Learn how to build
a study plan
Do you have enough time?
Remember the question: “Do you have time for college?”
Now you can answer it.
You know how much study time you have and where it is in your schedule.
You know every task that you have to get done and have estimated how much time each of those is going to take.
Now you can compare the time you have with the time you need and know if you have enough time to get each task done on time.
The good news is that you don’t have to try to do that in your head. If you set up your time and tasks in Shovel, that work is already done for you.
When you enter the tasks from your syllabi into the Shovel app, every item from every class is organized by its due date and time in one place.
You can see exactly what’s coming up the next day, next week, or next month for that matter. No need to find and look at four or five different syllabi.
What makes Shovel unique is TIME CALCULATION.
It’s a sophisticated algorithm that knows exactly how much Study Time you have available to get each task done, at the current moment, taking into account the time you’ll need to finish each task before it.
Here’s an example of how it works:
Let’s say you have a paper due in a week and estimate that you need to work on it for 10 hours. Can you get it done on time?
Shovel will scan your calendar and see that between now and the due date you have 20 hours of total available Study Time blocks. It will also notice that you have a quiz in two days that you need 2 hours to study for, as well as some readings that will take 6 hours to get done.
Shovel will do the math for you from the current date and time. It would tell you that you only have 2 hours of extra Study Time between now and when that paper is due. (20 hours of study time blocks less the 2, 6, and 10 that you need for all of the tasks).
We call this ‘The Cushion‘. In Shovel we have a continuously updating graph that shows you what’s next and how much extra study time you have. Keep an eye on it and if the line drops close to zero, go see why and fix it before it turns into a problem.
Plan at least one week ahead
I am often asked how far in advance you should plan your tasks.
Except for large papers and projects, you will typically create a study plan looking about a week ahead. Most of your weekly tasks like readings, weekly quizzes and P-sets you’ll want to get done a couple of days ahead.
When I say a week, I mean a continuously moving week. If you only do a plan once a week, it probably isn’t going to be very accurate. Things change too quickly. It’s important to be looking a week ahead, but every day! That is, as you get things done each day, look ahead and see how that changed things for the week.
You may have gotten more done than you thought. Maybe something is taking longer than you thought. My point is to take a look at your planner and move things around as things change. Don’t get caught by surprise.
Plan when you’ll get things done. Shovel has a very cool planner functionality which makes planning easy as it lets you plan specific tasks into specific study blocks. You can even set how long you plan to work on a task during a specific study block. For example, you can plan to work for an hour on your 10-hour assignment during a 4-hour study block.
You may be doing a weekly plan, but it is really a continuously rolling weekly plan. With Shovel, you can do that very easily.
Use Every Study Block
When you are assigning tasks to study time blocks, it isn’t important that you get everything done at one time. Don’t be afraid to split your tasks up and do them as you can.
You may have a 3-hour task but only a 1-hour study block. Put it in there anyway and then add it in another study block as well. If you have a task that will take less time you can do that first as well.
Just make sure that you use every study block for something.
When you drag specific tasks into available study blocks they will also appear in the Agenda View in your Calendar. If you are looking at your Agenda and see study times that aren’t planned, get something in there.
Put that time to use. Stay ahead or use the time for studying for exams. Never let time get behind you.
Start Checking Things Off!
At this point, you have done a whole log of planning. Now the most important thing you can do is to start checking things off.
Taking small bites out of your workload as often as you can reduce your stress and help you stay ahead of everything you have to do.
Record the time that you spend on things so you learn how long things really take. Adjust your time estimates accordingly.
As you clear things out of The Pile, keep looking ahead at what’s next. Give yourself plenty of extra time to deal with more difficult tasks and unexpected events.
Plan Your Review Time
Just because you are ahead on all of your assignments doesn’t mean you should not be using your study time blocks. Remember that some of the most important study time you have is doing reviews.
We will discuss it more in Studying For Exams, but it is important to do small, frequent self-tests of your material as far ahead of the exam as you can. You won’t need to cram. The goal is to be ready when the time arrives.
In Shovel, we have ‘Ungraded Tasks’. Use those for your review. They are things that will take up your study time, but you won’t be graded on them. Pick a class and block off some time to start reviewing the material that you know is going to be on the next exam.
Learn and Improve
There is a common military quote that says “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” That applies to your study plan as well. Most daily plans are fairly predictable. The problem with college planning is that the level of difficulty can change weekly, daily, or even on each page!
You should expect that things will get more difficult as the semester goes by. That is why is it is so important to time yourself as you do each task. If you aren’t close to your estimates, adjust and plan for more time ahead. Again, Shovel makes this easy.
Also, open your textbook and page through the next reading. Get a feel for the complexity and if you may need more time. Don’t get caught by surprise.
Ok, so what’s next? Now it’s time to get things done.
You have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it. It’s important that you make the best use of every minute you have in college. That means being both efficient in how you run your day and using study habits that give you the best results for the time and effort you put in.
We’ll cover that next.