dollars… might as well benefit from it. And in general, they will help you. Additionally, needing or wanting a tutor is not a sign of stupidity. I see so many kids avoiding using a tutor because they think if they need one that means they’ve somehow failed. Stop that line of thinking RIGHT. NOW. Tutors are there to help you. They’re resources put in place specifically to help you SUCCEED – just like the library or any other academic resource – not as evidence of your failure. Use them!

Your librarians are simultaneously the most valuable and least utilized resources on campus.

Seriously. They’re awesome. Get to know them, and get to know them well. You won’t regret it.

Take your composition/basic writing class seriously.

If you don’t have to take one, take the time on your own to learn how to write a solid academic paper. Know how to construct a thesis and support an argument. And take writing seriously – you may not think you need to write well for your field, but trust me: you do. Clear, efficient, and professional communication has its foundation in writing.

Don’t get your textbooks from the bookstore unless you have to.

Shop around – odds are you can find your books WAY WAY cheaper on amazon – even if you’re like me and prefer to buy new as opposed to used. On a similar note – usually the previous edition of textbooks are just fine in terms of material (although check with your professor on this if you can – occasionally there are exceptions to this rule) and are about 1000x cheaper.

And then finally…

Remember that college is first and foremost about receiving an education.

There’ll be plenty of time for fun, and absolutely you should be making time for it, but if your pursuit of leisure starts getting in the way of your academics, you need to do some priority re-shifting. What you’re paying for is the privilege of an education, and to waste that opportunity would be a shame.

Back to School Week: Common Faux Pas When Communicating With Professors

Back to School Week Day 2 Communicating with Professors

So, funny story. I’ve literally been agonizing over this post for a year and a half. I had originally intended it to be part of back to school week LAST year, but ended up chickening out of posting it.

Why? Because it seems like a fairly good topic, and probably (hopefully) contains sound advice…

Well, mainly because so many other articles I’ve read that are written by professors and deal with this kind of stuff take on such a negative, snarky, and frankly condescending tone. And I don’t want this to be like that. I don’t want to be like that.

So I’ve tried my best not to be. Students don’t deserve that – particularly since a lot of this stuff is stuff you guys do unintentionally. Cultural habits that are totally acceptable with your peers, but that don’t really jive with the cultural realities of academia. And the professors that this stuff bother also don’t deserve the ire that so often ends up directed towards them in reaction – because just like any other field or profession there are certain things that are just not acceptable within that culture and simply because it’s education shouldn’t mean you should respect those mores any less.

So let’s keep the comments respectful and be kind to one another.

That said, let’s proceed!


“Sorry I missed class, did I miss anything important?”

The answer is always a resounding “YES!” Even if your professor doesn’t say it, I guarantee you they’re thinking it. The information covered in class is never just “throw away” stuff, and your professors have spent countless hours preparing it, writing it, planning it, etc… While we generally know that you don’t mean to come off this way, the reality is that asking for what you missed in this manner essentially invalidates all that work and effort, and insinuates that what we do in class routinely, well, isn’t important. That important is an aberration from the norm. And while I understand that not every class is 100% relevant to your personal interests, and not every professor uses 100% of their class time effectively, it’s still something that gets a lot of professors’ hackles up and comes off as mildly rude. Asking instead, “what did I miss?” is a far more polite option – but the best way to go about it? Get notes and the gist of what you missed from a classmate, and then contact your professor with any specific questions about the material.

Emailing them after hours and then getting upset when you don’t get a reply immediately.

Bottom line is that professors have lives too, and they often don’t revolve around their email accounts. They have families, friends, homes to maintain, grocery shopping to do, other jobs (if they’re adjunct) to attend to, not to mention a crapload of other work responsibilities besides teaching (committee meetings, administrative hoops to jump through, research and writing responsibilities, advising responsibilities – the list goes on and on). Professor is simply not a job that is naturally conducive to “having a life,” outside of work, and so a lot of professors limit their email checking to when they’re in the office, or to one or two set times in the evening in an effort to keep some semblance of a healthy work-life balance. Even those of us who get our email on our phones will, depending on what we’re doing at the moment, merely check to make sure it’s not some sort of emergency, and then add it to the list of things to attend to when we get into the office the next morning.

