What you can do right now to win in the classroom

*This story was updated and edited for clarity and brevity by Jenna Heil on January 4, 2023.

The new year gives us the opportunity to set goals and develop new habits, both in our personal lives but also in our classes. If you’ve ever struggled to stay on top of your coursework, you might benefit from utilizing different strategies for organization and time management. We have highlighted some of our favorites below, try these approaches this term and see for yourself what a difference they can make! 

1. Use a planner 
We recommend using a planner, whether a digital or physical version, to keep track of your assignments. At the beginning of the term, block out your classes on your calendar, as well as write down any other commitments, including extracurriculars or part time jobs. Thoroughly look over your class syllabus and schedules, then write down when all of your assignments are due. From there, knowing these final deadlines, create blocks of study or work time prior to these important dates to ensure you’re planning ahead. Be careful not to overschedule though, leave some blank space for when unexpected things come up (emergencies, spontaneous activities, breaks, errands, etc.).   

2. Chunk assignments 
“Chunking” assignments involves breaking items into smaller, more manageable steps. This process not only provides you with a game plan for how you’re going to complete an assignment, but it also prevents you from procrastinating. Start by chronologically listing the tasks you need to complete to finish an assignment. For example, a research paper might include: understanding the assignment, picking your topic, researching, writing a first draft, scheduling an appointment with the SLC or your instructor, and revising. Next, assign deadline dates for each task, starting with the final deadline and working your way back. Remember, certain tasks may take longer than you think, so give yourself plenty of time for each step. After chunking the assignment, plug the tasks into your planner. Now you’ll know exactly what you need to work on and when.

3. Create a to-do list(s) 
For those who don’t like using planners, a short-term or long-term to-do list might be the best alternative. However, using a to-do list in conjunction with a planner is the ultimate move. At the beginning of the term, write down your big assignments (midterms, research papers, etc.) and their due dates in a long-term to-do list. At the beginning of each week, write down your smaller assignments, chunked tasks and their due dates in order of priority. When you’ve completed an assignment or task, you can cross it off or delete it from your list! For your list, we recommend using the best format for you, whether it’s a physical notebook, a Google Doc or even the Notes app on your phone/computer. 

If you are interested in getting more organized and mastering time management, you can make an appointment with the Student Learning Center (SLC) today. The SLC welcomes students from all programs on-campus and online with the tools and resources to thrive. The SLC can work with you to fill out your planner, chunk assignments and even create to-do lists. Happy planning!