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Putting the “plan” in planners
  • Calendar Sep 21, 2021
  • User Vincent Perry
  • Category In Uncategorized
  • Comments 0 Comments

In a month, we are going to start getting calls from parents whose kids have fallen behind and are feeling overwhelmed

How can your son or daughter make sure that that doesn’t happen to them?

Unfortunately, planning is one of these things that students are expected to understand, but aren’t really taught in school. Considering that our students have to deal with 6 classes, sports and other extracurriculars, and personal and family responsibilities, it’s really a tragedy that we spend so much time and effort we spend teaching our kids how to graph hyperbolas, but so little on how to organize and order our affairs. So how can our kids use their planners effectively?

Level 0: How students use planners (to-do list)

Look at a student’s planner (one who uses it), and you’ll see the START of a plan.

That is, you will see homework assignments added to the calendar for today. You may see tests, quizzes, or projects added to their due dates as well. Students will have filled these out in class when the teacher gave the assignment.

But as we all know...knowing when something is due is a prerequisite for a plan, but is not itself a plan. How will we do it? When will we do it? What do we need (information, supplies) to have in order to do it? These are questions that we ask in level 1:

Level 1: Plan and schedule your to-do’s

So you have a homework assignment due tomorrow? Great! Let’s create a plan!

-At what time will you do it? How long do you anticipate it will take?
-Do you have everything you need to do it? If not, what do you need? How can/will you get it?
-Do you anticipate any challenges in getting it done? How will you overcome those challenges?

For a simple homework assignment, it might be very simple and look like the following

4-4:45 Math Assignment 2.1 (on website)

Setting the time that the task will be done creates an intention that will be more likely to be fulfilled. It also allows the student to understand how much time their responsibilities that afternoon will take up and what they can reasonably handle.

For a big, complex project, it might be more complex

10/1/21 3:30-4 Choose a prompt and collect links for research
10/4/21 9-10 Write thesis statement for essay, create outline, and write introduction
10/5/21 4-5:30 Write rough draft
10/7/21 2:30 Go to teacher’s office hours to review rough draft and get feedback
5:30-6 Edit rough draft using teacher feedback
10/10 10am Hand in essay

Looking at this list, boy does it look complicated. But once we plug these individual items into our planner, each individual step feels simple to complete.

Look at what this plan does

  1. It breaks a large project up into manageable chunks to be completed day by day. The student will always know if he is on schedule or falling behind. No surprises the day before that it is going to take longer than anticipated.
  2. It allows the student to “download his brain”. Once he’s got his plan set, the student doesn’t need to think about the task anymore until the appointed time, clearing his mind to focus on the present.
  3. The student has predicted difficulties (that he will want assistance from the teacher and their tutor) and has planned for those.
  4. If something unexpected happens on one of these days, there is no need to panic. Successfully completing the essay will withstand a day or two disruption, since the work is spread out over a period of time.
  5. It separates “planning time” from “doing time” which prevents overwhelm when a student sits down to “start working” on a big project.

Remember, knowing when something is due is NOT a plan. A plan is the step-by-step process and timeline by which the end is to be accomplished.

Level 2: Planning to achieve bigger picture goals (beyond to-do’s)

So is your daughter’s goal to get a 5 on the AP chemistry exam? What is it going to take to accomplish that? It is definitely going to take a lot more than reacting to day-to-day homework assignments.

It is going to take doing things like:

-Going to teacher’s office hours regularly (weekly perhaps) with questions

-doing additional practice (challenge problems in textbook/from an AP test prep book)

-meeting with a study group regularly

-studying frequently (or nearly daily)

These are not “to-do’s” that a teacher assigned. These are things the student needs to do to achieve a larger goal (in this class, a 5 in AP Chemistry)

Doing these things also requires a lot of planning. Each of these items individually has steps that need to be taken in order, time devoted and scheduled. Crucially, what isn’t planned regularly won’t be done regularly.

Let’s take the office hours. Seems pretty simple, just go, right? But the student needs to do a couple things

  1. Decide on a day time that will work regularly, or plan a time each week to decide what day he’ll go to office hours after consulting your calendar for the week. If your child doesn’t do this, he won’t create consistency, and he’ll stop going.
  2. Make sure that homework and reading is done ahead of time for the office hours, so that you have good questions to ask the teacher and can get help that you need. This means that homework time and reading time needs to be scheduled appropriately so that he is at least a bit ahead of the class (in reading at least). Otherwise, you won’t make good use of your teacher’s time.

Level 3: Plan to plan

I’ve written about this before, but in short: if planning time isn’t planned, planning won’t happen. The most important 15 minutes a day for a student is the 15 minutes they take each day to:

  1. Look at their planner and see their schedule for the next couple days
  2. Add any new tasks, with due dates, to their planner
  3. Plan out the steps they need to take to accomplish their to-do’s/goals

A planner that isn’t looked at and written in daily doesn’t help. Which means the highest priority is making sure that daily time is created to read and write in the planner.

Writing is doing

A successful semester is a result of hundreds of individual steps. The more of these steps we write down and plan, the more of these steps will be done, well and timely, and more of our mental energy we’ll be able to divert to the task at hand, rather than endlessly chasing the shadows of poorly understood tasks and goals.


Is your son or daughter struggling in school? It may be that they need help with organization and planning. Give us a call at 858.551.2650 or email to talk with us. We can help!


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