How to Set Up Your Academic Planner For Success

How to Set Up Your Academic Planner For Success

Picture the first day of high school. Kids walk nervously from class to class and look for friends. In homeroom, teachers hand out the mountain of school forms and the school’s academic planner. At most, the teacher might say, “Keep your planner with you and write your homework in it.”

That’s it. In most schools that is all the instruction kids get in how to use a planner. No discussion about WHY kids need to use planners, no lesson on setting up the planner, or description of how to use the dang thing.

Is it any wonder that most of those planners can be found in a dusty corner within a few months? If we don’t teach kids how to use a planner, can we actually expect them to use it??

Let’s change that today! First, read my post on the purpose of a planner, Then download the planner worksheet, so you can set up your planner. Let’s get cracking!

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How to Set Up Your Planner for Success

set up planner

Pick a Planner

First, you need to find a planner that works for you. The planner can be amazing, but if it doesn’t have all the features you need, you won’t use it. Let’s talk about the types of planners available.

Paper Planner

 This is the standard form that schools expect students to use. They are easy to throw in a bag and fairly inexpensive. But space is often limited, making it difficult to write all the details down.

Wander through the office supply section in Target or browse through some online. Here are some things to look for in a paper planner:

  • Sturdy plastic cover that will last the whole year
  • Monthly calendar to fill in major events
  • weekly calendar
  • Ideally, space to schedule afterschool commitments (this is hard to find)
  • a space to check off assignments as completed
  • Also, consider the size. Do you have large handwriting? Then you might need a larger planner with more space

There are a TON of academic planners floating around. Not gonna lie, I have favorites. If you want something to print RIGHT NOW check out my free printable pages. Looking for a planner to put in your favorite binder? My dated student planner might be for you. If you want a planner for the long-term, go with the Academic Planner from Order Out of Chaos.

student planner
Academic Planner from Order Out of Chaos

Digital Planners

Digital planners are available on your computer, tablet, and/ or phone and usually will sync across all of them. You have unlimited space to write and most will also let you set reminders for yourself.

I’m starting to see digital planners meant for tablets that allow you to write using a stylus. Most use the Goodnotes app. It’s closer to a paper planner and they tend to come in different colors and styles. Just google “digital planner” and tons of options will pop up!

Here are a few to consider:

If you’re not sure what type of planner you like, just pick one and try it out for a few weeks. If it’s not working, switch to another.

Set Up Your New Planner

Now that you have the perfect planner or a planner for the next few weeks, let’s load it up with all the stuff. You’re going to need a sticky note, a pen, and some highlighters.


Annnnd let’s grab all those calendars! A few that you want to add to your planner – school calendar, work schedule, clubs, sports, church youth group, etc. Don’t forget family commitments – chores, baby-sitting, or family get-togethers.

Then start adding all these dates to your planner. I add a short version to my monthly calendar AND a longer version to my weekly calendar. (Ex – “Debate” on the monthly and “Debate Mtg 3:30-4:30) on my weekly.

If you have an hourly feature on your planner, shade in how long the event is. Is that piano class 1 hour or 3 hours? That’s a big difference and you’ll need to know it. Lastly, add any school assignments, quizzes or tests that you know about.

Take a look at your calendar. You may start to notice trends – Mondays are super busy or the end of the month looks pretty open. This is important information about your schedule to have in the back of your mind.

Highlighting Key

Grab those highlighters and your sticky notes; it’s time to color code! Pick a color for each category of events (school, sports, family, etc) and consistently use that color throughout the planner. Create a key on that sticky note and tape it to the inside cover. Now go back to your planner and highlight using your new key.

Your awesome new planner is set up and ready to go! Happy planning, folks!

What do you include in your planner? Let me know in the comments below!

Related Posts: The True Purpose of an Academic Planner, The Best Academic Planner for Teens, How to Actually Use Your Academic Planner

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