Your old answer: Hope that the plethora of tasks swimming in your head does not drown you in the abyss of your mind as you juggle needing to write a 5-page close reading that is due in two days while also anticipating a pop quiz for another class on readings you might or might not have done. What ends up slipping from your mind isn’t your assignments but remembering to eat and sleep enough, and you end up with drooping eyelids and a rumbling stomach.
Being a college student means a busy schedule, given our need to balance academics alongside extracurriculars, jobs, socializing, and more. It can be overwhelming having so many due dates, application deadlines for internships, extracurricular activities, and other responsibilities to remember. However, there are ways to prevent yourself from drowning in the constant task cycle and cultivate a less stressful experience. Specifically, finding a way to organize your tasks can help you keep track of them so you can focus on taking care of yourself and go out with friends without worrying about your long mental to-do list.
Here are 3 ways you can keep track of your busy schedule to make it less overwhelming and my personal experiences with each:
- To planner or not to planner
The planner is one of the first methods that many of us have been conditioned to use to keep track of our tasks. I remember getting a very thick planner at the beginning of each year from elementary school until high school. I’ve even bought the pretty ones from Target or Walmart, but, no matter how hard I try to maintain a beautifully decorated yearly planner up-to-date, I’ve almost always failed. The one time I successfully kept up with a planner was when I used one for all of my college application due dates; I found the physical reminder of my deadlines helpful. In this case, I have found that the simpler, the better. My biggest issue with a planner is that I feel like it can cause unnecessary pressure to look aesthetically pleasing (which is a reason why I also don’t journal). However, if keeping a planner helps you to take some time to reflect on your tasks, and energizes you to be productive, keep it up. Just try not to put too much pressure on yourself to make it look perfect!
- The joy of sticky notes
I’ve found that using sticky notes is the best way for me to keep track of what tasks need to get done for a particular day. While they don’t provide a lasting record of my tasks, sticky notes are quick and easy ways to jot down all my upcoming deadlines. Given that standard size sticky notes are not very big, they can help prevent you from overloading yourself with tasks for the day. As a bonus, they’re conveniently mobile, so you can move them around and stick them in spots where they’re easy to see and remember.
- Digital calendars
What would I do without the calendar app on my devices? I’m not entirely sure when this habit started, but jotting important dates for events, assignment deadlines, appointments, meetings, and more on my calendar app has made it so much easier for me to keep track of my responsibilities. The ability of the calendar app to sync to my other devices assures me that I will have multiple opportunities to be reminded of important tasks. Furthermore, being able to see the distribution of events in a day can help me prepare for days where I may have less time to work on homework and show which days I might have some extra time to squeeze in a last-minute meeting or even dedicate some time for myself.
Extra Tip: I recommend creating a list of all deadlines for each of your courses (check your syllabi for these) at the beginning of each semester as a record of how the work will be distributed over the course of the semester. Then, you can plan how to approach busier school weeks ahead of time.
I hope these insights are useful as you attempt to create your system of staying organized throughout your busy semester. But remember the importance of staying healthy and prioritizing yourself along the way. Perhaps you can even schedule self-care days throughout the rest of the semester; you deserve it!