Build a Better Study Routine: Our Top Planner Tips for College Students

Your Planner Is a Time-Management Tool

College is a time in your life when you can most benefit from a planner system. Juggling endless readings, weekly assignments, and semester-long research papers is a challenge. Previously set-in-stone schedules are replaced with new ones as classes, living situations, and responsibilities change each year. And whether you’re a college freshman or going back to school for an extended degree, you have to find a way to balance education with your personal life—appointments, social obligations, family responsibilities, and more. Our solution? Invest in a paper planner as your go-to time-management tool.

At Appointed, our love of the classic pen and paper comes from its practicality and impact—the act of physically writing something down helps us remember things better and process complex tasks more clearly (this is illustrated even in recent studies). This principle can be applied to a paper planner tenfold, as it allows you to effectively plan complex projects (like studying for midterm exams) and ensure you recall the important things to memory more quickly (like keeping urgent due-dates top of mind). Whether you choose a daily format with hourly scheduling like our Wire Daily Planner, or a weekly format with room for tasks like our Year Task Planner, taking time to create a system can help you study smarter for less stress and better outcomes.


The Wire Daily Planer lies open against a lavender gray backgound. It is filled in with a few assignments and to-dos and a wooden no. 2 pencil lies to the right of the planner.The 22-23 Wire Daily Planner features hourly scheduling and plenty of room for notes.


How to Study Smarter

Shorter, more consistent study sessions keeps procrastination at bay and is one of the most effective learning techniques for retention, says Cal Newport, professor and author in his book “How to Become a Straight-A Student.” This learning strategy, known by psychologists as “distributed practice” is proven to be a more effective for long-term retention than marathon study sessions. The concept is simple: rather than devote four hours to writing a research paper or studying for an exam, I should portion out the work over a period of days or weeks. In this scenario I am devoting the same amount of time to a given task, but will understand the material more thoroughly when exam-time arrives. Plus, longer study sessions increase the likelihood of distraction and burnout.

This strategy requires a bit more thought and care go into planning your study schedule—setting up a clear organization system in your planner can give you a leg up when things get busy. Read on for our top tips to set you up for planner success.


Practical Planner Tips for College Students

  1. Look at the big picture: Utilize the monthly view or quarterly planning section of your planner to note due-dates and sketch out project plans for the semester. This will give you a better idea of what classes you need to prioritize from week to week, and ensure term paper deadlines don’t sneak up on you. For assignments that require a heavier lift, try sketching out a plan in this monthly section, noting what smaller tasks can be done from week to week to work towards the end goal.
  2. Set your priorities: At the beginning of each week, make a list of your top priorities—whether you have an assignment due or need to devote a bit more time to catching up on reading (this is also when you could fill in your schedule for the week including classes, homework, and miscellaneous to-dos). Listing your priorities in your weekly view will remind you to keep them top of mind, helping you differentiate between the essential and the optional.
  3. Time your to-dos: Estimate the number of hours for each task when making a to-do list of readings and assignments. This plus a priority list will help you make a realistic plan for the day. Note the time you’ll devote to each class or assignment (like in the “distributed practice” strategy above) and add these study blocks to your to-do list.
  4. Pencil in rest: We learn best when we can step away from our work and take care of ourselves. If you find yourself exhausted after powering through sessions at the library, try writing your breaks down in your planner as a gentle reminder to grab a snack, go for a walk, or take a quick stretch break.


The key to becoming a planner person is to find a system that works for you. Don’t be afraid to reassess your priorities over time, overhaul your schedule with color-coding, or try different productivity techniques until you find your perfect fit. Like most tools, you’ll get out of it what you put into it, but once you incorporate a planner into your routine, the clarity and calm that follows will help you focus on what matters most—the work of getting an education.


Still undecided? Take our less-than-five-minute Planner Quiz and we’ll pair you with your perfect fit.

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