Yes, sometimes learning in college is just too much, and you fall back behind on your learning. In order to get out of the slump, follow the tips below.
Step 1: Determine Milestones
In this step, you define intermediate goals – so-called milestones – so that your learning plan becomes binding and unleashes its full motivational effect. Set goals for suitable activities so that you can monitor your learning progress during your exam preparation.
Milestones are not suitable for every activity and should therefore be used sparingly. Examples of useful milestones would be:
- Summary done
- Theme block A done
- Read all lecture slides
- textbook read
- Old exam questions repeated
Milestones give you feedback; they are, so to speak, an early warning system. Therefore, they should be directly related to your learning efforts and relevant to your later exam success. Ideally, you assign a binding deadline to each milestone so that you can keep an eye on your learning progress over time.
I’ll show you what that can look like now.
Step 2: Create a Schedule
Thematic blocks, activities, duration, and milestones: The most important individual elements of your learning plan are ready. The structure stands. Now we combine your lists and enumerations in a summary presentation and thus create a clear and chronological learning plan.
I recommend using a Gantt chart as a basis for this. This instrument is often used in project management and delivers the best results for flexible and targeted learning planning. This is a two-dimensional bar chart that graphically displays the chronological sequence of activities in the form of bars on a time axis.
The topic blocks, learning activities, and milestones are entered in the first column of a table in the Gantt chart. It depends on the desired level of detail, whether only main topics are included or each individual activity is mentioned.
Typical units for recording time are, for example, a day, a week, or a month. A horizontal bar is then assigned to each topic or each individual activity, the length of which visualizes the duration. Milestones are specially marked and assigned a binding deadline.
In addition, a preparation time (“collect and sort material” and “determine topic blocks”) of two days was included at the beginning and a complete repetition at the end was taken into account. A total of seven milestones were defined and a cumulative learning time of 28 days (four weeks) was determined.
Three more things. First, when you start the chronological order, you can either plan forward from the current time or backward from the exam date. Both ways are fine and give reliable results.
Second, in the example, I estimated the duration for all activities within a topic block on a daily basis. This may seem generous at first, but realistically you will often have other things to do and not be able to focus solely on studying for a single exam.
Third: In the example, I included every day of the four weeks in the planning. You are of course free to not include certain days (weekends or days when you are already busy). The only important thing is that you visibly block these days so that you don’t mistakenly assume that you have extra time to study.
This is the first version of your learning plan. Now let’s take care of the details.
Step 3: Fine-Tuning
As soon as you have planned all the topic blocks, including all individual activities, you check every item in your Gantt chart: are all the topics really shown? Are the times realistically estimated? Does the structure meet your expectations? After this completeness check, the fine-tuning of your learning plan is due.
To do this, you first define buffer times. Buffer times are additional time windows that you assign to individual topics or activities in order to be able to compensate for unexpected additional work. Buffer times ensure that your study plan remains resilient – even if things don’t go according to plan. Write the specified time buffer in parentheses next to the estimated duration and adjust the length of the bars accordingly.
Then you include a very special final activity in the learning plan: the endurance test. After completing all the learning units, undergo a dress rehearsal for your upcoming exam. Test your knowledge under simulated exam conditions and answer challenging questions on time, without tools – and under pressure.
If you have the opportunity, use old, previously unknown exam questions. There is no better way to prepare for your final exam. Plan at least one endurance test, estimate the corresponding duration for this, and define a buffer time again.
An adapted learning plan – based on the example above – could then look like this:
A buffer time of one day was set for each topic block in our Gantt chart. In addition, each topic was assigned a repetition unit lasting two days (plus one day buffer). A total of three endurance tests are planned. A success control milestone was set for each repetition unit and each endurance test.
To complement these elements, I included an extra three-day buffer at the end of the plan to accommodate any discrepancies. Depending on the need for security, this buffer zone can also be made larger or reduced accordingly.
At 44 days, the adapted learning plan is significantly more extensive than the first version (28 days) but includes additional security and control mechanisms that can have a positive effect on your learning progress and later exam results.
Finally, we will now look at how you can get from this long-term planning back to your daily learning work – without losing track of things.
A study plan is important for your success in your studies and guarantees good grades. Learning plans are your insurance against stress, lack of time, and being overwhelmed – they help you to approach your semester strategically and ensure that you keep an overview during your exam preparation.
In this article, you learned about the benefits of a study plan and now you also know how to create your own study plan. All you have to do is follow ten simple steps that you can implement in no time.
For practical implementation, I have provided you with free templates and examples that you can easily adapt to your individual needs.
Stop studying without a plan and strategy – you’re only hurting yourself. Don’t wait a day and create a study plan today. You have everything you need for this.
Your studies and your personal happiness will thank you for approaching your learning smartly. Another thing that will improve your academic performance and general happiness is definitely turning to an essay writing service for help with assignments.