Now obviously, it’s one thing if you email a professor and then don’t hear from them for days. Then I would suggest you go talk to them in person about it. But in general, just try to have realistic expectations. Remember that your professors are people who exist outside of the classroom/office setting. And if it’s something that does absolutely need an immediate response for whatever reason? Honestly, email is not the way to go: call them.

Emailing as a first resort.

This is sort of along the same lines as above – basically remember that your professors have a buttload of responsibilities, both personal and professional, besides attending to you. Most professors will do their best to make you a priority, but bottom line is that you should try to figure out the answer to your question using your own means before emailing. Check the syllabus, check the assignment requirement sheets, check the class website. Do these things first and THEN if you still don’t have an answer, email away. This is simply a more effective use of both your time, and your professors’ – particularly if the answer to your question is simply, “it’s in the syllabus.”

Ending an email with “Thank you for understanding” when you don’t yet know if they understand.

You know how the old saying goes: “Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME.” And I guarantee that if it is about something the professor would have been on the fence about to begin with, that presumption is probably going to push them into the “not understanding” category. Because essentially what that little “thank you for understanding” does is transform asking for permission into telling them that this is happening regardless of how they respond. That presumption can get a lot of professors’ hackles up at light-speed, even if the request is fairly innocuous, so I’d recommend you avoid using it as a sign off.

Waiting until the night before an assignment is due to email them with major questions.

This is generally a dead give-away for “I waited until the last minute to even begin working on this,” and will leave us either chuckling and shaking our heads or face palming in disappointment (depending on our individual moods/attitudes – I tend to be the chuckling type). It also, of course, does you no favors, because the more last minute it is, the less likely it is that your professor will even see it before the assignment is due. Now it’s one thing if you’ve had several back-and-forths with the prof already, and it’s just a minor question about something like formatting – basically if it’s something that realistically you’d still be working on at this last minute point. But waiting until the last minute to contact them with major content questions is just a huge giveaway.

Now again, I realize that sometimes shit happens, and even the most responsible, conscientious student can sometimes let things go to the last minute – it’s certainly not like I never pulled an overnighter in college finishing up a paper that I let slip my mind. I get it, I really do. But unless it’s because of something that warrants asking for an extension (and no, “I forgot about it” is generally not a valid reason for an extension), I’d recommend just taking your punches gracefully, and completing the assignment the best you can. As a student I always far preferred taking whatever points I got off for not being able to clear up my questions when I procrastinated as my just deserts for letting it go so long to letting the professor know I had totally waited until the last minute and possibly damaging my standing in their eyes.

Now, if you have no problem with them knowing that you waited until the last minute? If you feel like showing the professor your hand in exchange for having the question answered is worth it in terms of points? Then absolutely ask away. Just know you’re giving yourself away when you email us with massive content questions like that, and the reality is that some professors will view you more poorly for it.

So I suppose this whole section boils down to: know that we know and proceed as you will.

Using overly informal email conventions or text-speak when you don’t really know the professor.

Until you get to know your professor a little better, and can accurately judge how informal you can be in emails based on their personality, treat communicating with your professor like professional communication – because it is! Be polite, be courteous, be formal. Use a professional greeting, address them using their preferred title (Dr. So and So or Professor So and So – not Ms. or Mr.), and use full words and sentences (no “ur” for “your” or “2” for “to,” or “too,”) etc… etc…

Now once you get to know your professor a little better, it may end up being a different story. Once I get to know a student and they get to know me, I don’t think twice if an email comes in without a proper professional greeting, without a professional sign off, or with informal phrasing (although I still don’t care for text-speak). But not all professors are like that, and it’s best to play it safe until you figure out if yours is one of them!


To wrap this whole thing up I guess all of these specific things can be easily generalized into being as respectful, considerate, and professional as possible.

But that would have made for a much shorter post!

Anything you think I missed? Add it in the comments (just remember to be respectful)!

It’s That Time of Year Again!


I’m really about a week late on this one, but even now, colleges and K-12 schools alike are beginning to trickle back into session.

As an educator it’s without a doubt my favorite time of year. So much excitement! So much potential! So many OFFICE SUPPLIES!!! I love it.

Back to school season is second only to Christmas in my books.

And to celebrate not only this, but also my triumphant return to blogging on a relatively regular schedule, we’ll be kicking off the school year with some school themed posts. Most of them will be aimed towards higher education, since that is after all the level I’ve been teaching for going on 6 years now. But there’ll be plenty that can be applicable to high school as well!

