How to Actually Use Your Academic Planner
Readers of a certain age will remember Clippy. He was an animated paper clip that popped up in Microsoft Word. He gave you tips based on what he thought you were trying to do in the program.
Along with basically the rest of the world, I was greatly annoyed by Clippy. But he had a purpose. I *thought* I knew how to use MS Word. But Clippy told me about shortcuts that saved time or introduced me to new features.
It turns out that I could work more efficiently and effectively after learning more about the program. That’s also true for your planner. While it might seem obvious how to use, there are lots of tricks to make your planner even more useful.
This is part of a short planner series, If you haven’t read the earlier posts, hop on it!
How to Actually Use Your Academic Planner
You’ve found the perfect planner for you (I have a favorite) and you’ve set it up. You’re ready to go, but not really sure what to do next. Yikes! Here’s the down and dirty info on how to use this planner!
Daily Use of Your Academic Planner
Take your planner with you to every.single.class. You’ll never get in the habit of using your planner if it’s not with you all the time. Place it in your bag the night before and double-check that it’s there in the morning.You'll never use your planner if it's sitting at home.Click To Tweet
Take it out during each class, even those classes without homework. If you don’t have any homework, write “no homework.” That way there is no guesswork that night whether there was homework or whether you just forgot to write it down.
Also, be specific in what you write down. Include short descriptions of the assignments and any relevant page numbers. Write “Conjugating verbs worksheet,” “Read p. 4-20 and complete journal entry,” or “complete p. 133 #4-10”.
If you don’t have your planner with you, create some back-up plans. Write it on a sticky note and stick it to the front of your notebook or take a picture of it with your phone. If the assignment is on a slide in a presentation, take a quick pic of it. Then add a reminder on your phone to add the information to your planner
Open your planner at home
Some students are great about writing assignments down at school, but never think to open it again when they get home. Yikes!
If needed, put a reminder on your phone to look at your planner each night. What is due tomorrow? What other commitments do you have to work around?
As you complete assignments, mark them off! This lets you know what is done and what still needs to be completed.
Schedule Your Time
So, now you know what assignments you need to complete and what other commitments you have. Since the true purpose of your planner is to manage your time, it’s time to do just that.
Guestimate how long it will take to complete each assignment or assign a set amount of time for long-term assignments (ie – essays, research projects, etc). Not sure how long an assignment will take? Use your best estimate – you’ll get better at this over time.
Let’s say you have to read 3 chapters in a book for English, complete a lab report for Chemistry, and study for your History test on Friday. The lab report is mostly done; you think it will take about 30 minutes to complete. The reading will take longer – maybe an hour. You also have a club meeting from 3-4 and you need to eat dinner!
Your schedule for the evening might look something like this:
(Psst – I made this using my weekly calendar. This is especially useful if your planner doesn’t have an hourly feature in it. You can grab this FREE download in my Resource Library.)
Make it a Habit
Most people think that it takes 30 days to create a new habit. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but new research says it takes a lot longer than that. Try more 60-90 days for a small change to your behavior.
What that means is that you need to be ready for the long haul to make your planner use automatic. But the first step is just keeping the dang thing with you. As you use it more and more, watch out for a few things:
- Is there a better time during class to write down assignments?
- What am I still finding challenging – writing down assignments, opening the planner at home, checking off assignments as I complete them?
- Am I using the planner to manage my time?
While your planner looks incredible right now, it will start to empty itself if you don’t regularly take care of it. Set up a time (I recommend Sunday evening) to finish out last week’s pages and set up the next week’s pages. It only takes 10-15 minutes, but it is time well-spent.
A few questions to ask yourself:
- Did I finish everything from last week? If not, what do I still need to complete and when will I do that?
- Did any due dates change?
- What do I have coming up next week?
- How will I get work done during the next week?
I hope this helped you figure out how to actually use your academic planner. And wasn’t nearly annoying as poor old Clippy! Remember, making new habits takes time – give yourself a little grace as you create this new one.