Hey everybody, Derek here. This is quite different from some of the things I would typically post here (it almost feels like I’m one of those “self-help” blogs or recipe blogs where you’ll have to scroll for ages to just find the recipe), but I was writing this thread about assignment management on Twitter and said “screw it, this is too long to be a thread,” so it will live here now as soon as I hit publish!
I’ll start by saying it took me SO LONG to develop a school planning system that works for me. I used every fancy planner, all the calendar apps, and nothing worked for me until I developed my system. It takes a bit of setup, but now that I have it, I could never ever go back. I figured “why not post it in case someone needs it”… so here it is!
I take a multifaceted approach to scheduling/planning/pacing using different tools and methods. I have the calendar app on my phone for events I call “solid” (pre-planned meetings/calls/press/etc). I have an undated paper planner with a to-do section for more wiggly events/tasks (this is the one I use and it fits this stuff perfectly). And I have a Google Doc strictly for assignment due dates.
To simplify that:
- Device calendar: solid event
- Paper planner: soft events/tasks that don’t need to be on the calendar
- Google Doc: ASSIGNMENTS!
The Device Calendar and Planner
It will be much easier to explain my device calendar and planner setup than it will the Google Doc, so let’s dive into these things first. If you’re here for the G Doc specifically, just scroll until you see the next spacer and you’ll be right there!
I work with four different organizations (although one of them is my personal brand) and have school virtually, all of which have hard events (whether it’s meetings, calls, or who knows). I also have personal events (including doctor’s appointments and family time). For me, I had to have an easy, straightforward way to distinguish personal from work. So, I do that with calendar colors.
Everything that is work, including school events, is in one color (for me, it’s orange, so it catches my attention). Everything that is personal is a different color (for me, it’s light blue). I’m also set to “read-only” on my mom’s calendar, which is brown. My mom is set to read-only on most of my calendars too (with the exception of confidential organization work). We do this to make it easy for us to see when to schedule appointments (I’m a minor, so she has to handle most of the scheduling of my appointments for me). Everything that is hard (set in stone) is put on a device calendar as soon as it is scheduled.
The Paper Planner:
My paper planner is GREAT! It’s the most variable, flexible piece of my planning system. Nothing gets put into the planner until the night before and it’s all done in pencil, so it is easy to change. I keep a consistent wake-up time (normally around 7:30am) written into this planner, every weekday, and write myself an hour to get out of bed. Then, I write in an hour or so to work out, shower, and eat breakfast. Then, I take the hard events from my phone and write them into the paper, so they’re “double solid” and I know they’re coming as I scan my planner in the morning. I’ll identify 5 top priorities, and 8 to-do items in their respective spots on the left. I write in rest. I write in lunch. I write in family time and time with my partner. Everything that will happen, is expected to happen, or is happening will hit that planner and change fluidly the night before and the day of.
And now, the awaited Google Doc setup guide:
The Google Doc
At the start of every semester, I create the Assignment Planning Document. This document includes a list of all my appointments during school hours, a solid tally of how many assignments I have total for the semester (and separated further into a tally per month, which we’ll get to in a second), a running tally how many assignments I’ve completed total for the semester (and separated further into a tally per month), and a highlight color system (red = late and pending, yellow = turned in late, green = on time).
While creating this document, I run through my phone calendar (hard events) and put all the ones during school hours on that first list. I then divide the document by month, and add any school holidays throughout. Using the pacing guides my school provides for each class, I also separate the document further by due date and add the assignments under each due date.
After that data is input and the tallies for assignments by month are done, I add an accountability partner to the document. Having an accountability partner here, in this segmented-off aspect of strictly education and deadline management/compliance has been HUGE for me. I have to know “XYZ person (who is not a parent) can see if I’m actually doing the work or not” to be motivated. So, that’s what I do.
That sounds EXTREMELY complicated, I know. I doubt I did a fair job portraying how “simple” it is for me to set up. To give you a head start, here is a copyable template that you can use! It has the barebones (the “appointment list” template, the tallies, the color code system, and the month breakdown), ready for you to input your data/information after you click “Make a copy”. Please know: I will have no access to any of your information after you make a copy of the template.
This took way longer than I thought it would to put together, honestly. I’m laughing at myself right now as I’ve spent the last two hours and change writing up this piece that WordPress estimates can be read in 6 minutes.
I’m so glad I decided early on to pull this off of Twitter and put it here. It just came together better here, and now it’s easy to reference with its new shortlink, https://go.derekschmitz.com/howtoplan!
In the interest of full disclosure, I will let you know that I am an Amazon Affiliate. I may receive a commission if you purchase the planner linked above, or use any Amazon links on this site.
I really hope this system helps some folks out! If you have any questions or comments about it, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Planner” or just slide into my DMs over on Twitter @derekischmitz! If you found this useful, a share is always appreciated, or if you can and want to tip me for this piece and the associated resources, you can find all of that info on my Support page. Thank you, and happy planning!