For now, let’s start off simple enough – with a link roundup! We haven’t done one of these in a while, so buckle up – this’ll be fun!

Unsolicited Advice About Living On Campus from The Jesuit Post – This article contains some REALLY great advice for students moving into a dorm environment for the first time. And don’t be scared away by the fact that it’s by a Jesuit – it’s great advice for all students, whether you’re religious or not.

The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2019 – Every year professors at Beloit College in Wisconsin put together a list of cultural factoids about the incoming freshman class that help us professors get some perspective on, well, exactly how old and unrelatable we’ve become over the years. Highlights from this year include the fact that this year’s freshman have never known a world without South Park, Harry Potter, or Google. Weird.

18 Pieces of Advice for 18 Year Old Freshmen – A post of mine from this time last year containing a lot of advice for incoming freshman – it includes things I now realize after having seen college from the other side of the desk, things I learned the hard way as a college student myself, and advice that I was given by others that I’m really glad I took to heart because it made my college experience *that much* better.

44 Things I Learned My Freshman Year of College from Mostly Morgan – And if you don’t trust me because you think I’ve been out of the STUDENT game for too long (although I’m tellin’ ya, hindsight’s 20/20), here’s some advice from an actual college student.

And then last…

21 Things People Should Know Before Going to College from Buzzfeed – I’m not usually a fan of Buzzfeed click bait, but this list has some genuinely good advice on it. Particularly #5, #14, and #21.

Happy Start of the School Year!

Magpie’s Adventures in Bullet Journaling


Bullet Journaling has really fascinated me ever since Jenn from With Luck Blog brought it to my attention way back when I posted about planners. The concept seemed to work really well with the system I was currently using for my to-do lists, but there was one big issue with it – the inability to plan ahead by more than a month or so. As a freelance musician, I sometimes book weddings and masses months and even years in advance (funerals, not so much), so the lack of a static monthly calendar in the system was a major flaw for me.

But everything else seemed so great… so I decided in the new year I was going to try to figure out a way to adapt the system to fit my needs and give it a shot.


The notebook I chose is one I got on clearance at Barnes and Noble – it’s clearly an imitation of a moleskine, without the price tag (I think I paid $3?). So far it’s held up similarly, with the added bonus of having a gorgeous butterfly wing cover.


The brand is Piccadilly – the paper quality is great, and again comparable to moleskine.


I used a pretty Project Life card to make my key – I use mostly shapes for the actual “bullet” part of it, and the color coding is for calendar entries. My “bullets” are mostly done with whatever pen I have handy, and for my calendar I have a 10-pack of Triplus Fineliners.


This is my index page – not sure how useful this will actually be for me. I don’t do too much idea logging other than blog posts, and I’ve got little post-it tabs to demarcate where my idea log for the month is along with my current active calendar sections.


To solve my need to plan ahead problem, I printed out these lovely monthly calendars from The Handmade Home, trimmed and pasted them in the first 12 spreads of the journal. Getting them folded properly and to lie flat was a bit finicky, but is proving massively worth it. Having this monthly calendar allows me to plan ahead as needed without lugging around a second book/planner specifically for this purpose.

Note that my calendar is not actually this empty – it’s actually pretty disgustingly flooded with stuff. I just feel a bit weird about posting my schedule and where I will be and when for all to see on the interwebs, so I edited out my entries in photoshop. But it should be noted that this is where the color-coding happens. And you can see what each color means on my key above.

In general, I keep the “big happenings” on these pages. The “out of the ordinary” stuff like concerts, weddings, gigs, doctor’s appts, birthdays – but not the day to day work stuff like meetings, classes, rehearsals, and the sort of daily grind things.


Following the monthly calendar spreads, I have a bill checklist – I’ve always kept track using a checklist like this, and now having it in with all my other stuff is great.

(Before you say anything, yes, I know I don’t have a ton of bills – I’ve only listed the stuff I don’t have on auto-pay here, and I’m super lucky to have most of my utilities included in my rent.)


Then, at the start of each month, I have a spread that includes space for logging blog post ideas, and keeping track of habits I want to make permanent.


After the Ideas/Habits spread, then comes the daily listing of the month – here’s another place where I altered the Bullet Journal formula to suit my own needs. Instead of one line per day, I leave a big block for more detailed calendar work. At the beginning of the month I go through and transfer the “big stuff” from the monthly spreads, and then use the rest of the space for “daily grind” sort of stuff – meetings with students, rehearsals, classes, lunches, etc… These are also color-coded.

