College: it’s hectic for all of us. Prior to my first year, I was under the assumption that in college, you had to choose between excelling in school or having fun. In simple terms, thinking like that is “garbage.” You can do both; in fact, you should do both. However, you need an effective method of organizing yourself in order to do so.
For starters, college is not set up like high school. You typically only have four classes per semester. Classes occur at various times and do not necessarily meet every day. It’s difficult to distinguish between “free time” and “school time.” In contrast, high school has a very rigid schedule, where students attend class somewhere from 8 am to 3 pm and leave.
Get a master planner…
To get started, I would recommend purchasing a planner organized by time. You can also use a Google or Apple calendar. Second, I recommend acquiring a small notebook. The first is your “master planner” where you notate all clubs, extracurriculars, work, social events, etc. The important aspect of this planner is to designate a set amount of time for every activity. Even if it is as simple as doing laundry, estimate the amount of time it will take you to complete the task and mark it in your agenda. If you are using an electronic calendar, create separate calendars for each activity. If you are using a handwritten planner, use highlighters to differentiate between each activity.
The following is an example of my electronic calendar:
…And a daily planner
The second is used as your daily planner. You only need to look at your master planner once or twice a day, usually in the morning or at night. Your daily planner is the one that you carry around. In your daily planner, you write out your schedule for the day and follow it accordingly. Along with your daily planner, you should create a to-do list. In this list, write out things you need to put in your master planner. This could be simple assignments or tasks, or long-term work. Whatever it may be, make a simple note of it. At the end of the day, write all the items in your list in your master planner.
Here is an example of my daily planner. I began to use Apple Calendar this semester, so instead of writing out my day in a small planner, I just switch to the “Day” view of that specific day.
Here is an example of my to-do list:
This is not to say you will not be busy on certain days or be stressed out, but following this type of organizational system will definitely assist you in time management! If you plan out your hard days in advance, they won’t be as hard as before.
Other time management tips:
1. Wake up early and avoid working in your dorm room. I’m guilty of violating both of these rules, but waking up early makes you productive. It’s harder to do work when you are tired and groggy. Your dorm room is also a great place for distractions. I often find myself daydreaming or taking an unneeded nap when I am working in my room. It’s better to designate time to spend with friends and time to spend working.
2. At least try and like the work you do. To an extent, it is your future! This mentality makes it easier to sit down and do the work you need to do. I’m in love with my majors and minors, and henceforth, it makes it fun when I need to do readings or computer science projects.
3. However, it is also important to know when too much is too much. If you find yourself constantly stressed and on the verge of an anxiety attack, it’s time to reassess your schedule. School is important and should be prioritized over extracurricular activities. If you need to drop an executive board position or two, or not overload your schedule, do it!
4. Take care of yourself. Mental health and physical health also matter and affect your ability to do work. If you are eating unhealthy, you may find yourself taking frequent naps or feeling tired. Staying in shape, eating right, and getting sleep all help your body perform at its best. This goes the same for mental health; if you are having symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, etc., visit University Health Service! There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. Seriously, at the end of the day, it’s you that matters, not what others think of you.
Hopefully this gives some perspective on ways to balance academics, sleep, and a social life. In high school, I was always told you had to choose one, but nothing can stop you from getting all three.