Time management is not just about managing your time. It is also about supporting your executive function.

What to Do When You Are Behind

Falling behind can happen at any point in the semester. What is important is getting back on track as soon as possible.

What to Do When You Are Behind

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Learning Resources Sessions

During the fall and spring semesters, Learning Resources offers different types of sessions on planning, anti-procrastination, academic reading, and study skills. Lower your stress, enhance your academic performance, and make sure you have space for self-care, friendships, jobs, and all the other pursuits that create your Middlebury experience.

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Creating a Plan

Organize Assignments with the Semester-at-a-Glance (Semester Planner)

Using the CLTR Semester Planner (Part 1)

Hello! My name is Jenny Orten, and I work in Learning Resources at Middlebury College.

Welcome to our video about using the CTLR planners.

Planners are some of the most important tools we have to support executive function.

This video is going to cover the Semester Planner, and the second one will focus on the Weekly Planner and Project Planner.

Executive function refers to the set of cognitive processes that help us figure out what it is we need to do, make a plan to do it, and actually get it done.

When things are difficult, when our brains are overloaded, it’s harder to do the things we need to do, especially the high level of thinking and learning that’s expected of you in college.

Additionally, as we humans face the global pandemic, racial injustice, the climate crisis—not to mention the diverse set of personal challenges we each may face—we continue to experience hits on our executive function.

But there are lots of things that you can do to feel more human and support your executive function.

My colleagues and predecessors and I in Learning Resources have worked with hundreds of students, and these planners are our go-tos, among the first things we do with students in meetings.

So I’m just going to share my screen here.

And number one: the big picture planner that shows all of your coursework for the entire semester.

Number two: the Weekly Planner that lists your classes, meals, study time, jobs, religious commitments, sports, social time, and downtime.

And the Project Planner, the third planner: a to do list of assignments for a particular week with estimates of how much time each task will take.

So, you can work with these three planners together, and we have seen many students get excellent results.

You can also incorporate some of these principles into your existing systems.

OK. So, number one, the Semester Planner. The idea is to download everything possible from your brain onto the paper.

Start by taking each syllabi in turn and write all deliverable assignments on the due dates.

Color code each class. Everything, except for readings, goes on here: long term projects, short blog posts, exams, paper drafts, everything you need to deliver to your professor.

Keep this somewhere where you can’t help but look at it. Update it regularly.

Cross things off when they’re done. This process helps support executive function in a number of ways. It frees up working memory.

It provides a map of the semester so you know exactly where you are.

It identifies hot spots in the semester so you can plan your work effectively.

We invite you to follow this process and create your own semester planner.

You’ll create a powerful tool to organize your coursework and support executive function.

If you’d rather work on this in a collaborative way, please visit go/ace to set up an appointment with one of our trained student ACEs.

Helpful links are on the website nearby. We also invite you to check out Part 2 for learning about weekly planning and the Project Planner.

Thanks so much for watching.

Using the CLTR Weekly Planners (Part 2)

Hi! I’m Jenny Orten, and I work in Learning Resources at Middlebury College.

This video is Part 2 in our series and focuses on executive function, our Building Better Routines Weekly Planner, and our Project Planner.

We suggest that you check out Part 1, which is a video about executive function and the CTLR Semester Planner.

When we talk about time management, it’s important to know that it’s not just about managing your time.

Time alone is not enough. It’s just as important to think about your executive function budget as your time budget.

We’ve all reached that point, sometimes in the middle of the night during a long study session, when you literally can’t think anymore.

You have more time, but you can’t do anything else because you’ve exhausted your brainpower.

The goal here is not to ever reach that point.

Here’s our Weekly Planner which supports executive function by helping you build routines and plan ahead, because tasks that are automated become easier to do.

So the first thing you’re going to do is schedule in your class times. Use the same colors as your semester planner.

We encourage you to schedule any asynchronous lectures, if you have them, just like you would a class.

Then you’re going to put in your meals. Your jobs. Personal commitments that you have.

Time with your friends. And lastly, the all important coursework. Create some gray blocks on your planner for coursework.

But now what specifically are you going to put in those blocks?

It’s time to turn to the Project Planner, which is basically a to-do list of assignments with estimates of the time that they will take.

Once a week, sit down with your Semester Planner and your syllabi and write down what you need to do and how long you think it will take you to do it.

Break up larger assignments into smaller chunks.

Estimating the time it takes to do something is difficult, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

So if you have regular work for a class, like reading or a pre-lab, note that on the project planner (with these stars here) and try to work on those assignments at the same time every week.

Over time, it will take slightly less effort and willpower to get those tasks done.

And I’ve scheduled some of those in right here.

So once you know what you need to do that week, you determine when you’re going to do it.

Remember, use the time between classes.

Think about when you do your best work, morning or evening, and schedule your most difficult work then.

Then fill in each homework block with the work you plan to do in that time.

So, it’s important to acknowledge that creating routines is easier some semesters than others.

Also, this kind of very specific planning does not work for everyone.

Some people experiment with this and learn that they’re much better off doing a simpler to-do list every day.

However, others find that if they can go straight into executing a plan they’ve already made, rather than using up executive function coming up with a plan for the day, that it can make a big difference.

It’s worth experimenting with and see what works best for you.

The schedule’s not meant to box you when or overwhelm you, but rather to help you take guilt free personal time with enough time to complete your work.

Scheduling doesn’t have to repress spontaneity.

If you have envisioned one way that things could go, it’s much easier to change your plan without sabotaging your work.

Lastly, you can’t do your work well if you don’t also take care of yourself.

You need basic self care to support your body, mind, spirit, and executive function.

Your academic work will suffer if you ignore self care.

You will suffer too.

Using these schedules is an evolving process.

Try them out, reflect upon how it worked, and revise as you go.

The measure of success here is not “did I follow my schedule exactly?” but “did I get my work done and have a good week?”

Don’t give up and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go exactly as planned, because they will not go as planned.

And if you’d like to collaborate with a partner to make this happen, please visit go/ace to schedule an appointment with one of our trained student ACEs.

Thanks for watching.

Time Management Planners

Use the planning tools below to get ideas for how to create structure and reduce the demands on your working memory.

Building Routines Weekly Planner

Project Planner

Weekly Planner

Spring 2024 Semester Planner (1 page)

Spring 2024 Semester Planner (2 page)

End of Semester Planner for Spring 2024

ACE Peer Tutors and Professional Staff

Schedule a meeting with an ACE Peer Tutor or a consult with professional staff at go/appt. Together you will determine next steps to continue your academic development.

Well-Being Resources

Learning is holistic. It can be hard to study if you are experiencing stress related to your health or finances. The Health and Wellness Center and other offices on campus have tools to help you manage.

Take the Health and Wellness Well-Being Check-Up

Opportunities Grants

Learning Guides

DLINQ Digital Learning Tools and Guides

What to do When You’re Behind

How to Support Executive Function

“It’s important to recognize that extraordinary circumstances, like the ones we are living through now, create a heavy burden on executive function. This affects your ability to plan, engage with and sustain effort to complete your course work. Please recognize the challenge you are facing and be gentle with yourselves.” —Jennifer Bates, Director of Learning Resources


Quick link to this page go.middlebury.edu/time