If you were brave enough to accept my day planner challenge two weeks ago, you are now the proud (I hope) owner of a scheduling device more powerful than most. It may have seemed hard to get into the swing of things, but if you stuck with it, you now see how helpful a planner can be. Two weeks ago we talked about common problems faced when starting a day planner, and last week we went over the proper ways to use the larger and smaller calendars within the planner. Now that you all have become experts on the basics, let’s more on to the hard stuff!
Day planners used for scheduling on a day-to-day basis are helpful; this I will not dispute. I will even go so far as to say that for many people and in many situations they can be a savior. However, using your scheduler just to plan out your week is to some extent squandering its talent. Day planners, rather, are best utilized when they are employed for proactive future planning. In this respect they can be like little crystal balls that not only let you see into the future, but also help you plan out how you will attack forseeable problems.
How exactly is this possible? The notion, itself is quite simple. When you plan things weeks and months in advance, you are better able to prepare for them, to schedule things that pop up around them, and to feel less stressed by hectic bouts. Take for instance the next five to six weeks of class before the end of the semester. This includes the last two weeks of classes that are bound to be packed with paper deadlines, presentations, and review. Then, there are finals to study for and application deadlines, as well. The entire month of May, for that matter, will be a hectic one, filled with late nights of paper writing and cramming for exams, right? Not with a day planner.
The next few weeks of classes will be relatively easy. This week professors are wrapping up topics before we go on break, and then for an entire 10 days we will be free from the constraints of academia. This is prime time to relax, refocus, and attack those end of the semester papers, presentations, and reviews proactively. If you start now, there will be plenty of time to finish before the craziness starts.
Now, turn to your day planner. Make sure to enter in the deadlines and dates of all of these assignments and finals. Realistically evaluate the time for which each task will take to prepare. For papers this includes research, reading, outlining, writing, and proofing time. For exam preparation this includes reading, outlining, and studying time. Once you have done this, find times in your schedule (starting at the deadline or date and moving backwards in time toward the present) for each task. For example, I have a final on May 27th for which I should undoubtedly study for on the 26th. I should also mark time in my schedule to create a study sheet around the 23rd of May, and if there is no time on this day, then the 20th. Repeat this for each task and be careful not to double up tasks on days for which you will not have time to complete them.
What is the result of such forward-looking scheduling? At the end of this exercise you will have a plan of attack that, specifically on that guarantees you the ability to fit everything in and get things done on time. This scheduling method is not constrained to use for just school. It applies to projects at work, to do lists, and errands, as well.
This week try to plan out the next month using this technique, keeping in mind that procrastination does NOT mesh well with this model. If you are going to go through the trouble of making up a schedule this way, be sure to stick with it. Click here and here for your two minutes of procrastination.