Improving your academic performance involves using tools that help Get on Track. Tool #1 is the Calendar, Tool #2 (discussed here) is the Weekly Planner. [This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.]
You may wonder: If I have a semester-long calendar, why do I need a weekly planner?!
The semester-long calendar is a big-picture tool that illustrate due dates for your big assignments. The weekly calendar (1) contains your daily assignments (reading, etc.) and (2) breaks down larger assignments into manageable portions or stages. Rather than reaching for each syllabus for every class every day, you reach for a one planner that contains all that information in one glance.
Like the calendar, you can buy planners at any college bookstore. Not all are the same, though. Planners come in different shapes, sizes, and “models”–some are daily, some are weekly. Browse through a few before deciding what you think best suits your needs.
One option is a simple and basic planner. It has a monthly calendar as well as a separate weekly planner where you can break down your assignments. You can find fancier variations on this theme as well. As long as they all have two central components (a weekly planner section with space to write your assignments and a month long calendar) you are good to go.
If it doesn’t work for you, you can always by a new one. If you don’t want to buy one, you can make your own. Excel in Microsoft Office offers a varied selection of planner templates. To find these templates:
- Open Excel
- Click on the Office Logo in the top-left corner
- Select “New”
- Either type “weekly planner” in the search bar, look through the “Planner” templates, or the “Student” templates. You might find some other options in “Basic,” “Personal,” or “Daily.” Keep in mind that you can get creative and adapt different forms to use as planners.
If you don’t like any of these options, you can make your own or use the AcademicRx template. Print out this undated planner and put it in a binder or folder (somewhere you will find it without effort!).
There are a couple of ways of using the planner.
First, you can put every assignment for the entire semester in one go (use pencil in case things change and you have to move assignments around). Second, you can do one or two weeks at a time. I tend to go for the week by week system because it helps remind me to recalibrate my schedule if I need to (some weeks are different from others). I would suggest breaking down assignments (i.e., writing papers, studying for tests, completing projects) or at the very least, writing down the day on which you want to start studying, writing, and planning. This date should correspond to the start dates you’ve listed on your larger semester-long calendar as well.
Step #1: Write out the assignments in your planner so that you know what you have to do each day.
You are not writing down big deadlines necessarily (but you can include them) in your planner. You also don’t have to write the assignment down in full, you can break them down so that you accomplish a little bit of each assignment every day. If you have X pages to read for your English class, don’t feel that you have to read all X pages in one sitting. You can break down the reading assignment so that you read a portion every day. List that smaller portion in your weekly planner and attack it a little at a time each day. Do the same for all of your assignments: write down what portion of your work you would like to accomplish each day.
Step #2: Be sure to update your weekly planner regularly.
Set aside one regular day and time per week to plan the week ahead. I use Sunday evenings for this task since it helps get my head into the forthcoming work week. You might need to update things each day (maybe an assignment changes, or you realize you’ll need more time than you thought to complete something, or you want to make time for a social event, etc.).
Step #3: Carry the planner with you at all times!!
You will need to consult the planner on a regular basis, so have it with you at all times. What is the point of writing down your assignments if you forget what has be done! Review the contents of the planner on a regular basis so that you can remind yourself every morning, afternoon, or evening what you have yet to do and what you have left to do.
Step #4: Cross things off as you go.
Don’t forget to cross things off your list in addition to adding things. Watching your to do list shrink down everyday lets you know that you have indeed accomplished something worthwhile.
Voila! Weekly Planner completed! As with the calendar, make sure that the weekly planner works for you. The purpose of the planner is to make sure that you are actively keeping up with your school work and life; it is not just a book of lists.
Next time, we’ll look at how to plan a study strategy.