Classes, Down time, General, How-to, Student Life, Study

Learning How to Keep Organized and Balance

Throughout my first-year, I lacked a structured, personalized way of managing my time. I would scribble to-do lists on scrap pieces of paper, and had a ‘master’ paper of all my due dates, extracted from my course syllabus. This method allowed me to stay organized… sort of. But if I lost that piece of scrap paper, I’d feel my semester slowly falling apart. This year has been a lot more challenging in and out of the lecture hall. From studying, to work, to extracurriculars, I had to find a more effective way to handle my time management. For this week’s post, I’ve decided to share my time-management methods, and how I’ve learnt to balance my busy semester.

In starting to organize my time, I asked my friends about their techniques, and found that a lot of them use their phones to track due dates, test dates and to-do lists. I tried this out for about a week, but then quickly realized that I wanted to be able to see everything on one screen, rather than having to scroll through my phone. However, I saw a clear advantage to this method: most of us are attached to our phones, like it’s an extra limb! By having deadlines on your phone, sometimes with alarms to remind you of a task, it’s almost impossible to forget. If you’re technology savvy, or are a fan of using time-management apps, this may be a method that you would like.

But after realizing technology was not the route for me, I decided to use planners and paper calendars. Every month, I write out a calendar on a blank piece of paper or print one out. Using this method, I have been able to visualize when my busy days are. You can buy a large wall calendar that could serve as a great reminder for the tasks you need to complete, but I personally like having a calendar the size of a regular piece of paper, so I can place it in the front sleeve of my binder: it keeps me on track when I start my studying.

Photo of agenda page with 1 orange highlighter, 1 yellow highlighter lying on top

Yellow Highlighter – to mark important dates
Orange Highlighter – to mark completed tasks

I use a yellow highlighter to mark my assignment due dates, quizzes, tests, and exam dates. By seeing everything laid out in front of me, I can keep track of it all by telling myself I have two weeks, or one week or one day until that assignment. When a midterm is approaching, I’ll write out the course code and lecture numbers as my reminder of what I what I need to cover on each day. 

To complement my highlighted calendar, I have been using a planner every day. This helps me visualize when my busy days are. I use my UTSU planner, which is free from the University of Toronto Student Union building near Hart House (12 Hart House Circle, to be exact). It seems like I talk about this planner in almost every post, but its applicability is great! I love how it has University of Toronto dates outlined within it, like Arts and Science Reading Week, when classes end, and so on. You can get planners anywhere that sells school supplies, but I like having the University-wide dates already plugged in, and you can’t beat the price.

Eventually, I got my planning methods personalized to my liking. If there is one thing this semester has taught me, it is the importance of giving myself a break. As a student, you have to maximize your study time, but it’s just as necessary to maximize your personal time. Give yourself time to watch an episode on Netflix, hang out with friends or laugh at memes. (If those memes are science jokes, then I can count it as studying, right?) When I plan my upcoming weeks, I always ensure to leave additional time to hang out with friends or relax. The best way I have found to do this, is it to be realistic in my planning. Chances are, I will not be able to study ten lectures in one day. But, two lectures and planning an essay on my to-do list for Saturday is feasible. Without over-planning, I can take the evening off to watch Riverdale, while knowing that I still achieved what I needed to that day. 

As finals are approaching, fill up your planner with those study tasks. My planner has already become a rainbow of highlighters, course codes and exam times. But, don’t feel like you have to sit in the library for twelve hours every day day: take the time to rest, since balance is key to success! I am always interested in trying out new ways to keep organized and to balance my schedule. Do you have any tips? Leave a comment below.