Steve’s Personal Plan, Act, Reflect Cycle

Plan, act, and reflect. As defeating as it is to know events have not turned out as planned, it is just as empowering to know that one can adapt to the circumstances.

These last two weeks in school I had high hopes for a stellar start to my quarter, but I have found myself falling behind early. Thus, I dedicate this post to demonstrating my plan, act, reflect cycle. I previously had a post on my plan for the quarter, so I will be reflecting on how my week has gone using those ambitious goals.

I have seen a lot of people rave about time-based goals instead of completion-based goals, so I thought I could change the way I schedule to get a better experience. I designated specific amounts of hours to study per day, but it had pain painful to see myself not complete the tasks within that time. Moving forward, I will focus on keeping my number of tasks per  day low, but doing everything in my control to get those done. Perhaps, having an additional stress of time is just something that does not work well for me. In addition to setting amounts of time to study, studying in intervals seemed like a great idea that I know has worked for many, but it was not working for me. Studying in intervals of either 25 or 50 minute study sessions often left me disrupting my studying as I was beginning to enter “the flow state.” Although the idea of taking breaks often was initially appealing, for me the hardest part was starting, so I rather not have to constantly test my willpower by restarting that process often throughout the day. To manage these completion-based goals, I used google calendar which I believe is very helpful. Although I do not want to be as strict as I previously was, having a loose structure of when I expected to study throughout the day helped me carryout through my day with intention.

I have often found lecture notes and my textbook to be a good enough source for me to have a great understanding of the course material. However, I have found myself in an environment where these resources are still leaving me curious and confused about certain content. I have had to learn to replicate the feedback of others in forms such as online math exchanges and videos. I have to keep my system of collecting knowledge robust and flexible to be able thrive in the new environment I have found myself in (upper division math, online pre-recorded courses). It also saves me a lot of time to seek out online resources after a few attempts instead of staring at a textbook or lecture slide until I get it an hour later.

Lastly, this is my first time taking a full course load, I can’t spend as much time leisurely diving deeply into content for the sake of my own curiosity. I need to be able to get through my lecture notes quickly (around 2 hours), and spend more time on exercises and homework problems. I was too often taking 3 to 4 hours to rewrite my notes for each class, leaving me little time to do homework until right before the due date. However, I definitely need to do spend time doing homework daily throughout the week so I can get more feedback and not feel so pressed for time. As active as I was during my note-taking, it will never be as active as solving problems because that quickly makes you realize how much you do or do don’t know.

Although I have talked about a lot of things I want to change, I also want to acknowledge how far I have come since beginning my journey in college since 2015. It’s a privilege to be in higher education, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to study and grow as a person!


3 thoughts on “Steve’s Personal Plan, Act, Reflect Cycle

  1. “Moving forward, I will focus on keeping my number of tasks per day low, but doing everything in my control to get those done.”

    I love this line. The interval method of studying you mentioned in the sentences leading up to this quite is great for learners who are working to build there capacity to focus and do deep work.

    I think you already have this capacity and I think this idea you mention in the quote I highlight is a good one. In truth, this is how I work.

    When I am doing deep work, I can go for many hours in a row with very few breaks (maybe 3 minutes for a bio break or to grab some water or some low glycemic fruits). At this point in my life, I can work for 7 hours in a row, nonstop without even noticing (A sad fact of life: The older I get, the harder it is to find big chunks of time. In other words, being a young student without kids or a job is a huge privilege because the system gives credit for time spent learning with minimal outside responsibilities).

    I do agree with you that once you’ve built that skill, it’s a much better strategy to try to finish a small number of tasks each day…

    A few idea that come to mind immediately:

    1. What system do you use to capture questions that you want to get answered as you are working?

    2. What do you do to actively build a community of people who are invested in your success and can support the various aspects of your learning?

    3. Who are 10 people you can interact with on a weekly basis to help answer some of those questions? In other words, who are the people on your academic support team that you can share your questions and concerns with?

    4. What system do you use to capture to-do items and organize the longer lists of priorities that last beyond a single day’s work?

    Don’t feel pressure to answer these via comment. Some of this is just to have you think… when I read your post, I immediately think of these questions because I think the answers to these questions will support the work you describe in your writing here.

    Finally, I’d love to help you get a visual image of the plan act reflect cycle in this post for our other readers. Can I have your permission to add that’s image into this post? I made one years ago for my syllabus and it would be easy for me to add (or to send you a .png file for you to add).

    Nice work Steve! Si se puede.


  2. Nice post Steve! It inspired a thoughtful comment from Jeff which is always exciting.

    I had a really hard time doing even half my assigned homework last semester due to the pace of my 4 CS classes… I enjoy reading you reflecting deeply and sharing on TLC, and can not wait for us to help each other with our personal learning portfolios!
    Remember to advocate for yourself, and find others who are capable of advocating for you, from our past TLC meeting!

    Here’s a video of the plan act reflect cycle from Jeff’s syllabus you can find on his website


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