Some people just seem to be born organized. The remaining 95% of the population* need help, especially when it come to organizing time!
It used to be that physical organizers, called schedulers or day-timers, came in pocket- or purse- sized folders, books, or multipurpose binder creations with cleverly designed nooks and crannies for everything from pens and pencils, to cell phones, to daily, weekly, and yearly schedules, address and phone number lists, and other handy components. Now, cell phones and other electronic gadgets advertise apps for such things, though some people still prefer hard copies.
For students, early in your school career such a management tool was not really necessary. Other people handed you a schedule, defined your routines, and that was that. Not so for college students, where changing term requirements and time demands that differ from class to class can present a variety of management challenges. Of course, add other life factors such as children, work, and/or caring for aging parents and, well, many people not only want, but NEED a strategy to stay organized.
But before we get into some specific management tools, complete the exercise, below, designed to help you determine what your best times of the day to accomplish academic activities are. Some people describe themselves as night people, others as morning people. Others, with busy lives, might say “I’m a 24/7 person!” But the more we know about ourselves in this regard, the more we will be able to adjust our schedule to be more effective.
Read the list below of academic tasks meant to be completed outside of class. Beneath that list are time slots during an eighteen-hour day. If you are not restricted by work schedules or other obligations, from what you know about your best times of the day to accomplish certain things, when would you tend to be at your peak performance for each activity? (Later on, you will complete a schedule for all of your current school, work, meals, relaxation time, and home life obligations). Think about this matching exercise as a wish list.
Insert the numbers of as many of the activities listed on top that apply to your schedule this term in the appropriate time slots on the bottom. Not all may apply to your course of study. You may also be inclined to split the same activity into more than one time of day. Some activities may extend to two or more hours. When you are finished, complete the reflection activity below.
- Organizing notes and materials
- Copying or typing notes
- Writing essays
- Creative writing (stories, poetry, etc.)
- Problem solving such as in math classes
- Lab tasks (science, geology, horticulture, culinary, etc.)
- Reading textbooks
- Taking notes from textbooks or lectures
- Physical activity (sports, workouts)
- Planning a presentation: debate, speech, etc.
- Sculpting, drawing
- Taking pictures for a photography class
- Practicing music
- Rehearsing for dance classes/performances
- Rehearsing for drama classes/performance
- Rehearsing for a group presentation of another kind
- Studying alone
- Studying in a group
- Completing computer-related tasks and assignments
Again, considering this a wish list of what you know to be the best times of day/night for you to be at your most alert for the types of tasks noted, write about three ways you might be able to change or incorporate your survey results into your current schedule, or next term’s schedule. Write approximately 100-150 words, or about half a page, double-spaced.
A few things to think about as you reflect:
- What kind of changes in your current class and study schedule might be more effective for you this term?
- How might keeping in mind that most instructors advise scheduling anywhere from one to three hours outside of classwork for every hour in class influence any changes in your current schedule or your thoughts about future schedules?
UNIT 2, EXERCISE 3.2
Before you fill out your “real life” schedule, you know, the one that includes all of the other things you do and are responsible for, read the article How to Plan Your Time so that You Can Get Your Homework Done by Dan Hodges (study tip # 14, scroll down to page 36). Add 5 recommendations from his article to your reflection in Exercise 3.1 that you think might help you manage your time more efficiently.
UNIT 2, EXERCISE 3.3
Based on your responses to exercises 3.1 and 3.2, fill out a reasonable schedule for you for one week, all seven days. Incorporate what you learned about yourself in the previous exercises, that is, your best time of day for studying certain subjects, and how you might alter your current schedule to insert a few of the recommendations.
- Download the seven-day-schedule
- Print a couple of copies of the template just in case.
- Fill out a schedule that includes all of the classes, study times, and outside of school activities and obligations you have to accomplish in one week.
- Color code each activity for easier reference. For example, blue for class times, green for study blocks, red for work, purple for relaxation time (“buffer time,” as it is also known), brown for home life activities.
- NOTE: for some people, a work schedule can change from week to week. Just choose the most typical week for you this term.
- When you are finished, write a short, 5-7 sentence reflection on how you believe your altered schedule can improve your time management skills. You might already have a pretty good schedule, but most students find at least a few changes they can make.