With the Spring semester starting today, I thought it would be nice to mention a few tips for students who may be managing school on top of other responsibilities, like work and/or family. So, here are some helpful ideas for keeping on top of things throughout the semester:
Creating a Schedule, Staying Organized, and Prioritizing
I always tell people, "If it's on my calendar, then it will get done." Over the years I have trained myself to let my calendar help me through the week and it has helped me tremendously to stay organized and on top of things. I actually use Google Calendar to help me with this. I plug in all of the things that I know happen at the same time every week (for example, backing up files at work, weekly tasks that I do the same time every week, or, if you are a student this could be discussion board posts, and, if you have kids, it might be soccer practice), every month (for example, days to sit down and pay bills), and every year (for example, Aunt Matilda's birthday). Using the online tool allows me to have it help "remember" for me and I can quickly create repeating instances of the same thing. I then use this tool to help me plan my week by adding in everything else that I have to do that week. When do I have to get to the grocery store? When is a particular work project due? These are all things that get plugged in, and I can even set a reminder to send me an email or give me a pop-up in my computer screen. When I was a student, I would also add things like assignment due dates and then look over my schedule to see when I needed to plug in time for studying - and then I would put that on the calendar and actually use that time to study. Having a visual calendar like this with time slots for everything really helps me stay organized. And, since we are all juggling many roles these days, the reminder aspect of the tool is a life saver!
You don't have to use an online tool, though, and instead you might want to consider getting a paper yearly calendar book that also has hourly time divisions for each day. I have also used the paper format and it can also be very handy! The bonus here is that you can carry this calendar around with you to meetings and pencil in things as they come up. Or, if you are extremely phone friendly, most of the new smart phones have calendar type options that will allow you to have the best of both online and portable benefits.
Actively keeping on top of tasks during the week and month allows me to stay organized. In addition, having things laid out for me in visual form with due dates lets me prioritize my days, weeks, and months more effectively. The end result of this type of effort is that I am more successful in accomplishing my goals, I feel less worried that I might be forgetting something important, and I am able to enjoy my free time - those spaces on the calendar that are blissfully empty - to the fullest!
For more on time management, check out our previous post: http://twuhealthstudies.blogspot.com/2011/11/time-management-tips.html
The TWU Counseling Center also has a couple of good handouts on Prioritizing - http://www.twu.edu/downloads/counseling/A-11_Prioritizing.pdf - and how to manage Reading and Study Time - http://www.twu.edu/downloads/counseling/A-12_Reading_and_Study_Time.pdf.
Do you have some tips to share for how you keep your life organized? We would love to hear your ideas in a comment!