Once they reach a certain grade, many children receive a planner from the school that they’re supposed to use throughout the year. But, if a child doesn’t know how to use a planner properly, it’s not going to work to their advantage.
Kids are reactive instead of proactive. After all, planning and prioritizing tasks is an executive functioning skill, which takes practice to master. Kids, or even young adults, may not get motivated to do something unless it’s a fire. For example, “Oh, my book report is due tomorrow, so I better start reading that book and writing the report!”
A planner is made to help us see into the future. When it’s all written down in front of you, it’s easier to be able to plan and prioritize. When our kids learn how to utilize a planner properly, they’re able to think about what’s due before it becomes an emergency.
Let’s take a look at the 5 most common mistakes children make when using a planner. It should be noted that even though we’re focusing on students here, there are takeaways for anyone struggling to benefit from using a planner.
Mistake #1: Not using the planner at all.
There are probably many times in your life — especially when you’re a kid — that you can remember everything you have to get done and when projects are due. But each time you start a new school year, the ability to be able to mentally hold all of the information in your brain is going to dwindle.
Reaching this threshold is different for everyone. In general though, the older you become, the more difficult it is to learn the skill of planning and prioritizing. But once you learn how to do it, it’s a skill that will carry you throughout your life.
Mistake #2: Relying on multiple resources to make a plan.
Maybe you notice your child looking at all kinds of different things to figure out what’s due and when. It could be Moodle, Google Classroom, other online platforms, or even the syllabus for each of their classes.
While this is an okay place to start, you want to compile all of this information into a single place: your planner. If you’re logging into several different places or maintaining stacks of paper to figure out what assignments are due and when, it’s spread out in too many locations.
This is very similar to the Merge step in the EMEND process, because when you put everything in one place, you can really get a mental snapshot of everything that’s on your plate. By putting everything in your planner, you’ll be able to empty that mental clutter and start prioritizing.
Mistake #3: Writing something down on the wrong day.
Many students write something down on the day it was assigned instead of on the day it’s due. For example, if the teacher said this morning that a science fair project is due November 1, the student writes it down on today’s date in the calendar. What happens during the entire month of September and October when the science fair is nowhere on the planner?
If you’re writing things down when they were assigned and not when they are due, it means you’re constantly looking backward instead of looking forward. The whole point of having a planner is that you have things in the future to look ahead and make your plan and schedule.
The better you get at planning, the more you’ll be able to put the assignment on its due date and then work backwards to create a plan with mini deadlines along the way.
Mistake #4: Not providing enough detail or context.
Some school planners have a list of classes (i.e. science, English, math) down one side of the page and then boxes beside them to write corresponding assignments and tasks. But many students simply use the first open box they see to write down the task.
But what if they just write “Homework” in the science box, when it’s really the homework for math they’re thinking of? Or, if you write something vague that’s due in a few weeks, such as, “Book assignment” and by the time you look at it, you can’t remember what you meant.
If you’re an online calendar user, you might consider coming up with a naming standard for things that are due. For example, your rule is to always write the subject – task (Math – Chapter 2 equations). Color-coding it is also an option, but sometimes it can overcomplicate it. Remember that everyone is different in what works for them.
Mistake #5: Forgetting to write something down as soon as you find out about it.
Train yourself to pull out your planner immediately. So, as soon as it is posted on your online school feed, open the planner. Today, everything is online and it’s easy for things to get buried.
If you’re a parent trying to help your kids with planning, set aside a time each day to check assignments and make sure they are in the planner, and then slowly back away so they can learn to do it independently.
Teaching our kids how to properly plan is all about helping them see that they deserve not to be super stressed or reacting to fires all of the time. Their work will be better if they start it earlier and as a result, they’re going to feel better about themselves.
They can also learn how to plan by putting the fun stuff in their planners, too. Birthday parties, sleepovers and movie nights? Put them in the planner so you can make time for life’s joys.
Don’t forget to remind them that this is a skill that needs to be practiced. The more you practice, the better you’re going to be at it, and it’s going to last throughout your entire life.
If your child is struggling with this, give us a call. We work with students on planning and scheduling.