Talking with elementary students after
a workshop on student planners.
A child’s to-do list
via Carissa GoodNCrazy

While we see examples of successful adults who did not experience much success in their formative years, those stories are the exception rather than the rule. Even then, success did not come because of the mistakes made early on, but in spite of them. Success in one’s youth opens doors and puts a young person in a position for later success.

Teachers will tell you they see their share of students who have more than enough ability, yet poor organization holds them back. At the same time, many other students of lesser ability make school look easy. Organization is a gift we can give young people that will benefit them long after their school days are behind them. In fact, how many times do we hear adults talk about being thankful for good habits, instilled early, which pay dividends now. 

Writing things down, and having one place to record them, is the single most important step for a person to get organized. When it’s all written down in one place, it’s easy to decide what needs to be done next, regardless of your age. The excuse of, “I forgot” becomes a thing of the past. Prioritizing becomes easy, planning becomes easy, goals start to be accomplished, productivity goes up, and stress goes down.

It Starts in Elementary School
As a former elementary principal, providing students with a planner (starting in first grade) was a priority. That single notebook was the one-stop-shop for students to record homework, tests, school events, and happenings outside of school. It also served as the perfect place for writing communication from school to home. Parents only have to look one place to see everything.

Does your child’s school use student planners? If not, purchase your own in the school supply section of most any store. Encourage its daily use and take a moment to look at it each day. That one tool, used consistently, makes a huge difference. 
The to-do list from a younger child.
via tumblrisforlulz

Too Cool for High School?
The high school years bring a flurry of activity. For a planner to work, it has to be with the person, and teenagers often don’t want the bulk of a notebook-sized planner. Day-Timer and Franklin-Covey manufacture excellent spiral-bound pocket-sized planners that fit in a back pocket or purse. The best style is one which features two pages per day. The left-hand page features a spot for appointments and a section for to-dos planned for that day. The right-hand page provides a place to record anything which comes up during the day: homework, announcements of long-term projects such as term papers, or pertinent items from the daily public address announcement.

After school, the student has one responsibility: handle what is written on those two facing pages. Do what is in the “to-do” section on the left-hand page. Clarify what has been written on right-hand page. If the teacher announces a term paper will be due two months from next Wednesday, the student quickly jots that announcement on the right-hand page. That evening, the student breaks down that big project into its components and puts dates and to-dos on the appropriate pages.

Smartphones are Way Cool
For those of you who don’t read “5-year-old,” the list reads:
“Find a Bad Guy” and “Be Wolverine.”
via imgur for werewolf

Not only are they cool, but smartphones serve as fantastic organizational tools. Mobile phones have become ubiquitous, and sales of smartphones now outnumber those of other cell phones. A smartphone does not magically make one organized, but it makes organization easier, allows for far more detail about any responsibility, and makes retrieval a breeze. I keep my calendar on Google Calendar, store a very complete contacts set on Google Contacts, house a wealth of reference information in Evernote, and keep up with every single to-do for now or the future in Toodledo.

The great thing is that every one of these items synchronizes across devices. A student can add to or retrieve information from these sources from a smartphone, tablet, or any computer that has Internet access.

I wrote about Toodledo in a six-part series on my blog beginning with this post. Having been an Outlook user for 10 years, Toodledo gives me all of the power I enjoyed in Outlook, and will handle the workload of the busiest executive. Yet, it is simple enough a student can use it. Toodledo offers two types of accounts. I use the free option and feel that will suit the needs of most people.

We want students to acquire skills that are relevant for later life. Organization is one of them, and it’s an amazingly simple one to acquire.
Planning is bringing the future into the present
so you can do something about it now.
                                                       –Alan Lakein