(Again, I edited out my entries – most boxes are pretty full, I’m just not feeling great about having the details of my daily schedule up for the world to see.)

And then comes my daily lists – here you can see I pretty much stick with the bullet journal formula – although I occasionally forget to “migrate” tasks I don’t complete (as you can see, grocery shopping is one I let go pretty frequently… actually as I type this I’m eating a bowl full of mashed pumpkin for lunch because that’s pretty much all I have left in the cabinets… whoopssss). I use pretty washi tape to differentiate between days, and for a lot of other decorative purposes throughout the book.


So far this system has been working out super well – particularly now that the semester is underway. It’s handy to have my Must-Do lists for the day alongside literally EVERYTHING ELSE, without adding the heft of a big leather binder planner to my bag. The only potential problem I see coming is if I end up running out of space in the book, since the monthly calendars are already affixed and filled – swapping them into another book without having to re-print and re-do everything might be logistically problematic. But judging by the rate at which I used pages so far this year, I *might* be okay until next January first…

But I suppose we’ll see!

Do you bullet journal? If not, what do you use to plan? Any tips or tricks you want to share? Let us know in the comments!

Monday Update

It’s been a looonnnnggg but boring and busy few weeks, with minimal time for creating bloggy material and content happening in my life, so I figure it’s time for a quick update on what’s been keeping me occupied.



…working on: grading research papers. I’ve got 105 five to seven page papers to work through. Even just looking at the stack is overwhelming. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s all for the greater good. And that the massive amounts of unpaid time I use notating and commenting on their writing will help them in the future because they’ll take what they learn from this experience and apply it to other classes. And that this will overall help them become better writers and better students, because they’ll take time to read through my notations and comments – they won’t just look at the grade on the back and then forget about it. Because they care about more than just the grade… right? Right.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.


…feeling: Christmassy, but burned out. It’s making it really difficult to focus, right at a time when it’s super important for me to focus or else I’m going to be in grading hell VERY fast. All I want to do is put up my tree, drink coffee while wrapped in a blanket on the couch, and listen to Christmas carols while I knit. But I can’t. I still have the final grading push to get through. And hell, it’s not even December yet.

It’s helped to try to take 5 minutes here and there to just breathe and recenter myself – but sometimes that 5 minute breather turns into a 15 minute break where I do things like cut paper snowflakes and make santa hats from scratch (complete with shading in red pen) for my office pope. Whoops. (#sorrynotsorry)

Spotify radio

…listening to: Spotify radio. I’ve been a spotify subscriber for a long time, but I only recently fully discovered the radio function – and I’m in love. It’s like Pandora, only with unlimited skips. The ’00s station is totally my jam. It would be Christmas stuff, but I have a feeling my officemates and office neighbors might string me up if I did that considering Thanksgiving isn’t even over yet.

sailor moon crystal

…watching: Sailor Moon Crystal – OMG guys, this is seriously amazing. I started it because reading Reenie’s Sailor Moon rewatch posts at The Fangirl’s Dilemma made me super nostalgic and I’m absolutely loving it. It’s all the nostalgia from when I was in middle school, with none of the weird awkward 90’s filler or pacing problems of the original series (at least so far anyway).


…reading: Zealot by Reza Aslan. I originally picked up this book to read to see if it would be a good gift for my dad, who is into theology as well as history, and it’s got me hooked, even though religion is not necessarily something I’m super into*. A review is forthcoming once I finish it.

What have you all been up to?

*While my office pope would seem to contradict this – I’m not even Catholic. I just like the guy. It’s a long story.

8 Things I Wish I Owned When I Lived in a Dorm

Dorm Room Essentials


A lot has changed in the world since I was an undergrad (seven years ago now… I honestly don’t know where the time went…). Myspace isn’t really a thing anymore, Facebook has changed so much it barely resembles what we so eagerly signed up for when our university FINALLY got added, AIM has died a slow death, iPods are rarely seen as a separate entity, and everything you used to use your computer for can now be done on the phone that fits in your back pocket.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the nature of dorm life. Rooms are still tiny, closets are still far too small, bathrooms are still communal, shower shoes are still needed, and walls are still most often white or beige cinderblock (lucky you if you get actual drywall!).

