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Anyone Can Get an A+ by Geetanjali Mukherjee

Anyone Can Get an A+

by Geetanjali Mukherjee

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Create A Weekly Plan

Some of us think that we don’t really need a plan - we will remember everything that is important. After all, I have homework due in microeconomics every week – don’t really need to write that down, do I? And that big paper coming up, well it’s been stressing me out for a while, so hardly likely to forget that. Why waste time when I could be actually doing work on planning?

Here's why. We think we are good at remembering, but we aren’t. Crucial items fall off the radar. We forget to return or pick up an important library book. We meant to go to office hours with the TA, but we forgot. They may seem only small things, but niggling things that we fail to do can cause stress and add disruption to our life. And you might remember something crucial in the middle of doing something else. If you don’t have a plan, or a system for capturing important information, you will feel tempted to stop what you're doing and make that phone call right away, or send that email to your Professor. And you get distracted, and one thing leads to another, and an hour passes before you get back to what you're doing, losing important momentum.

A simple but incredibly effective solution is to create a plan for the week. Whenever you're feeling overwhelmed - just take out a sheet of paper, and create a rough plan of everything you need to get done. When you start to create a weekly plan on a regular basis, you will find you’re not getting stressed or overwhelmed by your schoolwork. Just seeing your plan, even if it might change, or you realize that you have a lot of things to do, can make you feel calmer.

The other advantage to having a written plan is that you have something to use when plans change for some reason. Perhaps your teacher announces a surprise test for the next class, so you need to add in time to study this evening and tomorrow for it. Or maybe a seminar is cancelled, and you need to decide what assignment you can complete in the time that is freed up. Relying on our brain to just decide what to do when things change, which they invariably will, is a recipe for wasting time and leads to overlooking ways to utilize your time in the best way.

Make your plan at the same time every week. Cal Newport, author and advice blogger, calls this a "Sunday Ritual". You can make it a Friday evening ritual or a Saturday ritual if that suits you better - just pick a date and time that you can commit to every week. You can even make it a recurring event in your calendar, with an alarm to remind you to do the plan.

All you need to create your plan is your syllabus for each course, and your calendar. First make a quick list of all the assignments that are due in the following week, with their due dates and what you need to do for each. Then scan for bigger projects that are coming up - paper deadlines, tests, internship deadlines to apply for. It’s really crucial to use your syllabus for planning, to check for potential problems, and plan ahead.

Ideally the larger deadlines would also be flagged in your calendar - if not, go ahead and put the due dates, and reminders for a week earlier, in your calendar. Depending on what your larger projects are, put the next step(s) on your plan for this week - as something to get to after all the work due earlier is completed.

Ideally you would also have a daily plan, something that you can look at before you sit down to study, so that you are working on what's most important. As things come up, you can make changes to the weekly plan, and even make notes for anything that you know you will need to get done the following week. If you usually do this in your current week's plan, make sure you use that as the basis of your new plan next time.

This is an edited excerpt from my book "Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades".  It makes the perfect back-to-school purchase or gift. Click here to buy this book from your preferred retailer:

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