I often hear my students repeat a pervasive myth about achieving in school. They believe that if they want to get more stuff done, they need to find more motivation. As a result, they often spend a lot of time and effort trying to find such a secret and elusive motivator. However, the secret that productive people know is that you can’t count on motivation, because it is unpredictable and fleeting.

I teach my students that the key to getting more done with less stress is to create routines and systems that they can trust and keep up-to-date. Without this framework, students are often flying by the seat of their pants and hoping for the best outcome without a plan on how to reach their goals. Once habits and systems are in place students can get stuff done faster with less stress.

Students need an active, robust, and flexible planning system. Ideally, students should revisit their system often. By updating and adapting systems, they stay relevant and useful, and students are more likely to keep using them and reach their goals. All students need a place to capture new assignments, a calendar, and a planner. I find that my students often do best when they use a combination of paper and technology to plan their schedules.