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A Hillsdale College planner (Lillian Quinones | Col­legian)

One of the habits that I’ve wrestled with over my college years is keeping a planner.

I’ve tried the online Google Cal­endar, the Hillsdale student planner, a fancy store-bought planner, and opting for the planner-less lifestyle – lib­er­ating, yes, but over­whelming in a week of studying for three tests, making Col­legian article dead­lines, and taking eques­trian lessons, all while trying to keep track of seven meal dates.

The planner-less lifestyle is espe­cially unsus­tainable as the end of the semester nears, so I began to wonder, what is the easier habit to keep – elec­tronic or a paper planner? I asked my pro­fessors.

Pro­fessor of biology Dan York patiently endures the lifeless body of stu­dents in my 8 a.m. human anatomy and phys­i­ology class, and with a Southern twang, widens our drooping eyes with stories of his time a snake wrangler in Africa. With his clear-rimmed plastic glasses and preppy color-coor­di­nated sweaters and neckties, York is an image of graceful aging; he’s approaching year 18 as a Hillsdale pro­fessor.

“I use tech­nology to try and beat my pro­cras­ti­nation,” York said, sitting behind his 21.5 inch iMac desktop com­puter in his office. “I have a cal­endar in Outlook with due dates that gives me warnings and ‘bug-me’s,’ oth­erwise I’m too unor­ga­nized.”

York still remembers his first com­puter, one of the first Mac­intosh models.

“It was a skinny iMac without a hard drive. Gosh, I loved that thing,” York said. “I had it in the 1970s and used it to make my under­graduate work as effi­cient as pos­sible.”

Moving up from the biology floor in Stro­sacker, I asked my aca­demic advisor Lee Ann Baron, a pro­fessor of chem­istry, for her vote on elec­tronic versus paper planners. As any Hillsdale science student will tell you, Baron is a treasure of prac­tical wisdom that never stops giving. Lit­erally. I’ve often con­tinued a con­ver­sation with Baron down the hallway as I’m running to class because she has one more thought to share.

On the topic of orga­ni­zation, Baron said she pre­ferred paper planners, and fol­lowed up with more advice on habit for­mation for tech­nology use.

“Stu­dents should turn off their phones in 50-minute incre­ments when they study,” Baron said. “Research has shown that maximum con­cen­tration occurs for 50 minutes at a time.”

I left her office with a new resolve to monitor my screen time.

York and Baron left me with a tie on the question of elec­tronic versus paper planners, which proved that I was asking the wrong question. Habit for­mation doesn’t start from looking for what’s easier, but from being com­mitted.

So I took out my Hillsdale planner that evening and I began forming a new habit.