Manage (Plan) Your Time

Successful Lake Forest College students create study and task schedules and use them to set priorities and guide good decision-making about all their activities throughout the day, week, and month.

Get a Planner

A planner is more than a calendar or a scheduler. Paper may be "old fashioned," but many people find it a better method, not only to use for scheduling, but it enables you to build a more robust schedule, create goals, and plan for the future—all in one place. Click here for some quick tips. You can buy one or create one. But get one. One that is on paper and one that you keep on Outlook. Both will help. The Outlook calendar will send you reminders and such. The paper calendar can help you feel the satisfaction of checking things off, crossing them off when done and can help you visualize your days (including your free time for friends and fun).

Create a Monthly Calendar

Start by getting a whiteboard (the bigger the better) to keep in your room or study area. If you can’t hang it on the wall, prop it on up some place (like the top of your dresser). If you are unable to get a whiteboard, then use a large piece of paper or poster-board and hang it on your wall.

  1. Divide the board into four parts.
    Office Hours/Contact Info
    Prof. Berkowitz:
    Tues 9-10 am
    Prof. Grote:
    Weds 11 am-12 pm
    Monthly Calendar
    *Draw a calendar by month that you can mark due dates, exams, etc., to help you stay organized. Make the calendar big! Use the full space so you can read it easily.
    MATH 102
    ECON 110
    Daily reminders
    -MATH 102 Homework #1
    -Read ECON 110 Chapter 2
  2. Using your syllabi, mark the due dates for all your assignments, papers, presentations, exams etc. for the month.
  3. To save space on the calendar, write just the course number.
  4. You may wish to use a different color for each class. It will help you better visually organize the assignments. Use that color to write the course name/number on the left side.
  5. The Daily Reminders section can be used for important reminders to compliment your daily to do list. Add a weekly highlight, uplifting thought, or something that you are looking forward to doing.

Create a Weekly Schedule

Put together a schedule that plans out each day from when you wake up until you go to sleep. Try to plan it such that it can be consistent from week to week (for example, every Monday, you follow the same schedule). If something keeps you from keeping the same schedule every week (like changing work hours), create a new schedule each week.

Using this form (or download another format you that better suits you), create your schedule as follows:

  1. Add your classes.
  2. When do you wake up? Try to keep this consistent. Give yourself enough time to be fully prepared for your first class. Afternoon classes? Use the morning for study time.
  3. When do you sleep? Remember, successful students get a good night’s rest.
  4. Add meals. It’s important to be sure that you have healthy eating habits.
  5. Add weekly appointments (tutoring, study groups, medical appointments, work schedules).
  6. Add study time for each course. Successful students study a minimum of 20 hours a week (5 hours a week per course) – or even more.
    1. When do you study most effectively? Schedule your most difficult work when you are at your best (and for most people – this is not a 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00 am).
    2. You will need to study on Saturdays and Sundays, so plan for it.
  7. Include 1 hour per week for course review (as part of your 5 hours weekly for each course).
  8. Include 15-30 minutes on Friday to review your tasks for the weekend.
  9. Add 15-30 minutes on Sunday to ensure that you completed your weekend tasks and to plan for the week (put together your daily task lists, see the following for more details).
  10. Include some downtime - go for a walk, workout, watch your favorite tv show.
  11. It is highly recommended that you print it out and post it where you can refer to it regularly.

Here are two forms you may find helpful.

Create a Daily To-Do List

A daily to-do list is essential.
Decide if you work better with a paper planner or using Outlook. Some things may be best kept on Outlook and others on paper. The key is to start your day looking at this to-do list and considering when you can accomplish each task.

Your task list can be useful for keeping you focused on a daily basis.

  1. Your daily to-do list should include all the things you want to accomplish and should be separated into categories—academic, personal/errands, social/family (e.g. phone calls you need to make, cards you need to send).
  2. On Sunday, create a to-do list for every day of the following week. You can adjust the lists as needed as the week progresses.
  3. Look at your monthly calendar to see what is due and when.
  4. Consider putting the most important tasks at the top of the list.
  5. Break larger projects into smaller doable tasks over a number of days.
    1. Be specific on the task (don’t just write “Study econ”, but instead “study chapter 1”, “review quiz”, “do problem set”, etc.).
    2. Write a paper over several days. Thinks about the steps (find sources, create outline, write pages 1-2, etc.) Talk with your professor about submitting a draft earlier for comments. How about an appointment with the Writing Center?
  6. Include enough time on your schedule for reviewing assignments and final edits of papers before they are due.
  7. Don’t forget to include any appointments that you have for the day.
  8. Cross things off as you complete them – it gives you a sense of accomplishment.
  9. If you didn’t get it done, add it to the next day. If you are consistently putting things to the next day – consider your list.
    1. Do you list too many tasks for each day? Estimate how much time you should spend on each task.
    2. Are you sticking to your schedule?
    3. What kinds of things are keeping you from getting your work done?
    4. Talk with your advisor or reach out the Center for Academic Success.
  10. Set up electronic reminders (even if you are using a paper planner).
  11. We can’t get everything done every day – stop and think about what you did accomplish. If it’s not on your list, add it and then cross it off.

Finally, make sure you prioritize your tasks. There may be tasks that can wait. Others have to be done. Be sure the “have tos” get done and the others are rescheduled as necessary.

Over time, you will learn to adjust your schedule to fit the tasks you have better. Reading may take you longer than expected. Calling AT and T to adjust your phone plan may take longer as well. That’s why you need to be sure your “have to” list is truly that. Can AT and T wait until you don’t have so much work to do? These kinds of questions need to be answered and reflected upon every day until you become better at predicting how much time tasks will take.

At first, you may find yourself falling behind. If so, ASK FOR HELP! Talk with your professor, your advisor, or the Center for Academic Success.