If you are a student, a daily planner can help you

I often teach a course in human adaptation and one of the assignments is about time management. For a week, or ideally two, I have students in my class track their daily activities at 15-30 minute intervals, much like lawyers track their billable activities. At the end of the exercise, students review their data, their daily activities from waking up to going to bed, to make sense of where and how they spend their time.

It’s no surprise that many students admit to wasting inordinate amounts of time on social media (mainly but not exclusively on Instagram) or watching videos on TikTok and Youtube or just surfing the web. The other main platform they spend their time on is watching Netflix, or the equivalent, or playing online games. After that there is work (most have part-time jobs), then going out with friends (leisure). School comes next with homework, studying, writing papers, etc., and class time.

Many of these students are amazed at how much time they spend not doing school activities (me too). They are often very surprised at the hours they spend on digital devices every day or procrastinate to get their work done in class. Of course, not all students behave this way – many are very organized because of:

  • Majors that require a certain GPA (e.g. Nursing)
  • To be a student-athlete
  • Preparation for higher or professional studies
  • They pay their own way to college
  • Or they just like to feel in control of their current life as they look to the future.

If you’re a college student or know one, especially one entering their first year of college, encourage them to use some sort of planner. You could even give them one before they leave for school. Many of my students tell me that keeping a planning calendar with due dates for quizzes, exams, and assignments is invaluable when it comes to organizing their time and workflow. . Granted, many digital devices have calendars and they work for some students. Other students, however, feel more comfortable with portable planning notebooks that they can carry in their backpack or purse. Some students report crossing out completed activities (Tuesday math quiz) with great enthusiasm. Others like being able to see two weeks ahead in the semester (these students don’t like forgotten or overlooked surprises).

Yet other students like to keep lists of what to do and when. Students don’t need expensive leather-bound daily journals, just an accurate record of short-term and long-term work.

This can be especially helpful for the student who has never relied on a planner but has often felt behind or overwhelmed when midterms and finals roll around. Review it at the start of the day and again at the end of the day. It can be a game changer.

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