Making Planning a Routine

You’ve probably heard that it take 21 days to form a habit. Or was it 30 days? Some are saying 66 days. However long it takes, you can’t seem to maintain a schedule where you get stuff done. This was me just a couple years ago, but after trying out different methods as an undergraduate student, I’ve finally formed a good habit: planning.

I now religiously believe that the key to success is good planning. It’s not enough to just show up. There needs to be an action plan where all the steps are clear. So how did I get started?

I forced myself to really live with this notebook. I kept it on my desk next to my alarm, I put it in my backpack whenever I left my dorm room, and tried to use it to keep little memos to get into the practice of using the notebook. Over the few months I tried out different notebooks and planning styles, these are the main tips I found were useful for all of them.

Don’t micromanage.

The first few weeks were test runs. I got a random small free notebook at a fair and wrote a literal hour-by-hour schedule. It was a total mess, since the minute I was behind because I had not finished a certain assignment by the time I thought I would, it ruined the rest of my day because it pushed all my other activities behind. I still have all my notebooks, and looking back, there are a lot of crossed out lines. Planning your day doesn’t have to mean have a rigid schedule. Now I use my notebooks as to-do lists, usually in order of importance. I draw a circle next to it if I finished it, and a red X if I didn’t.

Learn to prioritize.

It’s understandable when things don’t work out like you thought it would. Family emergencies, traffic, team member suddenly calling sick, you getting sick, etc. When certain tasks on your list haven’t gotten done by the evening, it’s time to practice your planning skills! Planning is also about learning to prioritize tasks. Can your calculus assignment be done tomorrow instead of today? Do you absolutely need to do the dishes tonight, or can your roommate tolerate it one more day? When things are written down, it’s easy to simply move it off to the next day, but also be warned. One thing I saw during a busy season was that my to-do list continued to get bigger and bigger. When you notice that your to-do list is growing, and you’ve lost the motivation to feel like you have to do it that day, you’re procrastinating. Reorganize your plans, and focus on trying to get the list down to zero.

Keep yourself accountable.

Just having your day opened out in front of you may help, but sometimes you look back at your day and realize, wow, you barely got anything done! Think- what was the reason? Write it down, and if that reason keeps popping up, figure out a way around it. For me, my most unproductive days were because I ran into a friend either while walking from class or at the cafeteria, and ended up having an extremely long lunch. After that, I consciously trained myself to never eat for over 45 minutes on days I needed to get things done.

Another important thing about developing this habit is to not give up when you realize you haven’t opened up your planner in days. It took me maybe 2 months to actually integrate it into my daily life. It takes time for a routine to be created, so don’t get discouraged!

Try different styles.

Every student is different and the type of planner and level of detail is totally up to you. It is also a good tip to schedule a specific period of time you get all your work done. Some people enjoy bullet journaling (it’s very time consuming however), and others go even more minimalistic with a simple to-do app. However you do it, take the first few weeks to test out new methods. You may even learn something new about yourself, like I did!
And with that, hopefully you’re ready to start a planning routine. Be sure to take time to find the right fit, and don’t be discouraged! If you think planning is not for you, try switching it up. There’s definitely a good match for every student.

This post was written by Shannon from, a student life blog. Regularlee shares various productivity tips, student resources, daily life hacks, and guides on starting off an internship.