The Semester Planner

A one page calendar that displays the “big picture” of your semester. Helpful in identifying and preparing for your busiest weeks.

Studies have shown that students who plan their time were more efficient in allocating their individual study time (spent less time on individual study), prepared more appropriately for the tutorial group meeting (although not significant [n.s.]) and achieved higher scores on cognitive tests (Hurk, 2006).

 Review your syllabi and enter the dates of all exams, papers, projects, events, and travel into semester planner.

The Weekly Planner

A grid for hourly, week-by-week planning. Helpful in identifying and planning unstructured time.

  1. Mark and label time slots occupied by classes, employment, sports, extracurricular activities, and other regular commitments.
  2. For each class, create a weekly to-do list, estimating how much time to allot for each reading, assignment, exam-prep and project.
  3. Insert these tasks into open slots on your weekly planner, building in buffer time.
  4. Use color to differentiate classes and activities. visually.

Weekly Planning that Works

Reduce tasks to manageable steps or segments: Work backwards from a target date and distribute the load across your schedule. Example: Rather than reading 50 pages of a dense textbook in one sitting, try 10 pages at a time.

Know when and where you work best: Plan for your hardest studying when you know you’re most alert and focused. Select a study location where you can stay productive.

Maximize Breaks in Your Schedule: Arrive to class early to review and stay afterward to clarify lecture material while it’s fresh. Review flashcards while standing in line or riding the bus.

Strive for Balance: “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” However, all play and no work sets the stage for bad grades! A healthy, productive schedule includes breaks and a mix of activities.

Adjust your schedule as needed: Flexibility and creative thinking prevent unforeseen circumstances from derailing your daily or weekly goals.

Set a Stopping Time at Night: Sleep deprivation affects attention, cognition, and memory.

Keep planner with you: Make a copy and post in prominent place. Refer to and update as needed.


van den Hurk, M. (2006). The relation between self-regulated strategies and individual study time, prepared particpation and achievement in a problem-based curriculum. Active Learning in Higher Education, 7, 155-169.

Download PDF: Using Planners

REMEMBER: The UNC Learning Center is a great resource! Both Peer Tutoring and Academic Coaching can help you work on crafting email or conducting mock conversations with your professors.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Learning Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.