Your brain is really good at doing one thing really bad, managing your life.
David Allen put it best, “Your brain is for having ideas and plans, not storing them.”
If you’re currently feeling overwhelmed with all of your class readings, exams and projects, I guarantee you it’s because you don’t have a college study plan in place.
If it’s Monday morning at 11am and you’re having an anxiety attack because you have an exam, a 5 page paper, and 3 chapters to catch up on by this Thursday, and you don’t know what should get your attention: Your current study plan sucks.
Yep, that was a little frank because If you’re reading this, I’m willing to bet you don’t have a system in place to organize, prioritize and get your academic tasks done without ending up in the psych ward.
Studying in college takes quite a bit of time because it’s not just going to class. It’s preparing for class, reading chapters, taking notes, researching for papers, doing homework problems, quizzing yourself, working on projects and writing papers.
Imagine being able to (finally) have a plan in place that will automatically help you check things off your super long college to-do list.
That’s what a study plan can do for you.
So let’s get into the whole process of how to create a study plan that will get you A’s.
Define Your Priorities + Plan Your Time
If you didn’t already know this, you’re only going to get 24 hours in a day. Some of that time is going to be claimed by things that are out of your control, like your class time, work schedule and the fact that you have to eat and sleep. However, all the other time that’s left over is up to you to decide what you do with it. What I mean to say by this is, if you feel like you don’t have time for certain things, it’s because you didn’t make the time.
You’re a grown woman and at some point, you have to decide what’s important to you and what’s not. You have to make the conscious choice on what gets your time and what doesn’t. It’s time to step away from the surface level crap of college and get real with yourself, what are your goals? What do you want college to be like and feel like for you? How do you want to spend your time for the next 2-4 years?
Here are some questions to help you identify what your priorities and goals are:
- Besides getting a college degree what are you hoping college will do for you?
- When you enrolled in college, what did your ideal college exprience look like in your mind?
- What kind of grades would make you feel really happy and content? Please think deep on this one because, for me, B+’s did the job.
- Who are the people you adore and want to enjoy this time in your life with?
- What are you most excited about in college, what lights you up?
- What do you spend your time on, what advantages or disadvantages do these things have on the college experience you said you wanted?
- How would you feel if you died without doing, experiencing or spending time on _____________?
- What don’t you want to regret about your college experience?
- What’s your biggest fear about your college experience?
Anything that did not make it into your priorities or goals should not be getting any of your time. It doesn’t make sense to let something you don’t even care about suck up the precious hours you have on this earth. If you want more advice on setting priorities and living your best life in college, check out Chalene Johnson’s Podcast.
Now that we know what’s important to you, let’s figure out how to make time for all of that.
How to plan your time:
In order to make time for the things you decided were important to you, you have to know how much of the time you have each day is yours to control. I sometimes refer to this as your “workable pockets of time” or “white space”.
We are going to use this as an overview look at what your day could possibly look like. I say possibly because you don’t have to be so rigid with this.
I am then want to teach you how to optimize it for a well-balanced life.
You’re going to need a planner. I don’t care if it’s digital or paper, just pick what you like. The only requirement is that it have an hour-by-hour view.
- For each day of the week, schedule anything that is set in stone. If your schedule changes every week don’t stress about this step too much. It just means that on Sunday, you’ll have to sit down and plot your latest schedule into your week instead of having it pre-set.
Sleeping and eating is also a part of this. You don’t actually have to write these things into your schedule just have general times for them.
2. You should have some clearly identified white space after this. The white space represents the only time you have full control over.
3. Next I want you to pick out one to three 2-3 hour pockets of time with in your white space each day. They are going to be labeled “Study Sessions”. Study Sessions are 2-3 hour long sprints where your focus is on getting school work done. Whether it’s reading and taking notes, quizzing yourself for an upcoming exam alone or with your study group, researching or writing a paper/project or working with your group on a project.
Study Sessions are 2-3 hour long sprints where your focus is on getting school work done. You will be using the time to read, take notes and all the other collegiate activities. I will get into details later on how to pick what to work on during your study sessions.
4. The next step is to schedule 1-2 freedom session into your week. These freedom sessions are 3-hour chunks of time to do whatever your heart pleases. These sessions are designed to help you avoid burnout and create more free time to live your life.
You can have one-half day or one full day freedom session. If you choose to have a half or whole day off, that means every other day of the week you are busting ass to get things done so you can actually relax on that day off.
5. Finally, I want you to find two to three 1 hour slots in your week that will be your “Adulting Sessions.” These are meant for tasks such as calling your mom, laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping, paying bills etc.
Keep in mind you can always group these hour slots together. So instead of three 1-hour slots spread out during the week, you can have one 3-hour adulting session on a single day.
Special Note: Any white space that is left over is yours to do whatever you want. You can use it to catch up on work, nap, Netflix. Whatever!
How Does Planning This Way Benefit Your Grades and Sanity?
You might have noticed that I was able to fit a lot in a week. In the mock schedule I created above, this student is spending about 24 hours studying outside of class. That’s about 8 hours per class if you’re taking 4 classes.
I’m willing to bet you’re not spending half that amount of time on your classes. Which is the reason why you’re not doing too hot in them.
This way of planning allows you to dedicate the amount of time you need towards your school work, but you also have a bunch of free time to engage in the other things that may be important to you, like your friends, boyfriend or hobbies.
How To Use Your New Schedule
You’ll use the schedule you create as a guide every week. No schedule is going to be perfect. And if I am honest wit you, when you first try to follow it, you’ll probably procrastinate and not do things when you said you were going to.
Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just try to follow it the best you can.
The point of this schedule is time awareness and productivity progress, not perfection. Being too rigid isn’t a good thing either. You have to be a little flexible because life happens and you’ll need to adjust your schedule accordingly.
I’ve created a special study plan template just for you. CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO DOWNLOAD
Deciding What To Work On During Your Study Sessions
When it comes down to your study sessions, how do you decide what to do at any given point?
I am going to give you some guidelines to help you make the decisions. We don’t need you feeling guilty about reading for chemistry instead of studying for a 1 question quiz in Spanish tomorrow.
This way of prioritizing your assignments will give you peace of mind that you made the right choice.
Before we jump into how to prioritize your assignments, I want to help you break down your college tasks into Learning Activity Buckets. These are just groups of tasks that automatically come with the territory of taking college classes.
My Learning Activity Buckets
This refers to the corresponding chapter the professor will be discussing in class.
These are the notes you take while reading or when you’re synthesizing your notes after lecture.
Working on problem sets for math/technical classes or submitting online quizzes or mini discussions. Usually anything the professor assigns to be turned in the next class period.
Time spent looking for articles, books or resources to help you write your papers, group projects or presentations.
This is any work you dedicate to writing papers, group projects or oral presentations.
Quiz and Recall:
This is what I refer to as the studying you do to prepare for a quiz or an exam. Quizzing yourself on flashcards, doing problem sets without looking at your notes or study groups where you are asking each other rapid fire questions about the information on the upcoming test.
This is all the extra things we do to learn in college that don’t necessarily have to be done. Things like office hours, going to the writing center and tutoring sessions.
Now that we’ve identified all the work you can do as a college student, let’s figure out how to choose what to work on during our study sessions.
There are two methods you can use for deciding what to work on during your study sessions:
- Pre-defined learning activity days: This will probably work best for students who have the same schedule week to week.
- The when I have time method: The second option is for students who schedules often change. What you work on will largely depend on how much time you have available and which learning activity can be done within that time period.
Pre-defined learning bucket plan:
With pre-defined learning activity days you work on the same tasks on the same day each week. Pre-defined learning activity days are great because they help build habits and are a key method for staying on track with everything you have to do each week. Just remember to also be flexible.
What I love about having pre-defined days is that it still gives you the option to work on the class that needs the most attention.
Although it might be a reading bucket day, you can do reading for a research paper, project or any class that you want. This also gets rid of that guilt we feel when we see Read Chapt 5 for Psych on Monday and we never got around to it. It becomes no big deal because we have another reading day scheduled later in the week and scheduled catch up time on the weekend.
You could also get more specific with your and pre-define learning bucket days and specify the class you’ll focus on that day. This method is nice because each class gets a focused day so you’ll stay on pace with what’s happening in class, due dates and your never ending to do list.
You will know everything will get done because you’ve scheduled time for it.
- Monday: Reading/Notes for Chemistry
- Tuesdays: Chemistry problem sets, self-quizzing and catchup
- Wednesdays: English 220 Reading/Annotating
- Thursdays: Calculus problem sets, self-quizzing and catchup
- Friday: Philosophy 101 Reading/Notes + 1 page analysis
- Saturday/Sunday: Catch up/papers and project work
I’ve created a special study plan template just for you. CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO DOWNLOAD
The When I Have Time Method:
You’ll need to have a running list of learning activities you engage in for your classes and a rough idea how long those tasks take you. At the beginning of every day you will look at your daily schedule and determine your “white space” in your calendar.
It doesn’t matter if it’s 1 hour or 6. You just want to find out how much time you have so you can decide what you can actually get done during that time.
If you’re in class from 8-12pm and you then have to be at work from 2pm-7pm but it takes you 30 minutes to drive to work, realistically you have from 12:15-1:30 to get some work done. If you know you can bang out your chemistry online quiz during that time, that’s what you’ll work on.
If you choose to use this method you will have to take into consideration the priority of your assignments. Because if all you have this week is 6 hours total, how do you decide which learning activity gets the majority of that time?
How to prioritize your assignments:
What do you do when you have an exam, a 15-page paper, and a quiz all in the same week? You’re going to have to out your big girl panties on and make some decision about what gets the majority of your time.
This is my guideline for prioritizing assignments:
What’s Due First?
Always do first things first. If your 15-page paper is due on Wednesday and your quiz and exam aren’t until the end of the week. The first few days of the week need to be focused on making sure that 15-page paper is ready to be handed in. Hopefully, you started it a few weeks ago but if not, that has to take priority because it’s going to be due first.
What’s worth more?
What if your paper and quiz were both on the same day? My motto is spend more of your time on the assignment that is worth more. If you get a 65% on your quiz that is only worth 10% of your grade, it’s not going to drop your overall grade by that much. However if you get a 65% on a 15 page paper that is worth 30% of your grade, that is going to have a huge affect on the grade you get at the end of the class.
What’s going to require more time/effort on your part?
Completing a 10-minute online quiz for chemistry isn’t going to take up a lot of time or frankly that much mental energy. You can bang this out last minute with no problem. However, a 30 question take home exam for your sociology class is going to take way more time and effort than you can pull together an hour or two before it’s due. Any assignment that is going to require hours of work and concentration needs to take priority.
So there you have it. How to create a study plan that will get you A’s.
I would love to hear how you set up your own study semester plan so leave a comment below and share any planners or college productivity tools you love.
College Productivity Kit List
Sign up for the Early Bird list and lock in your discount, get early access + enjoy loads of bonuses when you get the kit.