As you move through the recommendations below, keep in mind that these strategies should be adapted based on your own needs and challenges. What works for other students might not work for you, but don’t be discouraged—you’ll discover your own style of planning in no time.
Good planning isn’t about finding a way to do everything all the time—there aren’t enough hours in the day for that. It means prioritizing between class, work, and leisure. There are a variety of methods to choose from when it comes to diving up your time. Review the two highlighted below to get started.
Prioritizing by Category
Have you ever seen a video like this, one that describes time management through the analogy of rocks and sand? This is a valuable way to view your obligations. After all, organizing your day around things you must do is more logical than taking care of your “wants” first.
To prioritize your day, create three columns: one for “necessities”, one for “needs”, and one for your “wants”. Jot down activities and obligations in each category, but don’t overwhelm yourself. Here are some examples:
The Eisenhower Method
The Eisenhower Method is a very effective and popular way to manage tasks. A student places their obligations into one of the four quatrains (pictured to the left) based on its urgency and importance. Quatrain one takes priority, quatrain two gets worked on next, quatrain three is scheduled for later, and quatrain four is ignored.
If you’re not using a to-do list, consider taking advantage of one. It’s a tried and tested method.
Google Tasks is an easy way to keep an up-to-date to-do list. It can be accessed on the right-hand panel of your Gmail or Google Calendar, and you can add due dates to tasks which will automatically place them in your calendar if you select the "Tasks" box under the "My Calendars" menu on the left hand side of the screen.
Keeping Track of Assignments
How can you keep track of all those essays and assignments when they start flooding in?
- Keep up to date: review your email and Moodle periodically to stay on top of any changes.
- Read your syllabuses: please do. No one likes surprise assignments.
- Use a calendar: once you learn due dates, add them to a physical or electronic calendar like Google Calendar.
- Consider using a day planner: day planners can be bought online and at most office-supplies stores.
Breaking Things Down
When a large project is broken down into smaller steps, it becomes less daunting and far more actionable. For students, this practice is vital because it reduces procrastination and encourages the timely completion of assignments.
See our guide to essay planning
Be sure that you understand an assignment before beginning it, and consult your professor regarding any points of confusion. The instructions given to you will often include keywords that can help identify the kind of work your instructor expects.
Some examples of these words are “analyze”, “discuss”, “outline”, and “explain”.
Creating a Timeline
After a project is divided into smaller steps, those key tasks can be used to create a timeline. Rushing through complex coursework the night before it’s due is not advisable.
Most of the time, completing assignments promptly is just a question of simple mathematics.
If you’re tasked with a project that must be completed in one month, and that project consists of eight sub-tasks, then, clearly, you will need to finish an average of two of those tasks per week to be successful.
It’s can be helpful to use a table like this when planning your work—feel free to adapt it and make it your own.
Procrastination is easier than ever. There are so many fun ways to do it: Netflix, gaming, cell phones. At home, those things are just a couple of steps away, so how can you stay motivated and on task?
It’s important to understand that motivation can take effort. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to find your “why”. I once heard of a student who taped an old name tag from a terrible job above his desk for motivation—a little extreme but effective (for him) none the less.
When you accomplish something, whether it’s a great mark or a long study session, be sure to reward yourself. This can mean going for a walk or eating something tasty—the larger the accomplishment, the larger the reward.
Working While Studying
Many students, by obligation or choice, work during the semester. Some research suggests that working can even be beneficial provided a student doesn’t exceed twenty hours a week.
Be realistic with the demands that are placed on you. It would be difficult for a student who works full-time to manage a full course load too.
UPEI Career Services can support your short and long term work needs. They help with job searching, application writing, interview prep, career counselling, and more.
For additional financial support, visit the UPEI Scholarships and Awards page.