It’s Monday. Everyone’s favourite day of the week. It’s a rainy fall morning. Your first (of many) annoying alarms begins to blare at 7:30am. Groaning, you shut your eyes and hit the snooze button before the second bleep can start. You’re awake now. There’s no going back. You roll out of bed and get dressed.
As you sit in the bus on your way to school, you are suddenly hit with the realization that a wave of tasks you need to do TODAY is about to crash down around you. “Pick up textbooks. Get coffee. Pay tuition. Need coffee. Update work schedule. Buy a new phone charger to replace the one you lost. Maybe there will be a coffee shop near there. Sign up for that workshop. Get into the class you’ve been waitlisted for. Join your friend’s school club. Get a gym pass. Start readings - because you’ve suffered the consequences of not starting early enough. Perhaps get some coffee.”
Your thoughts of caffeine are interrupted by the vibration of your phone. A message from your roommate:
Don’t forget! You’re on groceries and dinner tonight.
You close your eyes and try to catch a quick nap (standing up) but the tasks and responsibilities swirl around inside your head like a storm cloud. It’s a new school year, and like all school year beginnings comes stress! Here are some tips to help you organize your time this semester:
1. Lists. 2. Lists. 3. Lists.
What helps me get through every school year is pulling all the overwhelming tasks out of my head and putting them down onto paper (so to speak). Why? Because visually seeing them written or typed out allows you to physically and figuratively manage, manipulate, and prioritize them better. I have friends and classmates who purchase planners to make these to-do lists. For me, the easiest way to keep track of my tasks is through the notes application on my phone. I write the date, and then a list of what I need to complete for that day. Some apps have formats for to-do lists that include check mark boxes! I find myself wanting to complete a task just to get the satisfaction of checking something off the list.
I make lists for everything. Inputting things into my calendar and setting reminders for myself has also helped me. Personally, I find that the best time to create these lists is on the commute to school or breaks between classes. I like to create these lists at the beginning of the school week or over the weekend for the next seven days so I have an idea of what I have on my plate that week to be completed.
Set SMART goals for your lists. These are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART). As I mentioned earlier, I make lists for everything. Make sure that you prioritize your tasks to what is due first, and to give yourself the flexibility to complete the task over the course of more than one day in the case that you don’t finish it all.
Here is an example of a SMART goal: To prepare for my biology midterm, I will complete 3 chapters of readings by the end of this week. (A chapter on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday).
5. Be Held Accountable
Let’s talk about procrastination for a second. What good are lists if you don’t stick to them? It’s easy to lose motivation during the hectic school year. There are so many things to juggle as a student: classes, clubs, work, social activities, athletics, and day-to-day errands and chores. With only so much time in the day, it is hard for us to always motivate ourselves to complete the work we plan to do. After a long day at school, the first thing we want to do is go home and sleep. Although it is important to not burn out, find the balance between taking breaks and procrastinating. Find an “accountability buddy” to hold each other accountable to completing your individual goals. If you want to finish certain assignments by a certain date, make sure you hold each other to it. Your accountability buddy could be a friend - just not the “pushover friend”. You want the "Type-A, high achieving, hard a$$ that won’t let you get away with any BS” kind of friend for this job.
6. Use Time Management Resources (not sponsored)
There are many other tools and resources you can use besides the notes app in your phone. There are several productivity apps that are custom-made for students.
Here are a few I recommend:
Ever sit down with the motivation and goal to be productive and immediately proceed to spend three hours on Instagram or Youtube? StayFocusd is a Google Chrome plug-in you can install that limits the amount of time you can spend on specific websites that may be the culprit to wasting all of your time.
Need a time management or productivity resource for your group projects? Trello is a tool you can use to organize your projects (and your life!). It’s a great tool to collaborate with your group mates and track who is responsible for which project tasks!
myHomework Student Planner
This planner is great for students to record project deadlines, quiz and exam dates, and tracking upcoming assignments. It's also free, as long as you don't mind some ads.
Quizlet GO is just like Quizlet but for your phone! Create flashcards and test your vocabulary on your commute to school or whenever you don’t want to whip out the big ol’ laptop. Having these flashcards readily available on your phone increases accessibility and gives you less excuses to procrastinate and hold off your studying until later.
7. Give Yourself Flexibility
While it is important to create lists (and get 💩 done!), make sure to give yourself some flexibility. Don’t crowd your schedule with so many tasks to complete in one day that it is impossible to finish. It will cause you more stress in the long run and make you feel let down because you did not complete everything that you wanted to. Know how much you can handle and how long it takes you to complete a task in order to plan accordingly. For example, if you know that readings take two hours, give yourself three hours for breaks in between.
Above all, embrace and enjoy school! Stay curious and know that you're not SUPPOSED to be able to get it all done. Time management as a concept exists because there is never enough time - so the real skill here is actually your ability to PRIORITIZE what's important.