Semester Plan Template

“Every Semester Needs a Plan!” I believe this saying with my whole being. But you don’t have to put your faith in me to believe it. This is a saying that comes straight from the academic ‘you-can-be-productive-and-still-have-a-life’ GuRu, Kerry Ann Rockquemore‘s mouth. Something that she has since built her empire off of, and something that has changed thousands of lives. Seriously, if you have never heard of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity you are missing out. If you have never completed the Faculty Success Bootcamp Program you are really missing out. If your university isn’t an institutional member, y’all are all missing out.

It was in the bootcamp that I learned about semester and weekly planning and that helped me not lose my sh*t completely my first year on the tenure-track. Therefore, I don’t want to give away all the goods in this short post, but I do want to share a specific template of a semester plan that I have adopted/adapted and that has been really helpful for me. (I have asked for lots of sample templates and I know I probably didn’t come up with this myself – I think its an amalgam of samples. So if you shared with me, thank you!!!)

I tweeted about the template I used and lots of people asked for a copy so I figured this might be the easiest way to share. To recap:

I use one excel sheet to house all of my semester plans. Each semester is on a different tab. Within each tab, I include writing goals, teaching goals, service goals, and personal goals. Laying out all aspects of my professional and personal goals in one spot serves as a homebase; a place to return to check in, update progress, celebrate successes, and regroup when needed. While personal goals (like raising children) and teaching goals (like showing up for class) do have built in accountability, it is the writing goals that probably benefit the most from this sort of planning.

The excel document allows me to think about semester plans in a tabular form. The days become one axis and the things to do another. That way, each day correlates with something to do, all of which will help me reach my goals by the set deadline.

To set this up, the first column lists the weeks of the semester, the next the specific days, and the next is for special dates — dates that have events that will likely interfere with my typical daily schedule.

The next column is for my writing goals. At the top I list out the major writing I want to accomplish for the semester. This usually means the number of papers I want under view, or the number of chapters I need to have drafted, etc. At the start of the semester I fill in writing goals for each week that, if accomplished, would allow me to complete all of my writing goals.

The teaching and service columns also start with major goals (often with the number of things I want to limit). I then list out major dates, like when exams are given or when papers need to be returned for teaching, or speakers and committee deadlines for service. Finally, in the personal column I list out a pretty consistent set of goals that just remind me to pay attention to my whole self.

On my template, I also have a column for “time” next to each of the major goal columns. For those interested in tracking how much time a task takes (either to help figure out what a doable plan is, or to limit the amount of time you take on a task), adding this column can make that tracking easy.

The biggest thing to remember is that this is a template of a semester plan. If adopted, it should be adapted to fit your needs. It is also a “living document” that you will hopefully add clarity to each week – during your Sunday weekly planning meeting where you fill in specifics – and one that you will likely revise as needed throughout the semester.

If you want to read more about how to set up your goals – please read my colleague, Tanya Golash-Boza’s post on her wonderful blog, Get a Life, Phd.

And now, here is a sample semester plan template of mine. I have just filled in lose parts to help give an idea of what this might look like. I’d love to see your plans!

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