Planning Ahead

Planning Ahead

to save your progress


  1. Learners will be able to explain the importance of planning ahead for time off.
  2. Learners will be able to differentiate between types of leave.
  3. Learners will be able to request time off appropriately.

When you accept a new job, one of the biggest challenges can be balancing your work schedule and your personal life. While every job has different expectations and policies to navigate, you can stay ahead of scheduling conflicts by taking the time to plan ahead and research your new company's protocol.

How do you keep track of your schedule?

Planning Your Schedule in Advance

Staying on top of your schedule

When it comes to time management, the best way to avoid scheduling conflicts and feeling like you've run out of time to do things is to give yourself plenty of time in advance. Read the scenarios below and respond to the question that follows.

  • Scenario 1: Sam works at a clothing store where the manager releases a schedule at the beginning of every month. In April, Sam is scheduled to work from 8 am to 4 pm every weekday. One Wednesday, Sam's daughter comes home with a note from the teacher reminding parents that Friday is a teacher workday. With two days' notice, Sam can't find anyone who can watch his daughter while she's home Friday, and no one is able to change shifts with him. Sam calls out sick Friday so he can stay home with his daughter.
  • Scenario 2: Sam works at a clothing store where the manager releases a schedule at the beginning of every month. Before the schedule is released, Sam checks the upcoming month to see if he or his daughter have any events that might conflict with his work. He notices a teacher workday one Friday and puts in a request to not be scheduled to work that day. He is not on the schedule for that Friday so he is able to stay home with his daughter.
Compare the two scenarios above. Which scenario do you think was less stressful for Sam? Which scenario do you think was less stressful for Sam's manager?

How far in advance should you plan?

We can't always plan a whole month ahead like Sam in the second scenario, but it is an excellent practice to try to plan at least two weeks in advance. Think about these factors when considering when you need to sit down and look at your schedule:

1. Does your job have a variable schedule?

Does your schedule change from week to week, or do you have consistent hours? If it does change, when does your manager put the schedule together? It's much easier for them not to schedule you in the first place than to change the schedule later, so you should take that into account when deciding how far in advance to plan.

2. How flexible is your job?

If you have lots of paid time off saved up or if your job has flexible hours, you might not have to plan as far in advance. On the other hand, if your job does not have benefits like paid time off or if it has very rigid hours, you might need to plan a little earlier.

3. Do other people affect your schedule?

If you are only responsible for yourself, fewer events might conflict with your work. If you have kids, elderly parents, or other individuals that depend on you, you might want to take a little extra time to plan your schedule to account for their care.

Because everyone's schedule depends on different factors, only you can really know when you should sit down to plan.

What are some factors you might have to consider in planning your schedule? How far in advance do you think it makes sense to plan?

Creating a household calendar

Once you've decided to plan ahead, you should find a place to write down all your events and appointments. Some people prefer to use a paper calendar, while others prefer a digital calendar with an app they can use on their phones.

A digital and a paper calendar

Paper Calendars

There's nothing like putting pen to paper! If you thrive on physically writing things out, a paper calendar might be for you. You can buy annual calendars throughout the year, or you may prefer a weekly or monthly planner book. You can also print calendar templates from different websites. If you choose a paper calendar, remember to keep it accessible. You can only add events when you have the physical calendar with you, so you might need to carry it during the day. You'll also be the only one with access to the calendar, so it might not be the best solution for family members sharing a calendar.

Digital Calendars

If you prefer a higher-tech solution, a calendar app can be a great choice. Digital calendars can be shared with other family members, and they can be accessed from your phone or computer, so you don't have to think about carrying a separate planner. Additionally, unlike a paper calendar, a digital calendar can flag events that conflict with each other and remind you in advance that an appointment is coming up. Google Calendar, iCloud Calendar, and Outlook Calendar are all free options you might want to try.

Try it! Using one of the calendar options above, make a calendar for next week.

Consequences of failing to plan ahead

Failing to plan ahead can have real consequences for your work and health. Watch the video to learn about what can happen if you don't take the time to plan ahead.

Remember that you can avoid most of these issues by being proactive instead of reactive and planning ahead.
Can you think of any other consequences for failing to plan ahead?