Now, the agenda post was supposed to be my last back-to-school post, but after I watched campus move back into the residence halls last week, I got to thinking about the kind of things I wish I had had while I was living that cinderblock surrounded life. There are so many cool things out now that are super conducive to life in a dorm, and so I’ve gathered a list of eight of the things I think would have made my life SO MUCH EASIER as a dorming student.


First, a Keurig Coffee Machine. I got one of these babies (mine’s blue, though I am admittedly very fond of this orchid colored one) for Christmas from my Aunt after I moved into my first non-school-housing apartment in 2012, and let me tell you, it’d be pretty amazing for dorm life. When I was in school, I had a coffee machine in my room, but it was just a small, regular drip machine – and it could get really messy, what with the pouring, and the coffee grounds, and the dripping filter. Additionally, with the drip machine, you’d have a pot and a filter container to wash after you were done. But with the Keurigs, there’s no extra hassle. Just pop in a K-cup and you’re on your way. They’re also perfect for heating water for tea – just run a cycle without a K-cup. And as if that wasn’t enough, the large cup is also the perfect amount of water to fill a Ramen Cup-O-Noodles to the fill line.

I do admit that I think I would prefer the bigger version with the water tank on the side to the mini – particularly now that I’m in a real apartment with a real kitchen, but the mini is much more compact – perfect for the limited space of a dorm room.


2) Poo-pourri. Oh my goodness would this have been awesome to have in a communal bathroom. My mom brought home a bottle of this one day a few years ago because she thought it was hilarious, but lo and behold, turns out it actually works. This would have been so handy to have a really big bottle of… could have saved me (and others!) so much sneaking around, holding it in until the bathroom is empty, and hurrying out before anyone saw it was you who “did the deed.” Because even though EVERYBODY POOPS, and NOBODY’S POOP SMELLS LIKE FLOWERS, for some reason it’s still sort of taboo to admit that the smelly one was yours. And even if you’re not someone who is embarrassed by that kind of thing (I admit that the older I get the fewer shits I give… pun intended), there’s a practical purpose for this one too – to keep the communal bathroom as a whole fresh.

swivel sweeper

3) The Swivel Sweeper. I got one of these last year for quick touch-ups in our mostly hardwood floor apartment, and honestly it would have been such a perfect vacuum for a tiny dorm room. It does a great job on hard surfaces and throw-rugs alike, and the new model has a handy feature where the brushes come out for easy removal of hair that gets trapped around them. All we had when we were in school was a regular dry swiffer for the hard surfaces, and we had to borrow the big floor vacuum from maintenance when we wanted a real vacuuming of our throw rugs, mainly because we couldn’t find a vacuum small enough that still actually, well, vacuumed.

hot hair tool storage

4) Hot Hair Tool Storage. One of the biggest pains in the butt in a teeny tiny dorm room is using hot hair tools like blowdryers or straightening irons because, well, where do you place them down when they’re still hot? And you can’t put them away until they cool down enough, so forget it if you’re in a rush… But these handy caddies are such a perfect solution to that issue – they’re made of stainless steel with high-temp resistant silicone so that you don’t have to worry about putting your still hot curling iron away and rushing out the door.

hanging jewelry organizer

5) Hanging Jewelry Organizer. This would have been a complete life-saver. Not only would it have cleared off space on my already too-packed dresser, but it would have kept my jewelry organized, AND safely out of sight, nestled in with all my actual dresses and shirts.

vornado fan

6) A Vornado “Air Circulator” (Fan). My apartmentmate got one of the really large size Vornados about two years ago, and let me tell you, these guys are worth the price tag. They move more air than any fan I’ve seen that’s twice their size. And they’re quiet too. One of the medium sizes would have been so perfect for our dorm rooms, which because of their size often got stuffy, even when the air conditioning was on (when we had air conditioning – not all dorms do). All we had was this dinky little desk fan, which frankly didn’t do anything unless you were sitting with it pointed directly in your face. These Vornado fans are designed to move all the air in the room – making it feel a bunch cooler, without having to dry your eyes out by having wind pointed directly at them.


7) Huggable Hangers. These things are every clotheshorse’s dream. I made the switch to these too late to be of any use in a dorm, but the amount of clothes you can fit into even the tiniest closet with these is pretty astounding. They come with hanging loops so you can cascade hangers, and clips that can turn them into skirt hangers. And bonus – now they come in different colors!

