Planning & Prioritizing - A Student’s Job

executive function Oct 13, 2023

As students embark on their educational journeys, they face a multitude of tasks, assignments, and responsibilities. To succeed academically and personally, they must hone their executive function skills, particularly in the realms of planning and prioritizing. These skills form the foundation for effective time management, goal achievement, and overall academic success.

The Crucial Role of Planning and Prioritizing

1. Time Management

Time is a precious resource, and learning to manage it effectively is a milestone within the world of academic success. Planning and prioritizing allow students to allocate time to tasks based on their importance and deadlines. Understanding this also allows students to have a deeper connection and ownership to their learning. 

2. Goal Achievement

Setting and achieving goals is central to academic progress. Effective planning ensures that students are working steadily towards their objectives, avoiding last-minute cramming or incomplete assignments. Even when students are faced with this, they can adapt and learn from the mistake in order to be better prepared to ensure that this does not happen often. 

3. Reducing Stress and Overwhelm

A well-structured plan helps students break down daunting tasks into manageable steps. This reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed and minimizes stress, allowing for better focus and performance.Students will encounter stress and overwhelm within and outside the classroom, which will better prepare them for the adult world where stressful situations occur more frequently. 

4. Improved Productivity

With clear plans in place, students can work more efficiently. They can focus their efforts on high-priority tasks, making the most of their study time. This is a stark contrast to those students who lack executive function skills, especially those in Planning and Prioritizing. The picture that they paint may be a bit different with procrastination and instant gratification taking front and center (assuming that the assignment or studying can wait for a different day.

5. Long-term Success Skills

Beyond the classroom, planning and prioritizing are critical life skills. They apply to work, personal projects, and day-to-day responsibilities, setting students up for success in all areas of life. This is a priceless skill that will allow the student to go far in hot only academia, but also within the adult and professional world. 

Nurturing Planning and Prioritizing Skills

1. Use Planners and Calendars

Encourage students to use physical planners or digital calendars to record assignments, due dates, and other commitments. Regularly updating these tools helps keep tasks organized.

2. Break Tasks Into Smaller Steps

Teach students to break down larger assignments or projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. This makes the workload feel less overwhelming and provides clear progress markers. It is good to break and demonstrate this down for classes, and then later allow them to do this planning and prioritization work. 

3. Set Clear Goals

Guide students in setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. This framework ensures that objectives are well-defined and attainable. Students enjoy setting these goals and meeting them, and with SMART, these goals are clearly defined and measurable . 

4. Prioritize Tasks

Help students identify and prioritize tasks based on deadlines and importance. Emphasize the distinction between urgent tasks and those that are truly important for long-term success. This skill develops a bit later, however nurturing this and demonstrating this skill for students repeatedly can give them an edge to some of their peers with less practice. 

5. Time Blocking

Encourage the practice of allocating specific time blocks for different tasks or subjects. This helps create a structured routine and ensures that all priorities are addressed. You are in essence setting a schedule or “agenda.” Having this in place keeps students (and adults for that matter) more organized and grounded in the proper task or subject that the student is working on. 

6. Practice Flexibility

While planning is crucial, it's equally important to be adaptable. Students should learn to adjust their plans when unexpected events or new priorities arise. This is a powerful lesson for students to learn, as some students become so literal and rigid on time blocking that they are unable to transition and adapt. 

7. Reflect and Adjust

Regularly encourage students to reflect on their progress and adjust their plans accordingly. This fosters a sense of accountability and continuous improvement.

8. Seek Help When Needed

Teach students that seeking assistance, whether from teachers, peers, or mentors, is a sign of strength. Many times students feel uncomfortable asking for help. It can provide valuable insights and support in refining their planning and prioritizing skills.

Instilling a Lifelong Skill Set

By instilling effective planning and prioritizing skills, we equip students with tools that extend far beyond their academic years. These skills form the basis for success in various facets of life, empowering them to tackle challenges with confidence and purpose. With practice and guidance, students can master the art of planning and prioritizing, paving the way for a bright and accomplished future.


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