Requesting Time Off

Planning your schedule ahead of time can help you see upcoming events, but in some cases, you'll also need to notify your boss when you need a day off work. Different companies have different procedures for this, so be sure you check your company handbook or ask your HR representative if you have any questions. Knowing the protocol for your organization will help you proceed appropriately and effectively.

Know your options

When requesting time off, you must know what type of time off, or leave, is available to you as an employee so you can use it appropriately. Different companies offer different plans, but here are some of the most common types of time off.

Vacation Time

You can use vacation days for just about anything you want, from spending time at home with family to traveling the country. Because there aren't many restrictions on what you can use vacation time for, you will probably have to ask for your time off well in advance before taking vacation days. Some companies may also have policies about when you may not take vacation time.

Sick Leave

Sick leave can be used any time illness or injury prevents you from working. Because you don't usually know when you're going to be sick, you won't need to give as much notice to use your sick time, but some companies may ask for a doctor's note if you miss more than a couple of days. You might also be eligible to use sick time if you are the primary caregiver for a child or other immediate family member who falls ill.

Paid Time Off (PTO)

Instead of offering specific types of leave to their employees, some companies lump all of their days off into one category called paid time off or PTO. PTO can be used for any reason, whether you're sick, going on vacation, or need a day off for another reason.

Other Reasons

  • Bereavement: in the case of death of a family member
  • Military leave: for members of the Armed Forces for deployments or training exercises
  • Jury duty: if you are called to serve on a state or federal jury
  • Paternity: can be used when you or your partner give birth to or adopt a child
You might not have all of these types of time off at your job. It's essential to familiarize yourself with company policies so you can request the correct type of time off or leave.
At the end of the month, Selena and her partner are traveling to another state to visit family. Selena knows she will need to miss a few days of work for this but isn't sure what kind of leave to request. What would you suggest to her?

Tips for Asking for Days Off

Most companies give full-time employees some leave, but it's still important that you ask to use it in the right way. In many cases, your request may be denied if you don't follow proper procedure or if there is a conflict with the date. You must do the research ahead of time to provide your manager with the essential details in your request. Follow the suggestions below for your best chance at approval.

1. Ask well in advance

If you haven't picked up on it yet, starting early has advantages when planning for scheduled events. Just like you should plan your schedule well in advance, by asking your boss for time off early on, you give them adequate time to make proper accommodations for your absence. Additionally, some companies require two weeks' notice or more to use certain types of leave. As a general rule, notifying your manager that you'd like to use your time off should be one of the first steps to planning an event that might cause you to miss work.

2. Check the calendar first

Most industries have a busy season. The holidays can be hectic in a retail setting, and if you work in tourism, you might have more traffic when kids are off school. Regardless of when your busy season is, you should be mindful of it when asking for time off. If you can reschedule your day off for a more convenient time, your boss might appreciate it and be more likely to approve your absence. A time off request that conflicts with a busy day on the calendar doesn't necessarily mean you'll be denied, but you should address it from the beginning. Acknowledge that you're aware that it's an inconvenient time to be absent and that you've exhausted all available options for rescheduling. Your boss might still deny your request, but you may earn good favor by showing your awareness for the inconvenience.

3. Put it in writing

You'll probably ask your boss for time off in person first, but you should always follow up with an official written request. Send your boss an email detailing the days you'll be gone and what type of leave you'd prefer to use. It might also be helpful to mention that you've considered the company calendar and there are no significant conflicts. You can use the example below to frame your email.


At the end of the month, my family is taking a trip to visit friends in Virginia. Would it be alright if I used my vacation days on 2/23, 2/24, and 2/25 for this trip? I checked the calendar, and since I know we're usually busier on the weekends, we've planned to be gone during the week instead. Let me know if you'd like to discuss this request in person.

Thank you,


By asking early and appropriately and being mindful of the calendar, you'll show off your professionalism, maximizing your chances to get your time off request approved.

You have a doctor's appointment on March 6, and you're going to have to miss work. Write an email to your boss requesting the day off so you can attend your appointment.
to save your progress