How to Organize Your College to-do List

I talked a little bit in this post about the things that are keeping me sane while working full time and going to grad school.

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This guy is definitely high on the list

I made reference to the moderately flexible schedule that I’ve come up with for my classes, given what a usual day look likes.

For some context: I work full time at the university that I attend, which is a 30 – 90 minute drive from home, depending on the weather. I am a part-time graduate student, studying Adult and Higher Education, taking two classes on campus, which is a 20 – 60 minute drive from work.

The time piece is relevant here, I think. When you consider that I usually get home around 5:40pm and try to be in bed by 10pm, I really have four hours to, not only do homework, but also have my life during the week.

Start with the Syllabi

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Duh, right? It’s the plural that’s important. I learned this in undergrad when I took six classes a semester while working close to full-time. I grab up all my syllabi and start to write out due dates, in order. There’s a lot of flipping back and forth between them, so it’s helpful to have a large area to do this.

I only write down my major projects/papers/assignments. It will keep this part a lot cleaner.

Make Notes as You Go

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As I write out the assignments, I think about the timeline. For example, I have an Adult Learner Interview part-way into the semester, so I need to conduct the interview with enough time to actually write the paper.

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I keep doing this, and try to figure out if there’s more than one step involved. For example, on March 26, I have to write a Summary of an Adult Learning Site. So I need to visit the site at least two weeks in advance, which means I need to contact sites before that to ensure I can awkwardly sit in the corner while adults learn and I take notes on how they learn. #thisisgradschool #iloveit

In retrospect, it might have been a good idea to color code assignments or classes. I may try that next semester.

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At the end, it looks something like this (aka organized chaos). Then, I take a look at the syllabi again and start to think about my life. If I have class Monday and Wednesday night, I actually need to be done with my readings by Saturday, if I want to have an actual day off.

So I write it all together, with due dates on the side, categorized by week:

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I just keep going until I’ve written out each week of the semester. I end up with something like this, except longer:

Then, I do a quick double check and slowly enter all of it into my planner, on a large sticky note:

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The left side is school stuff and the right side is home stuff.

If you read my post about a day in my life, you know that currently D and I are trying to figure out how to best shorten the list on the right side. There’s just certain things that aren’t his to take on, or don’t feel right for him to take on given where we’re at in our relationship, and we want to be careful about doing things for each other that aren’t in line with where we are.

That’s it though. Rather than assigning days, I just try to get as much done as I can Monday – Thursday so that I can have a simple weekend. I’ve found that dedicating Tuesday and the Wednesdays that I don’t physically have to go to class to doing homework means that if I get a surprise visitor or just don’t feel like doing homework during the week I’m not dead on Sunday from the amount I have to do.

Total time to complete: about an hour and a half.

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