Balance is key to organization
Every year, I think, “This is it.” By “this,” I mean that by being better organized, I will never write a paper at 2 a.m. again. To date, I have considered myself extremely lucky to be able to juggle an average of six classes per semester, 26 hours of work, and a social life on the side. Yet I’m still all too familiar with the last weeks — crunch weeks — of semester, when it feels like everything is due at the same time.
“The thing about time man- agement — to me it sounds very rigid, ‘managing’ your time,” said Suzanne Evans, a writing and learning strategist at Mount Royal University’s Student Learning Services. “It’s got to be something which allows the student to accomplish whatever is really important. That can be a com- bination of school, relation- ships or work. [The tools of time management] are to help them get where they want to go.”
One common tool is a day- timer, which come in all sorts and sizes (including the free ones from The Reflector avail- able throughout Wyckham House). But with only one week displayed per page, deadlines marked on other pages can be easily missed. It feels like a catch-22 — even if I write down both the assignment due date and a reminder a week before the assignment is due, I still only have a week to complete the assignment, assuming I’ve completely forgotten about it beforehand. So should I write a reminder two weeks ahead as well? What about three weeks?
Instead, Evans suggested not only using a weekly day- timer, but also using a large wall calendar that displays due dates for assignments, papers, projects, unit exams, final exams, and other impor- tant dates —most are listed on any course outline. Vacations and other activities should also be highlighted.
“That really alerts students to the way their semester is going to evolve,” Evans said. It’s a matter of finding some- thing that works, she said, whether it’s a tangible note- book-size agenda, electronic reminders or something else.
Personally, I like to make lists when I’m feeling re- ally overwhelmed. At first blush, the resulting list usu- ally makes me feel even more overwhelmed. Once that feel- ing has passed, it feels so good to cross stuff off — even if I have to keep adding new tasks to the bottom of the list.
On Mount Royal University’s website, the Student Learning Services page suggests two different types of time analy- sis. The first lists nine catego- ries and an estimation of time spent on each task. The sec- ond is a weekly experiment, where every regular activity is clocked and recorded.
Considering there are 168 hours in a week, I thought my time analysis might be close to the 160 mark. Actually, I clocked in at 143, seven hours below the example given. However, the time I spend on meals and chores is way be- low average, and my studying time — due to being in a pro- gram that bases the majority of its marks on projects, not tests and papers — and work time are quite high. I also may have been fairly generous to allow myself 56 hours of sleep per week.
When the school year starts, I may conduct the other week- ly experiment, clocking my activities for a week, to see how well my estimations of my time match up. “It’s that perpetual aware- ness, monitoring and adjust- ing, instead of doing the same old thing and hoping it will work,” Evans said. With that in mind, maybe this really could be the year that I don’t write papers at 2 a.m.
— Catherine Szabo