Our brains are not meant for storing information; they are made for creating. We simply don’t have enough bandwidth (energy) to remember everything. How many times has someone introduced herself, but twenty seconds later you forget her name? Our brains have more important things to do than remember details like this.
Similarly, our brains are not good at remembering homework assignments and due dates. We tell ourselves I’ll remember that, but it’s unlikely that we will. Even if we do remember something that’s due the next day, it often comes at the expense of forgetting something else.
My point? All students – no matter the age or grade level – should write down every single assignment. Immediately. On paper.
Yes. On paper. In an actual assignment notebook. Sure, I know there are excellent homework-tracking apps out there. They have bright colors and are fun. Like candy. But I argue that paper-based assignment notebooks are the better choice for nearly everyone. (So many reasons why.)
Assuming you are already using an assignment notebook because you’re a genius and have watched my awesome video on this topic, it’s time to level up. The following assignment notebook hack is a strategy that I’ve personally used for yearssssss, as well as taught to my students.
How to keep track of homework
My assignment notebook hack is simple. There are two parts:
- First, use a coding system for identifying which tasks you’ve completed, which ones you are pushing off until tomorrow, and which ones you are pushing off for more than one day.
- Second, always rewrite assignments you don’t get to.
When you use this system, you force yourself to address EVERY item on your list and make a decision about it. Nothing gets lost in the shuffle.
You can use any symbols, but personally I recommend the following:
🗹 Check mark for tasks you’ve completed
⇩ Down-facing arrow for tasks you’re pushing off until tomorrow
🅼 The first letter of the weekday that you’re pushing off the task to (example: M for Monday, or Th for Thursday)
Let’s say you write down an assignment on Monday’s list, and it’s due on Thursday. If you complete it on Monday, check it off and be done. But if you don’t get to it on Monday, put a downward arrow next to the task and REWRITE THE ASSIGNMENT on Tuesday’s list. Like this:
Or, if you don’t think you can get to it until Thursday, put “Th” next to the task and rewrite it on Thursday’s list. This is a key step. You must rewrite assignments that you don’t get to on another day’s list. Like this:
I know this system might sound too simple to be effective, but the best systems really are the simplest. I challenge you to try it.