Using A Planner

Students may be asking themselves how they’re supposed to keep up with classes, extracurriculars, clubs, church, family, a job, college applications, and teenage fun. While it may seem unattainable to keep up with all these different commitments, planning can be the best way to slowly accomplish all the goals one has.

As more and more students are moving towards using planners or agendas in their daily lives, School Bell Blog wants to introduce planning methods that students can use to maximize their productivity and build habits for a successful career and life balance.

What follows spring break is typically spring cleaning and School Bell Blog wishes to help readers implement new strategies in their lives to become more effective students. Student success, and general success for that matter, is often correlated to planning and keeping track of all tasks and deadlines.

Making The Decision

Before anyone can manage their time, they must decide what to spend their time on. The key to accomplishing goals is being laser-focused and making consistent decisions based on what an individual considers to be their priorities and what they consider to be their distractions.

Remember that no goal is achieved on accident. The goal being achieved is simply the result of making decisions that consistently align with this goal.

Take the time to make a list of goals that matter to you the most, from the most to least important. This can include anything from graduating high school to having more fun to getting a car. Based on the order of that list, decide how much time to spend on daily tasks .

Don’t be afraid to look at that list for encouragement to keep going or to adjust it as your priorities change overtime.

The purpose of having a list is to visualize your own decisions and decide whether that list truly represents what you want to commit to or not. This list will make day-to-day conflicting decisions simpler because it serves as a reminder of what matters most at the end of the day.

Why Should I?

Students may be asking themselves why they should start taking time out of everyday to plan their day and write every task down. Wouldn’t this result in less time to complete said tasks?

Taking the time to write everything down will especially pay off with easily forgettable tasks that make a huge difference when combined.

You may have to print some form for a grade in a class or get a parent signature. Anything that can slip from the mind is worthy of being written down and will add up to your benefit. Forgetting many of these small tasks can start affecting students and hold them back from achieving their optimal success.

Even if you don’t look back at the list of tasks you wrote down, you’re more likely to remember them by handwriting them.

Handwriting involves using multiple regions of the brain and makes it less likely that someone will forget what they wrote down. This is why it’s recommended to hand write notes in class, rather than to type them.

The freed up memory space a student has from not having to remember all pending tasks helps the student focus better on the task at present.

The energy spent on remembering pending tasks is energy that could be used, fully focusing on one task at a time. As a result, the student will be more productive in shortening their list of responsibilities.

So often students overestimate the free time they have and underestimate the amount of time their commitments will take up, causing unnecessary stress.

Having everything laid out in front of you makes it much easier to accurately and realistically plan out your time. When everything is laid out on paper, it becomes less overwhelming and easier to manage into doable bits. Knowing that your goals for the day are realistic makes you much more likely to want to try and accomplish everything.

Getting Started

It’s important to remember that planning is like any other skill that takes practice and time for gradual improvements.

It is not recommended to expect to instantly become an expert planner who is disciplined enough to follow the written schedule exactly as written because this can be an overwhelming goal to have. Throughout this journey, please remember to be patient with yourself.

It’s important that every task is in some way contributing to the larger goals the student already listed.

This makes the planning directional towards goals that matter to the student and will thus make the student more likely to follow through.

It’s also important that the student make these tasks realistic and measurable by making them small and specific with fixed deadlines attached.

This not only ensures the student has a sure way of measuring their success rate, but also allows the student to see whether or not they need to change their current strategy so they feel encouraged to continue accomplishing their goals.

One method of breaking down one large goal into several small, measurable goals is the “ladder method”.

Start with one long-term goal on top such as “graduate high school”, and as the ladder steps proceed downward, the goals become smaller and easier to accomplish short-term.

Here Is An Example:

  • To accomplish high school, I need pass to my Algebra class.
  • To pass my Algebra class, I need to pass the next algebra test.
  • To pass the next algebra test, I need to do practice problems.
  • To do practice problems, I need to open my textbook.

This method can be applied to any goal and is a great way for students to not feel overwhelmed and truly tackle their tasks one day at a time. It’s also a reminder that every little action is bringing you closer to your goal- even something as small as opening a textbook.

Making Your Plan Work

Plan By The Hour

School Bell Blog will be presenting, below, a method that involves planning by the hour, which was presented by Ely Jay Nez in the LEDA Summer Institute of 2019. It is the most effective way to distribute time for those who are struggling to manage their time. This method is also very flexible and can be adjusted to be as strict or as forgiving as the student wants it to be.

Block Out Your Mandatory Time

The first step to planning by the hour is making sure to block out times in the day for anything you consider necessary in a day/week whether that is study time, sleep, a job, workouts, or even fun and relaxation.

Everyone has different parts of their life they consider necessary for them. Regardless of what that is for you, these times have to be blocked out ahead of time because they are not considered negotiable.

Add Up Time That Isn’t Blocked Off

Now, list all the tasks you have to accomplish and honestly estimate how long each will take. Once this is finished, add up the total amount of time to see how much work time you need for the day/week.

In your planner sheet, add up all the hours left that are available in your day/week after blocking out mandatory time and this is the amount of time you have to schedule in responsibilities.

Check It Off

Once a task is completed, check it off the planner sheet. Being able to physically check off or cross through a task brings about a rewarding feeling that encourages students to continue working until that list is completed.

Types Of Planners

Types of planners can vary largely by the student’s preference. There are tons of paper planners and electronic planners through phone apps. In fact, any journal or piece of paper can become a planner.

Planners come in several layouts such as weekly, daily, and even hourly. Some have different themes that include daily quotes, bible verses, or journaling prompts. Many online planners and organizing apps, like Google calendar, can be free.

Schools are encouraging their students more to use planners and some even distribute agendas to their students at no cost. See your school counselor to find out if your school provides planners to their students.

Visit Passion Planner for free PDFs with planning sheets that were used in the making of this post!

Staying Motivated

There are many different strategies to stay motivated. Those who benefit from having visual reminders can use vision boards, and inspirational social media accounts.

Those who prefer to see their motivation in writing can try journaling or using phone apps that generate daily quotes.

Those who benefit from having support around them can get their loved ones or friends involved in the process as well or provide them some of your personal deadlines so they can help in keeping you accountable.


Stanford University created a website to help their students learn about time management and they teach students how to plan their days by the hour. Visit their website for more publications on planning and studying strategies:


School Bell Blog wants to thank and dedicate this post to Ely Jay Nez, for presenting these planning techniques during the 2019 LEDA Summer Institute at Princeton University. Ely Jay Nez is a current student at Stanford University, majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Nez worked in the Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford where the concepts for “The Duck Stops Here” website were created.

The Following Articles Aided In The Making Of This Post:

You Will Remember Information Longer If You Hand Write Notes

10 Reasons Students Should Use a Paper Academic Year Planner

We wish you Good Luck!

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*The School Bell Blog is not associated with any of the programs mentioned. This blog serves as a resource of information that may or may not apply to the readers and it is up to each individual reader to verify the information on their own. For verification on what opportunities are available to you and for formal help, please see your school counselors. The School Bell Blog encourages everyone to do their own research before taking the information stated here as fact. Thank you.

Please email me with any questions or requests for posts: schoolbellblog@gmail.com

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