Are you missing appointments or forgetting where you need to be? Do you find it difficult to let others know your availability when asked on the spot? Then it may be time to reexamine your organizational “system.” Use this break as a time to assess yourself and explore new platforms for staying on top of your stuff!
Developing awareness of your free and occupied time is an integral skill in college. Whether you need to get help from a professor, attend a TA session, or make room for a meal with friends, time awareness is essential. In this post, I want to offer a few methods for staying on top of your entire schedule with a focus on electronic systems.
There are a variety of electronic calendar—aka “E-calendar”—options that are compatible with whatever operating system is familiar for you. Whether or not you have a smart phone, these tools are great for streamlining your time awareness throughout the semester and beyond.
Choosing a system
On top of scheduling the time and location of a certain event, your e-calendar should have three basic functions: creating new categories/calendars for organizing different events (e.g. class schedule events are separate from band practice times), adding alerts for certain scheduled events, and automatic repeating scheduled events that recur (e.g. Orgo Lab will always occur on Thursday from 1-5 until May 7, 2014). You will need to choose an E-calendar based on how intuitive these functions feel within it, while also considering other factors such as smartphone compatibility or personal preferences. The most popular choices among the peer advisors are iCal (Macs), Outlook (Macs and PCs), and Google Calendar(Macs/PCs and Free); however, whatever system you find that fulfills the ‘category,’ ‘alert,’ and ‘repeating’ functions will likely do.
Setting it up
Once you find one to experiment with, the first step in setting up your E-calendar is to create the categories for the events in your life. Some choose to put every single event in one category–totally fine–while others have greater affinity for subdividing things. Personally, I use three categories: courses, TA sessions/Office Hours (great to have on hand!), and commitments (basically anything scheduled that doesn’t repeat every week).
Next, you will want to start filling in events! Start with things you know are going to happen like your classes. Use tools such as “repeat event until…” so that you can quickly enter a class for an entire semester (FYI: the last day of classes is 5/07/2014). Don’t forget to add TA sessions and office hours! Other routine commitments to put on might include sports practice, a committed time to working out, extracurricular activity meetings, routine meal times, etc!
Lastly, you will want to add non-routine items as you become aware of them. As soon as I get back, for instance, I will be meeting with my advisor, which for me goes down as a “commitments” event. Because this feels far away at the moment, I will be sure to add a few alerts so that I remember the meeting. On Google Calendar, this can be done by double clicking an event and selecting “Add Reminder” towards the bottom of the event window. You can add several alerts that vary from 10 minutes before to 10 days before!
Syncing it with your smartphone (optional but highly recommended)
Once your calendar is in working order, make the most of it by syncing it to your smartphone. With your calendar on hand all the time, you will be able to make appointments on the spot with confidence, while also being reminded of events that otherwise might get forgotten. The process of syncing will vary between each device and operating system you use. Check out these specific articles for syncing google calendar with various iPhone and Android phones; here are articles for Outlook and iCal as well. The general process involves accessing the phone settings, linking a google account, and selecting which of the calendars (or categories) you’ll want to be on your phone. This last step is hard to generalize across devices so if you find yourself at all confused do not hesitate to reach out to any of the peer advisors!