Now, the original Joy Mangano hangers are, admittedly, a bit pricey for a whole closet’s worth. And while I think it was totally worth it (In my experience, they’re much sturdier than the non-name brand ones), it might be a bit much to spend for college – so luckily, in the years since these debuted, there are TONS of cheaper imitations out there and you can get slimline felt hangers anywhere from TJ MAXX to Walmart.

over the door purse storage

8) And last we have these over-the-door purse racks. This is the only item on this list that I actually DID have in college, although only for the last year when me and my roommate were in an apartment. But having used them then, I can attest to how amazingly handy they would have been in our tiny dorm, particularly since both me and my roomie were purse junkies. These are basically canvas strips that have hooks on them, and they’re fully adjustable, so they can fit on your dorm door, OR the door of your wardrobe.

Any suggestions for stuff to add to the list? What did YOU find most handy as a dorming student? Do share in the comments!

[Clicking on the pictures should take you to the source – and the place you can buy these things. This is not a sponsored post, I am not affiliated with any of these companies or websites – they just happen to make products I love.]

My Favorite Planners

Sorry for the quietness around here. We’re finally back at school, and for all the planning I did for THAT, I neglected to do enough planning for here on the blog so I could have some posts scheduled. I knew I wasn’t going to have time this first week to write new content, but I guess I just couldn’t bring myself to actually admit it and plan for it.

My bad.

But we’re back today with the last of the Back to School Week posts! Which is, ironically, about planners!

I’m very picky with my planners. If I don’t like it enough, I simply won’t use it. There have been years where I’ve gone through 5 or 6 in the quest to find something I like enough to keep me organized. And so I’ve gathered here what I have, over the years, narrowed down as the best.

At least for me.

Now, I prefer my agendas to be yearly rather than academic – the academic planners worked for me while I was in high school and college, but as soon as I hit grad school, I feel like the yearly format (Jan-Dec) simply work better for me. I guess I have more to do in the summers now! But all of these options do have an academic option – except the Lilly Pulitzer, which is actually an August-December of the following year format, so works as an academic planner anyway.

Agenda <3

First, we have the Vera Bradley agenda. I used this one a few years ago (in a different pattern of course), and was astounded by how well it held up over the whole year. The pages inside are nice and thick, so I could use my favorite gel pens without worrying about bleeding or transparency, and the set up is great, with weekly/monthly pages that have lots of space to write under each day. That said, they have seemed to have changed these a bit since I used them – mine had a hard cover protecting the spiral binding so that it didn’t get all squished and warped by catching on things in my backpack. So I can’t speak to how well the binding holds up anymore, but based on my experience with the next planner, I wouldn’t be hopeful.

Second, we have a Lilly Pulitzer planner. I used this for about six months last year (again different pattern – I just picked my favorite of the new ones), and I loved the set up. It was pretty similar to the Vera Bradley in almost every way actually… except the stickers it came with were nicer. That said, I was disappointed with the binding. Within a few months of floating around in my backpack the spiral loops ended up all squished and janky. I ended up having to switch out for a new planner over the summer. Now, that said, I’m very hard on my planners, so if you’re someone who keeps theirs in a purse, or, well, isn’t as rough and tumble with their stuff as I am, this is totally a great thing.

Third, we have the one I’m currently using this year, a simple Moleskine. It’s plain, black, and boring, yes. But the setup on the inside is SO GREAT, particularly for me because I keep all my planning together in one thing – blog and personal. This Moleskine doesn’t have a monthly view, but the weekly is pretty fantastic. Why? Because there’s a whole lined page next to each week for notes and other stuff. I use the living daylights out of this feature. Grocery lists, blog post ideas, to do lists, you name it. It’s awesome. It has also held up tremendously well to the beating it gets hanging out in my backpack – the lack of spiral binding is a huge plus. In the end however, I must admit that I’m missing my pretty patterns and colors, which is why I think for next year I’m going to try something new, which I’ve also included in the collage.

The Kate Spade planner seems like it would be the perfect lovechild of the Vera Bradley and the Lilly Pulitzer planners – with a covered binding so that it would hold up better. The only question is going to be if, come December, I feel like spending $40 bucks on a planner is worth it for the visual appeal, or if I should just bite the boring bullet and buy another Moleskine because of how perfect the functionality was.

Do any of you have a perfect planner? What’s your agenda of choice?