Using a Planner
Everyone needs to have some way to manage life-some kind of planner or weekly schedule book to keep track of everything one needs to do. When you select a planner, look for the following characteristics. A good planner…
- is portable so it can be taken with you.
- lets you see at least a week in advance rather than a day at a time.
- has plenty of room for notes to yourself, to-do lists, or reading schedules.
- shows at least a twelve-hour day, broken down in at least half-hour intervals.
- includes weekend days for planning study times.
For most students, a perfect planner is the kind that’s about the size of a piece of notebook paper. It is easily transportable and gives you some extra space to write notes to yourself, or to make to-do lists or reading schedules.
Some students, particularly those who are into technology, like to use some type of Personal Data Assistant (PDA), but don’t feel that you have to spend a lot of money for something to manage your life. As a student, you’re probably online, so check out free schedule managing systems such as Google Calendar (www.google.com/calendar) or Yahoo! Calendar (calendar.yahoo.com). These systems can be very effective and efficient as long as you check them regularly. Like PDAs, these systems can be programmed to send you reminders.
Characteristics of a Good Schedule
Once you have a planner, you are ready to create your master schedule. Students often think that once they have created a schedule for themselves the battle is over. Actually, the battle has just begun. To be a useful tool, your schedule should have the following characteristics:
- It’s doable. It’s important to create something that you can, and will, follow.
- It’s flexible. If you get sick, have an emergency, or something unexpected comes up, you have some wiggle room and can still get your work done.
- It allows for both work and play time. Good schedules build in time for fun and relaxation as well as for work. Just make sure that there’s a balance between the two, and that being a student comes first.
- It’s specific. Setting aside blocks of time marked “studying” is too vague. Your schedule should state what you plan to study during that time.
How Much Time is Enough?
The only thing all students have in common is the amount of time they have-168 hours each week. It’s what you do with those 168 hours that sets you apart from your fellow students.
Approach your schedule with a “40-hour mindset.” If you spend 40 hours a week (or there about) being a student, you are left with 128 hours for other things. Included in these 40 hours is the time you spend in class and doing other academic work-reading your texts, studying, writing papers, and so forth.
Keep the following in mind.
- Some weeks (such as around midterms and finals) you may have to spend more than 40 hours; at other times, you may be able to get by with fewer than 40.
- Try to spend some time each day doing academic work.
- You can spread your 40 hours over seven days, doing some work on weekends to free up more time during the week.
Ideas to Consider When Creating Your Schedule
- When are you most alert? Know your body clock. If you are most alert in the late afternoon, that is when you should be doing your academic work. Save your down times for exercise, hanging out with friends, or surfing the Web.
- When do you have blocks of time? Blocks of time need to be filled with your “big rocks.” Activities such as class, studying, service activities, or should be put on your schedule first and blocked out.
- How can you use small pockets of time? Once you have the big rocks blocked out, think of how you can use smaller pockets of time effectively. For example, if you have an hour between classes, find a quiet place to use that hour effectively. Review your notes, complete a reading assignment, or organize a paper. Students who use these small pockets of time efficiently have more time to devote to the other things they want to do.
- How can you build in flexibility? Leave some open time in your schedule. If you don’t need it for academics, you can use it for something fun. And remember, hope for the best but plan for the worst.
- Do weekends count too? You can use weekend hours as part of your 40 hours. Spending some time on Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening frees up some time during the week.
- What if my schedule isn’t working out? It’s your schedule. If it’s not working, make changes-the sooner the better. It’s not going to do you any good to try to stick to a schedule that doesn’t meet your needs.