Whether it is your academic or personal life, effective planning is the key to achieving your goals. It might seem like a boring idea to write down your schedule, but research shows that one of the habits of successful people is that they make a plan and organize their schedule so that they never fall short of a deadline. This is even more important if you are a student because your journey towards your destination has just begun. You can make this journey easier for yourself with a little discipline and organization.
By maintaining a proper planner, you will not only be tracking your assignments, tests, quizzes and presentations, but in a way monitoring your performance as well. When you fall short of a goal, you will be in a position to revisit your plan, identify where exactly you went wrong and make necessary changes accordingly to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. It will also facilitate you in identifying non-academic tasks and allocate the right time and date to them.You will also be able to plan and identify that extra time which you can spare for your friends and family or allocate it to a task or a subject which needs special attention. A proper plan will always keep you ahead, make you competitive and always in a position to address your shortcomings.
We suggest you buy and maintain a proper planner for recording your schedule, goals, tasks, assignments and other activities. Let us look at five steps that can help you master your planner and ensure that you are perfectly organized to deal with your academic schedule and use your time properly and effectively.
STEP 1: Write Your Contact Info
This might seem unnecessary to you, but this is the basic step towards planning. It also shows a sense of ownership and is the first step towards organizing yourself. It has other benefits as well, for instance if your planner has your name and contact information on it and you lose it somewhere, with your contact information anyone can get in touch with you and return it. Your planner has valuable information in it and is a reflection of how your path towards success is meant to be carved. It contains information about every activity, whether academic or personal. So, own it and affix your name to it. Use your favourite pen to write your name and contact info on the first page of your planner.
STEP 2: Map Out Your Schedule
Think of your planner as a reference tool for a successful academic and personal life. Write down the schedule of every activity including work, class, assignments, presentations, sports schedule and other activities. Use different coloured inks for each activity or use a highlighter to colour them. You can even assign colours according to how important a particular task is. For instance, use red colour for something that is totally unavoidable and requires urgent resolution. Use green colour for a task that you have already completed. Create a weekly plan and revisit your previous weekly plans to see if there is a lesson to be learnt from any mistake or miscalculation you made. Identify your unscheduled or free time which you could have or still can use elsewhere in a more productive way. You can use this free time to practise what you are weak at. For instance, if you need some extra training or guidance in Mathematics or you have to study a reference book in a particular library then this free time can come in handy.
STEP 3: Write Down Your Goals
Mapping your schedule is a good practise that would benefit you in making a proper plan, but remember to always keep your goals in mind. For your convenience, you can first separate your short-term goals from your long-term goals. In the case of a student, we would suggest that short term goals should be your weekly goals, while your monthly goals or your goals for your entire semester should be categorized as long-term goals. Once you have made this segregation, write down all of them in your planner. Your goals do not necessarily have to comprise all the academic ones, but you can also include a personal goal you would like to achieve within the week or the month. Another benefit of writing down your goals alongside your weekly schedule is that you will be in a better position to identify a time slot which you can use for achieving that particular goal. If there is a particular task that requires gradual but frequent development you can write it down separately and customize a schedule for it.
STEP 4: Map Out Your Semester
Usually, an academic semester requires a lot of hard work, attention and focus combined with proper time management because you are not dealing with one subject or one task over here. There are in fact a number of subjects with varying degrees of difficulty and time requirement. You have already learnt how to map out an entire week, but don’t just stop there. Instead take it one step further and map out your entire semester. There are many benefits of doing this, for instance you would get a clear picture of all your due dates, you will be able to estimate how much time a particular assignment or project is going to need. If there is a project that is going to require some extra time, you can assign your future free time slots to that project. Use the monthly views of your planner and jot down your entire syllabus. Don’t forget to record your other unavoidable commitments and important engagements including leisure activities. Another benefit of mapping out your semester is that you would be able to pick out weeks which will be relatively busier and require more from you. You can prepare yourself mentally beforehand for such demanding weeks and you may even find a simpler yet effective way of performing that task.
Step 5: Plan Out Your Week
Once you have mapped out the individual weeks throughout the length of your semester, it is time to make a weekly plan based on the syllabus, the assignments and tasks, presentations and projects, other activities that you just wrote down in your planner. We recommend that you perform this exercise every week on Sundays so that you feel you are getting ready for the entire week. It will give you a sense of readiness for the coming week and prepare you for it mentally. It will also help you identify loopholes in your planning which you can modify, delete or replace with a better and more suitable plan or strategy. Under every plan, you can add pointers to mention the tasks you need to perform in order to put that plan into action, or the things you are going to require for them.
How Planning Will Benefit You
You must have heard the quote “an idiot with a plan can beat a genius without a plan”, we do not know how true that might be in the given situation but one thing is for sure, your intellectual abilities will be seriously undermined and underutilized if you intend to do everything haphazardly and you will always be better off with a well laid out plan. When everything is in front of your eyes, every goal, every important milestone, you will be in a better position to plan and execute, than you would be if you chose to just be responsive to situations as they come. Be responsible instead of being responsive and you will save yourself a lot of trouble and hassle. With a plan in hand, you will feel more confident and in charge of your life. You will be able to deal with contingencies and achieve a higher level of discipline in life. This benefit will not be limited to just your academic life, but when you step into professional life, this habit of planning ahead will define many moments of success.
Make Your Planner Unique to You!
Make your planner colourful by using different coloured pencils or pens, highlighters, etc. Use fun stickers for making it interesting, inspiring and intriguing. At the same time, keep your planner free from clutter, keep it neat and clean. If you believe you have made it too messy, use a new one and copy your existing planner to it. If you are afraid of losing your planner, take pictures of your entire schedule using your cell phone, you can transfer it to a new planner in case you lose it. Keep your planner safe and think of it as your guide to success. It will function as an operating manual for your academic and personal life, but at the same time a manual that you can always modify, re-write and improve. Consider it essential, but take it easy.