University can be a difficult time when it comes to being organised. There are lots of responsibilities and commitments you may be juggling at one time. From having lectures on different days, joining sports or societies, working a part-time job, and completing extra research and reading, it can be difficult to remain organised and prepared. The way to make sure you don’t drop the ball, is to plan out your schedule. This way you can work out when you have free time, when you should be studying and when you should be attending an event.
Get a whiteboard
Okay, so I get it. A whiteboard may seem a little dated. In this digital age, you can have everything you need saved on your phone. And that’s great, if it works for you, keep doing it. But first, just hear me out.
Get yourself an A3 whiteboard and a multicoloured pack of marker pens. You can pick up a whiteboard online for less than £5 and markers from the pound shop. Then on the whiteboard draw a weekly calendar, with hourly segments down the left and the days across the top. Then plan out your week. Use a different colour for different responsibilities. You could break everything into groups such as university teaching, extra revision time/reading/assignment writing, sports & Societies, part-time work, other social activities, and any other things you need to add. You can even plan in down time. This way you have a couple hours dotted in the week where you can relax without worrying about an assignment that’s due, or that you need to go to the gym, because you know it’s due later.
This might seem like a lot of work, and it may feel weird to schedule in ‘downtime’, but most of your schedule will stay consistent, so it’s mostly a one time job to write down. For the investment of time and resources, it can be incredibly beneficial. The whiteboard will hopefully serve as a repetitive visual clue that you see every day, reminding you of what’s coming up. It can help you keep track of different aspects of your busy life, keeping you organised and prepared for the day ahead.
A little more 21st century
A whiteboard might not be for you. Maybe you’re much more technologically inclined. In which case making good use of a digital calendar is something you should consider. You can link this to any of your online devices like your phone or laptop.
If you’re going to go digital, make sure you create events for all of your commitments in the same way you would for the whiteboard. You can then set reminders for each event that you create. Make sure you set the reminder with enough time to get to the event if you had completely forgotten about it. For instance, if you have a lecture on campus and it takes you 15 minutes to walk to campus, set a reminder for 30 minutes before the lecture. This gives you 15 minutes to prepare (get dressed, grab a snack, whatever you need to do) and then 15 minutes to get to campus. Or you could set off earlier and be incredibly punctual.
Okay so I’ve basically suggested two ways to keep a calendar and you might be thinking, that’s just not for you. That’s totally fine. You need to figure out what works for you, and that’s not always going to be the same as other people.
A good place to start with organising is to create a to-do list. With university work you will always have extra work to do outside of your scheduled lesson time. You can often have multiple modules you are working on, with different assignments and deadlines, which require different revision, reading and writing. Creating a to-do list can help you prioritise these tasks.
Firstly, make a list of all your modules, assignments and other bits of reading/revision you need to complete. Then start to prioritise these. Mark important tasks with a star, write down deadline dates next to assignments, even add notes next to some parts. You’ll want to figure out where to start which can be difficult, but it’s something only you can really figure out. Start with what you feel you need. I’ve gave a couple examples of how to prioritise below:
- List by deadline days. Start with the assignment that is handed in first. Start your reading for it and writing before you move on to the next task. You can still work on your secondary or tertiary assignments, but start with the first one in the calendar.
- Start with the ones you enjoy the most. It can be really difficult to be motivated for revision sometimes and starting with a task you struggle with can be off putting. To avoid this, start with the enjoyable/easy task first, gain some confidence and then carry that feeling into the next task on your to do list.
- Start with the hardest subject. Now the definition of ‘hard’ is down to you. It could be the longest assignment, the longest piece of reading, or the subject you enjoy the least. Once you’ve got the ball rolling on the difficult assignment, everything else should seem easy.
How you create a to do list, organise your tasks or keep a calendar is fully unique to you. If you work best at night, do that! If you want to write everything on post-it notes and plaster them around the house, do that! Don’t worry about what works for other people. Certainly use other people’s examples for inspiration, but don’t take it as gospel. Try the methods in this blog, and see what happens. Hopefully, they are really helpful for you. And if not, don’t worry, contact your tutor or student support and ask for help with studying and organising university life.