Get Ahead by Planning Your Week

How a weekly planning method can help you get on top of your work and increase your free time.

One of the best ways to streamline your life both in and out of school is to plan your week beforehand. Going into the week knowing what you’ll do and when (leaving some blocks here and there for spontaneity, of course) means you won’t waste any time deciding what to do or frittering away at low priority tasks that don’t support your goals.

Get Started

Before making a solid plan for your week, you’ll need to know where to get information for assignments and how to reach out for help when you need it. Take some time to note

your teachers’ contact information and their hours of availability to answer questions. Then, identify two classmates who you can reach out to if you need a copy of their notes, want to clarify instructions on an assignment when your teacher isn’t available, or aren’t sure what’s been assigned for homework.

Next, it’s time to…

Pick a System

You can use one or multiple of the following systems in tandem. And, this is by no means an exhaustive list, so feel free to think up and use your own. Take some time to decide on a system, or systems, and give yourself at least three weeks of real effort to decide if the system works or if you need to adjust it.

  • Google Calendar or iCal. This is a great option for people who like color-coded calendars you can share with friends or tutors. But make sure that having your schedule on your phone doesn’t lead to you indulge in other phone-based distractions.
  • Wall or Desk Calendar. What?! A physical calendar that you write on with a pen or pencil? What will they think of next, a phone with buttons? Visual learners and artists will love working from large, visible calendars. The only downside here is that they’re decidedly not portable.
  • Paper Planner. This may be the best of both worlds. A paper planner isn’t distracting like a phone calendar but is much more portable than a wall or desk calendar.
  • Your Great Memory. Just kidding. This is not an option.

The Nitty Gritty

Once you pick a system, make sure you can answer these questions:

  1. When and where will I write down daily assignments?
  2. How will I know what’s coming during the next week? The next month?
  3. Where will I track any commitments I have outside of school?
  4. How will I be sure to stay up-to-date in this system?

Calendar Creation Exercise

Here’s an exercise to try out. Create two blank one-week calendars (either on paper or on your phone) and schedule in your events for the upcoming week in this order of priority:

  1. Any jobs or required commitments.
  2. Sleep for 8-10hrs/night. Lack of sleep decreases productivity and leads to increased anxiety. Try to read a book before bed, rather than staring at a screen, and set a regular bedtime and wake-up time that fits into your schedule.
  3. Homework time. The amount of appropriate time will vary depending on your school schedule. It is better to have too much time devoted to homework than too little. Develop a study routine—try to decide on a specific location and time each day to study. Make sure to set aside time for daily assignments, long term projects, and study sessions for tests.
  4. Leisure Time. You will be shocked at how much time you’ll have left over for extracurricular activities and fun stuff. We’re not saying you shouldn’t play video games, play computer games, do crazy and exciting things, but these shouldn’t get in the way of other commitments.

After you’ve created your ideal schedule, take your next week and track exactly what you do with your time for each half hour of your day. Record this in the second calendar. Be honest with yourself! This exercise won’t be helpful if you filter or censor your behaviors.

At the end of the week, match your real schedule up with your ideal schedule and see how they compare. Moving forward, try to create your weekly schedule based on what you learned from the two calendars and how they were similar/different. This will help you create something realistic and attainable for you. Adjust your calendar and create a routine to make a plan for each week.

Additional Tips to Plan Your Week Well

  • Define a consistent time to make a plan for each week.
  • Add in any inconsistent commitments during your weekly planning session; if these require that you move your study-time, do it by picking a specific time to move it to.
  • Set timers and reminders for any tasks that you might forget or might be tempted to put off.
  • Sustainable plans intersperse concentration and fun. If you don’t have fun activities per se, build in breaks as a way to increase productivity.
  • Consider the order in which you tackle assignments—do you prefer to get the hard work out of the way first or ease into the work with something that you really like?

A solid weekly plan will take the majority of moment-to-moment decisions out of your hands and allow you to focus on the important stuff: excelling in school and having fun.

And if you find that despite your best efforts your study skills are still suffering, don’t hesitate to contact us for academic support. Our Academic Skills Coaches are masters at assessing organizational issues and helping you get back on track.