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Short-term planning

A day/week plan tells you what you need to complete in the next few days or week and includes both academic and non-academic tasks. It helps you work efficiently, prioritize your time, and hold yourself accountable.

Since it only focuses on the short-term, you’ll also need a full quarter plan to track deadlines and important dates.

Some students use a planner or digital calendar to make their short-term plan.

Other people like to fill out a weekly plan. Different formats work for different people. Here are three options: weekly time schedule, weekly time schedule with goals, weekly to do list.

When to make this plan

Every few days/weekly

It often makes sense to have a general plan for 3 to 7 days at a time and then to fill in more details as each day approaches. The benefit to planning this way is that it’s faster and less overwhelming than trying to make a comprehensive plan for the entire week. It also allows you to make adjustments quickly when tasks take more or less time than you anticipated.

Alternatively, some students like to plan the entire week out in detail. For some students, this makes it easier to complete things on time or to hold themselves accountable and avoid procrastination. The downside is that some students find planning a whole week out to be overwhelming and time consuming. It also means that you have more to revise if you find that tasks planned at the beginning of the week took longer or shorter to complete.

Every night

Whether you’re planning a few days out or a week at time, you’ll want to take time every night to look over the plan for the next day and make adjustments as needed. This can often be done in five minutes or less. Try to build it into your wind-down routine at the end of the day. Start by assessing what was completed and what is left to complete. Then write down your priorities and any other notes about when or how to work.

What to put in the plan

Your plan needs to include specific tasks that you want to accomplish. These tasks should be realistic and directly related to your priorities. When coming up with tasks for your weekly/daily plan, try using SMART goals.


What do you want to accomplish? Identify specific goals.


  • Get a 3.0 or higher on chem exam on Thursday
  • Get a 3.5 or higher on English paper due Friday
  • Exercise 3 times a week


How will you accomplish your goal? Break larger goals into specific tasks.


  • Get a 3.0 or higher on chem exam
    • Review all class notes and highlight areas of confusions
    • Review chapters 1-6 and note areas of confusion
    • Get help with areas of confusion (go to study group)
    • Make flashcards
    • Study flashcards until able to get 90% correct on first try
    • Complete first practice exam
    • Review incorrect problems
    • Complete second practice exam
    • Review incorrect problems
    • Get help with remaining areas of confusion (go to CLUE)
    • Complete additional practice exams until obtaining 3.0 or higher on practice exams


Is it realistic? How will you achieve it?

When evaluating if your plan is realistic, you’ll need to consider not only how much time you have but also your energy levels, ability to focus, and other responsibilities. Keep in mind that high levels of stress can decrease your ability to work efficiently. You’ll also need to factor in the breaks you’ll need as well as eating and commuting. If your work involves input or help from other people, remember to include buffer time to account for schedules that are out of your control. Many DRS students report having difficulty assessing if their plans are attainable. We recommend checking out our additional resources on how to assess if your plan is realistic.


Will it help you achieve your priorities?

It’s always helpful to reflect on whether or not a task is aligned with your priorities. However, it’s especially important during busy periods. Your priorities will depend on your values, responsibilities, needs, and long-term goals. We’ve got some tips on prioritizing.


When does it need to be completed?

To figure out when you need to complete a specific task, you can start with the last step and work backward. For example, if your goal is to have a final draft of your essay by Friday, then figure out when you need to have the first draft done so you have time to edit. Next, determine when you need to have the outline completed so that you can finish the first draft in time. You can continue this process until you get to the first task. When you are tackling very big projects that require multi-week planning, we’ve got a big project worksheet to help with breaking work down.


When you’ve got more to do than you can get done, you need to prioritize. To prioritize your work, imagine two axes. On the Y axis is Importance and on the X axis is Urgency. Try to spend most of your time on the important tasks (the top two quadrants below) and minimize time spent on the unimportant ones.

Important tasks

Some tasks are both important and urgent such as an upcoming exam, a paper due at the end of the week, or a major medical procedure. Other tasks are important but not urgent. These include things like maintaining important relationships, exercise, planning, and other things that are necessary for your well-being and success but lack time pressure.

Unimportant tasks

Some tasks are unimportant but appear urgent. For example, your roommate texts a funny meme. You may feel a need to respond quickly but there will be little consequence to either not responding at all or waiting to respond. Other tasks are neither important nor urgent. These include those time-consuming activities that don’t leave you feeling productive or refreshed like surfing the internet or watching many hours of television.

Planning tools

Two of the most popular tools used for planning are planners and digital calendars. We strongly believe that the best planning system is the one that works for you. If you don’t like planners or calendars and have found alternatives, great! However, if you’re still trying to find the right tools, we’ve got pros and cons to consider.

There are tricks to using planners and calendars effectively. We strongly recommend that you check out our tips for using planners and digital calendars after you’ve decided which one you want to try. If you’ve used a planner or digital calendar before and didn’t find it useful, you may also want to review our tips. Sometimes a few simple changes to how you work with a planning tool can turn it from useless to invaluable.