Business Coach Wendy Hearn says a “Lack of Planning, Prioritising and Focus” is the #1 time waster for employees and business leaders. Without them:
“You’ll end up working on activities that aren’t moving you towards your vision . . . You’ll feel directionless and your productivity will drop. When you’re not fully focused in the moment, you inhibit the momentum required to be effective and to get things done faster and more easily.”*
Hearn is in business, but the principles for students are identical. Effective students know how to plan.
If you are studying on your own time, you need to plan, prioritize and focus.
I realize not everyone is a planner. Some of you would rather experience life than plan life. Planning for students just seems like a waste of time.
I’m in that camp typically. I’m not a planner. I have nightmares about post-it notes and to-do lists, which is a big reason why I refused to use a personal planner for a long time.
I once traveled Europe without a plan. We covered over 14 countries with no plan. “Surely you had some sort of plan!” Nope. Well, not past, “get out of the train sometime when it stops.” I did plan that much of the trip.
Here’s only the problem with this “no-planning” strategy: sometimes you sleep in train stations. And Belgian train stations are freezing in February, especially when homeless people try to steal from you when you’re asleep. Your back may also hurt for a week. And you will definitely smell terrible the next day.
But, if you think that sounds like fun, go for it! Travel without a plan. Fly by the seat of your pants. Show up in new countries with no map, no friends, no direction. Experience all that the country has to offer. To this day that is my favorite way to travel.
But when it comes to studying, planning for students is crucial.
It’s that simple.
I’m not suggesting you ought to write out a minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour design for the day. When it comes to planning, you just need enough structure to keep you on task. That’s it. The purpose is productivity, not filling in a calendar.
Planning for students: answer this simple question
“How much structure do you need to keep yourself on task?”
This is the simplest way to figure out your best time management strategy. Some people need 20 points on a list, boxes to check off, and every 30-minute block planned out for the next two weeks. Other’s are the “3-things-I-want-to-do-today” kind of people. Plan to the extent needed to increase productivity, but stop there. Class, work, and extracurricular schedules help; you have more structure built into those programs. Generally speaking, the more open your schedule, the more structure you need.
Non-planners, start by trying out a few time management strategies. Combine these with your new study skills. Whatever works, keep. Whatever doesn’t, drop like it’s hot. Everyone will be different here, but successful students – even those who hate calendars – discover ways to keep themselves on task.