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I always feel like I’m pressed for time but don’t get as much done as others around me. I’m busy all day, but then I need to pull an “all-nighter” to finish something I couldn’t complete during the day. The day (or sometimes the week!) slips by and I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything. I have read that maintaining planers (semester-wise, weekly, and daily) is often helpful. Some of the universities (Univ. of Melbourne, Michigan State etc.) seem to provide planer templates for students. Making a planner is not very common where I studied. I would love to know some personal experiences. How well does this work?

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Planners are good for certain things, but they aren't going to solve your problem.

Fundamentally, they are good for recording future obligations, such as project due dates, exam dates, doctor's appointments, and the like. But they won't give you better study habits.

Let me suggest two things that might help to get you on a better "schedule".

First, do an inventory of what it is that you are actually doing and compare it to what you think you should be doing to be more effective. All nighters and cramming for exams are an exceedingly poor way to succeed. The worst exam I ever wrote was actually an open book (timed) exam, for which I'd stayed up all night preparing. I couldn't actually think when it became important to do so. But, figure out whether you are wasting time, even time spent studying ineffectively by pushing too hard without breaks. Your brain needs occasional breaks. Aerobic exercise is a really good way to take a break.

Second, make a habit of carrying a pen and a few index cards with you wherever you go. Some of those cards are blank and available for recording notes, but others are summaries of recent lectures (perhaps), and one of them has a list of things to accomplish for the day. You can add time requirements as needed. You can check them off. I suggest actual index cards and not an electronic equivalent, since cards can be easily updated at any time and take up little room in your pocket.

You can read about the Hipster PDA at an answer I gave at CSEducators for more on effective use of index cards. Use that as your "planner".


More than half a century ago, when I was an undergraduate, the top student in my graduating class (valedictorian) carried a hipster pda at all times. I later used one to help manage my teaching.

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