Ask the Experts

Q: What Are the Essential Components of a Good School Planner?

Arguably the most important things your child will learn in middle school are effective time management and organization skills. The most critical tool for building these executive functions? The right planner. Here it is.

Q: “My child just started middle school. What planner do you recommend?” – 5MOM


Hi 5MOM:

In my coaching practice, I’m pretty flexible with my advice. Meaning, I’m on the “YOU-figure-out-the-best-systems-and-strategies-to-help-you-get-stuff-done” bandwagon. But when it comes to using a planner for organization? That’s non-negotiable as far as I’m concerned.

Students need to use some type of planning tool. It’s all well and good to know what you have to do, but a proper academic planner helps you also visualize what’s ahead so you can plan for and manage when you have time to do it.

There really is no other way. But not every planner is created equal. Here’s what to look for when scouting for the perfect academic planner:

  • It follows the school year (starts in either July or August and runs through to the end of June) rather than the calendar year.
  • It has a customizable subject index (instead of pre-printed subjects) where your student can write their class subjects only once. This feature will eliminate forgetfulness and frustration.

[Free Webinar: How to Start (and End) the School Year Organized]

  • It has an ample number of subject boxes so there’s room to write all their classes. I recommend one that has at least 6! Even if they have fewer classes, your student can use one of the boxes for reminders.
  • It has a grid system layout so students can see their week (and weekends!) at a glance. Weekly planner pages should line up with the subject index on a subject-by-subject basis, creating an easy method for them to record and review their weekly schedules. Bottom line? They need to see their week as a whole. So the planners that have Monday-Wednesday on one side and the remainder of the week on the other just don’t cut it.
  • It should have days of the week listed horizontally across the planner. This makes recording entries simple and allows them to see assignments and due dates and creates continuity critical to developing time-management skills.
  • It includes space to enter after-school activities and weekend commitments. This is where the magic happens. Once they enter all their activities and commitments, scheduled and available blocks of time will naturally appear. They can now use those available blocks to plan their weekly workload!
  • It should also have monthly calendar views for long-range planning as well as recording vacation and school holidays. And an ample note section will help your child track both personal and school to-dos.

Our favorite is Order Out Of Chaos’ “Academic Planner: A Tool For Time Management.” Reviewed by ADDitude Magazine, it allows students to see their time so they can learn to manage it.

[Free ADHD Resource: Middle School Success Strategies]


Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions here!

Updated on September 18, 2019

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