Here at HackCollege, we love a good discussion about planners. However, even if you’re a nose-to-the-grindstone planner user, things can sneak up on you, particularly this time of year. I have several friends who, because they do their planning in week-long chunks, have inadvertently wound up cramming for midterms or writing papers over their fall break. It’s not that they were wrong–they were just thinking in an inconvenient time frame.

If you’ve found yourself having difficulty seeing the trajectory of your semester because you can’t look ahead at your workload, this hack is for you. Pick a convenient Sunday and write down on your planner all of the non-class things you will be doing for more than a few hours this semester. Think visits from your parents, school breaks, or a formal for your Greek organization–times when you don’t want to be doing homework. Then, go through all of your syllabi, writing down what homework you’ll be doing on each night for the next six weeks.

Move things around so that–by reading ahead–you can avoid having to do homework during the time when you’ll be busy. You can also even out your nightly homework loads so that you don’t have nothing to do one day and 400 pages of reading the next. It takes twenty minutes, but by the end of this process you’ll know when your tough weeks will be, when you’re free to travel or chill out, and when you need to start studying for exams. Best of all, you won’t be stuck studying when you won’t be able to. Make a note of when you stopped scheduling your homework, and start the process again once you’re at that point.

Though not strictly GTD, this follows some of the same ideas–by writing out weeks of homework at a time, you autopilot it. That’s one less thing to think about and stress you out, and it means that you can just do what you need to do, secure in the knowledge that you’re not forgetting anything.