One important habit school teaches us–or is supposed to teach–is write down assignments and test dates. Your school may have even provided planners to foster this habit. Some of us revel in creating color-coded plans; others, well, not so much. Simple or artful, we learn to track our responsibilities and manage our time.
When life becomes more complex with AP workloads, leadership roles, and after-school practices, a student should use a planner to make it all work. And once the “getting into college” tasks of test prep, college search, and essay drafts kicks in, the whole process can become overwhelming. At times like these, consider the old adage, “If you plan it, it gets done.”
What should planning look like for busy high school and college students?
- Look critically at your current commitments and prioritize them.
- Define clear goals for your top priorities. Research shows that people who write down their goals are 42% more likely to accomplish them. Be specific: you want to score a 30 on the ACT or you will run a personal best at the holiday 10K.
- Sketch out the steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Estimate how much time each of these steps might take. Bonus tip: sort learning tasks by required commitment to plan for which ones need the most energy and focus.
- Using several blank weekly planning sheets, mercilessly plot out blocks of time for everything essential to achieving your goals and everything that is “non-negotiable” like team practices or work commitments.
- Don’t forget to plan for sleep and down time: if you burn out, you can’t achieve your goals.
Here’s the catch–if it’s on the weekly plan, it is essential. You’d never skip time blocked for a team practice or orchestra rehearsal, right? Then you can’t skip time blocked for math review for the ACT or college essay work. If missing practice lets your team down, skipping your prep time lets YOU down.
Sound too rigid? Allow yourself to shift blocks of time when something unexpected comes up. If you are invited to a movie when you’ve scheduled yourself for test prep, switch one of your planned “down time” blocks and your prep/study block. Use switches as needed but remember, everything in your planned schedule is essential so you can move it but not remove it. Everything here is moving you toward your highest priorities. Honor these commitments to your goals.
The time crunch students face is real. The bad news is that you’ll have to make hard choices about your time every day. The good news is that you’ll know you’ve honored your goals and done your best by committing yourself to them. The other good news? Life will calm down once everything is submitted.
This post is written by Anne Shields, Chariot Learning’s Community Coordinator and Accountability Coach.