The True Purpose of an Academic Planner
One of my most cringe-worthy actions as a teenager included a planner. Long story short, I sent a guy a cassette tape (that’s an audio recording, for you youngsters) in which I advised him to use an academic planner. That is the kind of wild teen I was – giving others organization and time management advice. 🤦🏽♀️
However, this instinct came in handy when I started teaching high school. When a student was struggling, I asked them if they were using a planner. The answer often was, “I did for a few weeks, but I haven’t seen it in a while. I mean, I can remember my homework.” (PS – they were not remembering their homework.)
Here’s the thing though: that planner is for more than just writing down homework assignments. If that was its only purpose, I wouldn’t be nearly so gung-ho about that.
But most students don’t realize that the planner has more uses than just writing down homework. Why? Because we don’t teach kids about the purpose of a planner and HOW to actually use one. Students are often given the planner at the beginning of the school year and told to write down homework. That’s why so many planners end up under the bed or left in a classroom.
So, let’s talk about the true purpose of a planner and what to include in your planner to achieve that purpose.
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The True Purpose of an Academic Planner
This is really what parents and teachers want for teens when they say to use a planner. Yes, you can track all your assignments, but the end goal is for you to manage your own time. This is the Holy Grail of organization.
It’s one thing to know that you have an English essay due week and a Chem exam this Friday. (Yay for that!) It’s another to know WHEN you’re going to revise that essay and study for the test.You need to know WHEN you're going to complete an asignment.Click To Tweet
This is the purpose of a planner. You can see all your assignments, commitments, and to-dos in one place and figure out when you’re going to actually complete them. Let’s dive into what you need to track in your planner to make that possible.
This is the most obvious use of a planner. Take your planner to class and write down homework assignments, project due dates, and quizzes and tests.
However, I’ve noticed that many students are reluctant to use a planner for even this basic purpose.
Listen, I get it. We’d all like to remember all the things going on in our lives. But our brains don’t work like that. Let me repeat that: our brains don’t work like that. And as you get older and have more classes and commitments, it’s just too much to remember.
Track commitments and to-dos
Most of us have commitments outside of school. You could have a job, be in a club, play a sport, be in Scouts, or active at church. All of these might have special meetings, games, or performances that you must attend. You can keep track of all of those in a single place instead of 5 different calendars. Just saying.
Also, you probably have some to-dos each day or week. Grab something at the store, send an e-mail, or change the oil in the car. You can keep a running list in your planner then mark them off as they are completed!
Planners can be used to record your habits, workouts, mental health moods, whatever you might be keeping track of. In high school, one of my teachers had a favorite phrase he used all the time. One of my classmates kept a running record of each time he used the phrase. Where did she keep that record? In her planner, of course!
Schedule Your Time
Once you’ve entered all the assignments, commitments, and to-dos, you can start to schedule them in your planner. Place your school and/ or work commitments first and then fit in less important or less urgent events later.
You might have to guestimate how long it will take to complete an assignment or to-do. I tend to overestimate, so I don’t run out of time. If I finish early, then I celebrate having a few free minutes.
But my planner doesn’t have space for that!
The problem with most academic planners is that they don’t have space for this final step. Most academic planners just have room to write assignments, but no place to schedule those assignments.
Use multiple planners
If you have a basic planner that you like and are actually using, simply use another planner (digital or paper) to schedule your time. You could use Google Calendar, a digital planner app, a paper planner, or my weekly calendar. (Psst – it’s my Free Resource Library.)
Get a new planner
If you’re not in love with your current planner or the thought of using more than 1 makes you want to cry, it’s time to upgrade. My favorite paper planner is the Academic Planner from Order Out of Chaos. In addition to the space for writing down assignments, it has a calendar feature, so you can schedule when you’re going to complete everything. There are also many digital planners available that are free or inexpensive.
Once you start using your academic planner from more than just writing down assignments, you will see how powerful it is and how you can organize all your time using it.
While this advice didn’t include a really embarrassing cassette tape, hopefully, it helped convince you to finally get that planner started!
What do you write down in your planner? Let me know in the comments below!
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