Monday, January 9, 2017

Predicting the Future: Using a Planner

Have you been using a planner?


 A planner can be your lifeline, your reminder, your answer, your organizer, and your watchman....and it's just a book of paper.

What's the purpose of a planner?
  • To look ahead and see what's coming, and to break down how you want your world organized one step at a time.
  •  If you look at your tasks spread out in a way that seems manageable, you're less likely to be overwhelmed
  • Once you're in the habit of checking your planner several times every day, you won't be forgetting stuff like tests and studying for tests, when a bill is due, where you're supposed to be at a given time, how much longer till a certain due date, and even remembering peoples' birthdays.

Students, take the syllabus from each class and use it to fill in your planner with due dates and test dates. Then you need to figure out when to have parts of each task completed so you are ready before the due date. How long will a paper take you to write? How much time do you need for research? When will you begin studying for a test? Plot out the dates and write them in your planner.

An example: There will be a test on February 17. What chapters will it cover? You might write in your planner
 January 18: review Chapter 3.
 January 25: Review Chapter 4.
February 1: Go over Chapters 3 and 4.
February 10: Review again for test.
February 16: Recheck your 'trouble spots.'

Although the bottom example is for finals, it's a good way to plan out your studying any time.

                                      Notice lunch, time for exercise, and bedtime are also on the planner....
What kind of planner is right for you?
First let's establish that we're talking about a planner made of paper, not a reminder app you can use on your phone. Apps are great--some are greater than others--but (A) you have lots to keep track of and (B) phone batteries wear out and phones die, not to mention they get lost or left behind, and (C) it actually probably takes longer to 'text in' your tasks than to simply write them in with a pen or pencil. Use your planner with an app, and you'll really have it covered. 

  • One kind of planner is about 5 x 7" give or take, often zips shut, and may also have a strap to keep it together.
  • Most planners are usually in the form of a notebook, which can be any size. It could be that you prefer something the size of a traditional notebook. The idea is to be able to take it with you so you can refer to it often. It may have holes punched in it so that you can put it in a binder. Spiral-bound planners are easy to use, as they lay flat or can be 'folded back' to a particular day.
  • You can also make one yourself using a calendar, a plain notebook, or anything else that works for you.
  • Look at planners available in the stores; they're usually found by other notebooks and/or calendars.. What kind looks like it would be your best 'companion'? Do you like things to be horizontal or vertical? Days, or hour by hour? Big squares or smaller ones?
What will your planner look like?
Here's one that has not only assignment lists, but an hour by hour plan for your day. Does this kind work for you?

 Here's an example of using different colored highlighters: The person has crossed out completed tasks.

Again, this one has the times of day. You can schedule your classes and time for studying as the week goes by.



If you prefer, you can mark off different classes or tasks using stickers. Color-coding is still the best way to notice different things on your schedule.




Try blank stickers that you can write on, so that your planner is tailored for you.


You can download templates for a number of different planners and print your own, you don't have to purchase one. Try these sites for ideas--see which one seems like it would work for you:

What do you write in your planner?
  • Answer: Everything.
  • Sub-answer: It's really up to you. How organized do you need to be? Should it include everything you do, including sleep time, eating, activities outside of school?
  • It won't hurt to write everything in your planner even if you think it's not necessary. If nothing else you get the satisfaction of crossing something off your list.
  • Color coding is SO important. Simply using different colored highlighters can do the trick. This might be by subject or by importance or both. Put in your class schedule first, then go back and fill in when papers are due and when tests will occur. Now you have a clearer picture of when studying has to happen in each subject.
  • Expecting a day off for some reason? Write it in.
  • Dental or doctor appointments? Write them in.
  • Car maintenance such as when an oil change is due? Write it in.
  • Birthdays or family occasions? Write them in.
  • Attending an event such as a concert? Write it in.
  • Is it your week to do a certain chore? Write it in.
  • Library book due dates? Write them in.
  • Miss a day because you're sick? Write it in.
  • Tutoring appointments or hope to have tutoring? Write it in.
  • Study groups? Write in the day and time you are to meet.
  • At the front inside the cover, you can put a copy of your class schedule and instructors' office hours and places, in case you need it.
You're getting the idea by now. The trick is to get in the habit of checking your planner all the time, depending on it, and knowing that if you do you will not miss important dates and times.
 You can always ask your advisor for help in setting up and using your planner.
Here are three tasks to start with:
  1. Obtain a planner somehow: buy one, make one, print one.
  2. Put it into a folder or binder where it's easy to look at,
  3. The most important thing: Start a new habit: When you get up every morning, you check your planner first thing. You're probably in the habit of checking your phone first thing, just do this as well. What does your day look like today? Is it busy or less busy? Start to check every day first thing, then several more times in a day. If you can glance at your phone, you can glance at a planner, too.
Let's start this semester by at least trying a planner. It may turn out to be a great help!

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