THE start of a brand new semester is when you have plenty of time stretching ahead of you. You’re on top of things, and exams are a shadowy memory belonging to last term. Then suddenly it’s 24 hours till your first essay has to be in and you haven’t even cracked the textbook.
Here’s how you can plan like a pro and keep everything straight.
First, forget pen and paper. For good time management you need a calendar, like the one that comes with your iPad, Android tablet or smartphone. If you don’t have a device that’s got a nice large screen, set up a Google or Yahoo account and use their free calendar.
Why do you need to go digital? Because you can drag and drop items, have yourself pinged with urgent tasks, and make automatic To Do lists.
Second, put in your classes. If you have to travel huge distances, block the period to and from in a different colour so you know when you have reading time.
Third, put in every deadline for this semester. Make these all day events so they’re easy to spot. Put in an alert that tells you a few days before that these are creeping up on you.
Deconstruct what needs to be done for each deadline. If you’re like me, you may want to do your reading a week or two before, and then devote three days straight to nothing else but the assignment.
Or, you may go for the “salami” approach where you do it piece by piece. For example, you may want to divide a paper into research (during your travel time), writing the introduction, writing the literature review, writing your argument, writing your conclusion, organising your references and printing.
However, you approach it, put each task into your calendar, blocking the appropriate amount of time.
Now take a moment to breathe because it will be looking like chaos. It’s okay, you can do it.
Next, the trick is to know how to poke yourself to keep to the schedule. Decide if you want to just go day by day or if you need timely reminders.
If you need reminders, you have to set these carefully so that you’re not jolted out of a class by a notice that says you have to do something the next day. This bit is something you have to learn as you go along.
Tip: give yourself study reminders 10 minutes before you’re supposed to sit down. That gives you time to excuse yourself from whatever you’re up to and to get down to the books. Turn off all class reminders – you’ll remember those anyway.
Finally, get into the habit of reading when you’re in a bus, in a queue or having a coffee by yourself. You’ll be amazed how much you can get read in just 15 minutes three times a week.