Enrollment reports show that in fall 2014 semester there were 16,724 returned missionaries registered for classes at BYU.
As returned missionaries attend classes and try to manage their time, they frequently turn to what helped them manage time on their missions: planners.
“There’s a need to have some kind of direction and write it down,” said Susan Jensen, former returned missionary specialist for the Provo YSA 19th Stake. “On the mission you learn how to organize your time, and you’re geared to using that planner. There’s a tendency to stop doing that, and then you’re just kind of drifting.”
Jensen served in the Russia Yekaterinburg Mission as a senior missionary with her husband. She was recently released from the returned missionary specialist calling because she and her husband have been called to serve in Morocco, where they will build relationships with LDS charities.
The BYU Store offers a planner specifically designed for returned missionaries. The R.M. Planner is set up like missionary planners with weekly goals and planning pages, along with scripture study and exercise areas.
“The planners are what we probably get asked most about,” Madison Jones, a student manager at the BYU Store, said. “The planners break it down and are a good transition from planning during a mission to academic planning and goals.”
Jensen was asked to design a course to help returned missionaries integrate back into normal life. Returned missionaries who attend her class have been home anywhere from less than a week to four years.
“It was amazing how the Spirit led me. I just started getting thoughts, feelings and inspiration,” Jensen said.
Lesson three in her curriculum focuses on organization of time. In the lesson, she encourages students to start using planners again if they are not already doing so.
“I’ve had several kids go buy planners right after that lesson,” Jensen said. “One came back the very next week saying, ‘I bought a planner!'”
Excitement is often seen in the BYU Store when returned missionaries find the R.M. Planners.
“There are a lot of excited expressions as people find them for the first time,” said student manager Alex Bischoff, who served in the Arizona Tucson mission.
The BYU Store was the first buyer of the R.M. Planners.
“It has grown more every year we’ve had them,” said Paul Buss, the BYU Store’s school supplies and art buyer. “It’s been fun to see as the first waves come back that they have continued interest in the planners.”
According to inventory reports, the BYU Store sold 1,741 planners in 2013, 1304 in 2014 and has already sold almost 1,100 in 2015.
“We sell 2,000 a year on average, but we’re probably going to break that record this year,” Bischoff said.
Not everyone loves the planners. Ryan Mears, who served in the Canada Toronto West Mission (now the Ontario Mission), received the R.M. Planner from his mission when he was leaving.
“I wasn’t a fan on my mission because I didn’t like planning. But they did help keep my day organized,” Mears said. “I used it for like the first week and then just ended up doing things — especially when I first got home — just on a whim.”
For Mears, it was difficult because he didn’t have anything going on to plan for. He recognizes that it is different for everyone, though.
“It varies from person to person,” Mears said. “I’d just rather use the Google calendar because it reminds me. Having an actual paper calendar just isn’t even feasible now.”
Kimberly Duncan served in the Washington Kennewick and Vancouver missions and has been home for a year. She first heard about the planners while serving in a YSA ward and then later from an Institute teacher.
“When I got back to BYU—Idaho after my mission, I was surprised how many people had them,” Duncan said. “When I was trying to decide which one to buy, like four people came up and each bought one.”
Duncan realizes she is more efficient with her time when she uses the planner.
“When I use them, I use my time better,” Duncan said. “Like on the mission, when you write it down you have to do it.”
Duncan has not been using planners while not in school but plans to start using them again this fall semester.
“They helped because they more or less forced me to continue setting goals and continue planning,” Duncan said. “Which is what apostles and prophets have asked us to do anyway.”