If you have not done so already, check out my blog post here on Part 1, Steps 1 – 5.
Okay, you got your folders and notebooks (digital or hardcopy). Maybe you even organized your email and desktop. You also got your calendar/ planner and a to-do list ready to go! Great, the prep work is done and now we are into the meat of organization and a little bit of planning. The following steps helped me be successful throughout my 12 years of college.
Step 6: Due dates and important course information: I cannot stress enough how memory can fail us when we are stressed, tired, and overwhelmed. Take some time at the very start of the semester (the first week of classes) and sit down with your syllabi from every class and your calendar/ planner system. Now for each class, fully read the syllabus and highlight the important assignments, how many there are, what is required for each, when are they due, and other important information like attendance policies or how to access the course materials. As you read through the syllabus and course schedule, transfer those important due dates for quizzes, exams, projects, and presentations into your calendar/ planner.
Step 7: Think ahead now! What I found to be extraordinarily helpful, basically my saving grace throughout college, was not only noting the due date but adding a reminder in my calendar/ planner that the due date is coming up and what I needed to do to accomplish the task. For example, if I have weekly quizzes on Monday for biology, on Friday or Thursday the week before, I would write a note to myself (to-do list) to study for whatever chapter(s) were being tested in Biology on that coming Monday. For larger projects, especially if the professor provided an outline or guidelines of the project, I would create a tentative timeline of how I was going to accomplish the project over the semester. This is not always something you know, but as soon as you do get the due date or an outline of the project/ presentation, it is best to create a timeline then put the timeline steps into your calendar/ planner or to-do list. End of the semester papers, projects, and presentations can sneak up on us if we are not prompted throughout the semester to work on the various parts of these large tasks. If you do not do this you will end up cramming in all the work right before it is due, which leads to higher levels of stress and burnout.
Step 8: Create a schedule and write it down: Start with plotting out when your synchronized or in-person classes are. If you need to travel to class, be sure you factor that time in. If you have other priorities that have set times, such as team meetings or labs, be sure to add those in too. Now for classes that are unsynchronized (meaning there is no set time to attend), look to see if there is a general pattern of when assignments are due, such as posting to a blog on a Thursday and then needing to reply by Sunday. If you know this pattern, then you can consider where you need to schedule in time blocks to work on this course. For this example, you may need to schedule in time on Tuesday and Friday because work for this course is due on Thursday and Sunday. It is not a good idea to wait until the day that something is due to start it because life can happen and disrupt that short window we gave ourselves. Very important!! Do not forget to schedule in time for meals and morning/ night routines; this is important to your ability to sustain the intense mental workload of college.
Step 9: Persistence and consistency: If you get off track, it’s okay it happens, try to refocus on what can be done and see if you can get back to a schedule. Even just an hour of planning can make all the difference in your week. However, be careful, do not get hung up on planning as a way to avoid doing the task, it is a delicate balance. You can learn more about managing procrastination by checking out these blog posts: “5 Ways To Avoid Procrastination – Get Started!” and “3 Ways to Avoid Procrastination.”
Keep in mind: Disorganization can happen to anyone. It is important to reflect on your level of managing your time and tasks. Is there something that is making it hard to implement these tools? Mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, inattention, or impulsivity can affect our ability to get and stay organized. If you are a college student living in Western New York, who is in need of developing a plan to get back on track and are interested in starting psychotherapy, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation. If you are outside of Western New York, a great place to start is exploring what wellness or mental health supportive services may be offered by your college.