Good morning, Marauder!
Stay with me for a second—I know this probably isn’t a popular opinion, but I find scheduling really exciting! I wasn’t always like this; there was a time when I tried to function without any schedule other than my classes and part-time work. For me, this meant that there were large stretches of time that I didn’t see potential in. I wasted them away in favour of doing all of my work in the final hours. When I first started to schedule, I had a tendency towards the other extreme, over-scheduling. I thought that if I blocked off back-to-back time for class, reading, studying, work, and social outings that I would simply go from place to place without hesitation or burnout. That didn’t work well for me either, and I was soon overwhelmed by the fact that so much of my time was rigidly booked. With this in mind, I want to build on yesterday’s post about balanced engagement and recommend that you approach scheduling by first thinking about your current relationship to it. Does scheduling come naturally to you? Or do stress and chaos make it difficult to plan your time?
You probably already have a sense of how you feel on this topic, so let’s break down your time into bite-sized pieces. I like to think about scheduling from the yearly level all the way down to a to-do list. This lets me consider the big picture and small details with similar care but not at the exact same time. To come back to why I find this so exciting, it is actually a bit self-serving. I know that if I schedule effectively, I will have more free time during which I don’t have to stress about my work. You might find scheduling satisfying for a similar reason, or it might not be something that you ever get excited about. On the plus side, it will almost certainly benefit you either way.
Whether you use scheduling apps, a big calendar, or the calendar spreads in your daily planner, try to think of your yearly schedule in broad strokes. Which dates do you need to remember? What do you want to be able to see at first glance? Here are some suggestions:
First and last day of classes
Last day to add/drop classes
Reading weeks & winter holidays
Exam season start and end dates (specific exam times will be released later)
Travel dates (if you have vacations booked or need to travel home from school)
Birthdays, weddings, and other important dates
Tip: When looking at the yearly level, try to keep things visually distinct (colours, separate calendars) so that really important days stand out and don’t get lost.
Month to month, you might want to record items that are a bit more immediate. I find that filling things in at the monthly level is really helpful because it helps motivate me to start working on projects sooner. I think this is because when I can visually see that I have a lot of work at a particular time, it makes me want to get things together earlier on. Some things that you might want to include at this stage are the following:
Assignment deadlines and midterm dates
Bill due dates
Pre-planned social events
Tip: Professors don’t know when you have other assignments and midterms; it is up to you to make sure that you know when you will be busiest! Keep an eye on these items in case any dates change as it is your responsibility to manage your schedule now.
Weekly & Daily Scheduling:
I personally have found it extremely useful to see each week laid out visually. This practice has been the most transformative for me because it holds me accountable. For example, I know that if I get home from campus around 5:30, I will have a pretty long stretch of time in the evening. Previously, I would be more likely to not see the value in this time and instead leave work until the next day right before lecture, for example. Planning out some of the following items has helped me see more of my time as valuable because I am more inclined to be productive if I can visually see the block of time that I have.
Going to class
Reading and Studying
Working on assignments
Attending club meetings and events
Spending time alone and with friends
Going to the gym
Tip: Don’t be afraid to schedule in time for yourself. It is important that you make your schedule work for you, and this includes making sure you have some time to unwind. It might seem counter intuitive to block off time to ‘do nothing,’ but know that this is actually a very productive use of your time!
If I haven’t sold you on scheduling yet, I think I might still be able to make a case for to-do lists. I included this in today’s post about scheduling because I see to-do lists as miniature flexible schedules. By this I mean that they allow you to put on paper everything that you need to get done (in a time frame of your choosing) without forcing you to be rigid and unforgiving. I like to treat to-do lists as exercises that frees up my short-term memory so that I don’t constantly feel like I have tasks weighing on my mind. Crossing items off of the list is also a huge incentive for me because it becomes a visual reminder of everything that I have accomplished. Here are three tips to make your to-do lists work for you:
- Include all tasks (big and small)
- Prioritise important work to help you decide where to start on your list
- If it will take less than two minutes, do it right away
Even if scheduling and list-making don’t come easily to you, I suggest giving them a go in September. Classes are at their calmest right at the beginning, so this is a great time to practice organisation! It never hurt anyone to start planning when their schedule was lighter, but it can be super stressful to try to salvage things when you are overwhelmed during midterm season. It’s never too early to start planning, Marauder!
Join the conversation: Is there something that you think will be difficult to schedule? Do you have any concerns about building your own schedule in general?
What makes balancing your engagement with academics, people, and events difficult? How can you do it? Read more about this in Balance 101!
How should I approach scheduling? What do I need to include? Are to-do lists actually helpful? Scheduling 101 has the answers!
Should I buy all of my food on campus? What can I make for myself that will actually be quick and easy? Is it worth it to make some of my own food at all? Get answers to these (and other) questions in Food for Thought 101!