Planners are extremely useful tools to help us manage our daily activities and achieve our goals. I like to think of mine as my external brain.

Here are 12 tips to use your planner more efficiently:

  1. Customize your planner.
    1. Write your subjects down in the order of your classes if your planner is customizable.
    2. Include “organizing” as a subject so you can schedule a time to clean out your binder(s), backpack and locker.
    3. Designate a space to record after school appointments, extracurricular activities, social events, and things you want to get done.
    4. Using your planner for all of your activities, not just homework, will help you see your available blocks of time to get things done.
  2. Create a time-map to visualize the time you have available to do your homework. Download your own time map here.
  3. Place a binder clip or bookmark on the current page. This makes it easy to find today’s information without flipping through numerous pages.
  4. Record your assignments as soon as you get them. For assignments not due the following day, write important assignments vertically on the date they are due so they stand out. This will help you plan forward and backward.
  5. Be specific so there is no question about what the assignment is when you look at it later in the day. For example, writing “math page 25, even problems” is much clearer than simply writing “math” or “page 25.”
  6. Double-check your assignments to make sure they’re correct. This can be done by using your class website, consulting with a friend from class, or checking with your teacher.
  7. Write “No homework,” “No HW,” or “None” on the days you don’t have homework for a particular class. This will prevent you from second-guessing whether or not you had an assignment and forgot to write it down.
  8. Break down big projects and any homework not due the next day into smaller steps of action.
    1. Next, schedule the “chunks” of the project in your planner. If an assignment is due in 10 days, don’t wait to start it until the night before it’s due! This can result in increased stress, nagging parents, and shoddy work.
  9. Estimate how long each homework assignment will take to complete and then time how long they actually take. You need to know how long things will take in order to plan and manage your time. It is better to overestimate and have some bonus free time than to underestimate and feel stressed. Write down both your estimate and actual time spent on each task.  After a couple of weeks, you’ll be better able to estimate how long things really take.
    1. Keep track of time. Use an analog clock to keep track of time by filling in “pies of time” with a dry erase marker or using magnets, on the metal frame of an analog clock, as time markers. You can also use timers or timer apps such as the Time Timer, Pomodoro, or 30:30 or My Power Clock. (These resources are all on my website.)
  10. Get it done!
    1. Keep your planner open during homework so you can refer to it.
    2. Check off completed tasks.
  11. Do daily “brain dumps.” Spend five minutes downloading any “to do’s” that you have in your head to your planner. Thinking about the things you need to do creates distractions and unproductive stress.
  12. Check your planner at the end of each day so you can reschedule tasks that weren’t completed and see what you have planned for the next day. Also, remember to flip through the next couple of weeks so you can see what’s coming up!

I recommend using this Academic Planner, it’s easy to use, flexible, and keeps you organized inside and outside of school.

About Skills 4 Life:

Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services to help your child master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding & executive function coaching, but also work with children on social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills they need to be successful. Learn more about our team & services at, or you can contact our office by email at or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.