How do you keep track of your responsibilities during the most challenging parts of the semester?
Ever since they took the blocks and coloring books away after first grade, the demand to ‘get things done’ has been the norm. But let’s face it: managing all our responsibilities in the unstructured world of college remains a huge challenge for many (including yours truly!). The obvious and usually favorable answer here is to use a planner to manage your assignments over the long run, but often enough–as happens with new years resolutions–plans and planners get neglected and forgotten.
Instead of focusing on only one way to manage your assignments, I want to offer some advice on getting things done on a short term basis–sans that spiral bound organizer. For those of you who feel up to the commitment of using a planner, see my other post for some similar helpful tips. Otherwise here are my two cents on a low maintenance, week-to-week approach to staying on top of things.
“We just have to focus on the present.”
Bill Belichick ’75 is king when it comes to short term planning. Despite having 20+ games to deal with each year, he treats each week as its own season. Sound crazy? Tell that to his five Super Bowl rings.
When faced with the most demanding assignments, in lieu of a planner, I’ll adopt a Belichick short term approach. To start I’ll get a sheet of loose leaf paper and head it with two category labels on each side: RESPONSIBILITIES and GAMEPLAN. For responsibilities, I’ll write out the logistical details of various assignments as such:
- Stats: Ch 12, problems 2, 15, 18, 23. Due Tuesday Morning
- Orgo Lab: Quiz Friday, Report on Caffeine Lab with methods due Wednesday Evening
- Jobs: Venture for America Application Deadline Due Saturday @ 12PM
- Psychology: Presentation, Thursday @ 2PM
I’ll spare you from more details, but the point of this section is to have all pertinent information like due dates and assigned reading chapters readily available. In some cases just knowing what’s due when is helpful enough to get things done, but as you’ll see in the next section, a more structured game plan can be essential.
For creating a gameplan, I put on my Belichick thinking
cap hoodie and strategize how to break down my responsibilities into realistic tasks. Let’s take the psychology presentation, for example. This is a big assignment that as a single phrase on a page can be vague and feel overwhelming to approach. Here’s what a spelled out, game-plan version looks like for the presentation:
- Gloss over assigned article and acquire general background information on topic, highlighting key terms and identifying any areas of confusion (Monday)
- In bullets, write out central points of the article and any relevant connections with class topics. Write the purpose and big picture of the article/presentation in one to three sentences (Monday night)
- Meet with Psych Professor and talk through my summarizing sentence and central points. Ask for feedback and structural suggestions for powerpoint (Tuesday)
- Revise central points and convert them into powerpoint slides in accordance with presentation guide on Moodle (Tuesday Night)
- Practice presentation 3 times in front of mirror. First, make notes on changes and modify powerpoint; second, revise for time; third , have one polished completion of presentation (Wednesday)
- One last practice (Thursday, GAMEDAY)
The key to writing a game plan is to make tasks specific and realistic. You should know how to do a given task and have confidence that you can complete it within the assigned time. Don’t be hard on yourself, though, if things don’t work out as planned. The whole point of writing a separate ‘gameplan’ is to implement a flexible strategy that works for you–if one doesn’t turn out well, come up with another!
If you’re at all on the fence about making a commitment to a planner, try the responsibilities-gameplan strategy. I generally do both, putting the ‘responsibilities’ on a weekly planner and writing out ‘gameplans’ on loose leaf paper or index cards every few days. Being able to set goals and follow through with them will improve both the quality of your work as well as your general productivity. Be on top of your assignments just like your favorite coach and give game-planning a shot!