The first week of a course can seem a bit overwhelming, especially after you’ve had a chance to review the syllabus and size up the workload. Every great course is packed with information to learn, concepts to practice, and projects to help solidify new skills.
Regardless of whether the opportunity to learn all those new skills is exciting to you, the thought of organizing all the work into a manageable timeline can be daunting. However, learning how to organize those coursework deadlines can help you skip the feeling of being overwhelmed and get right to being excited about learning the course material.
Our recommended method for scheduling school deadlines is to take the semester’s course load and break it down into manageable steps.
Follow these steps to schedule your school deadlines:
1. Look at the big assignments due on your syllabus right at the beginning of the semester.
Don’t wait to look through the entire list of assignments because you’re trying to avoid that feeling of being overwhelmed. The earlier you review everything that will be due throughout the course, the earlier you’ll be able to put a plan together.
While looking through the list of assignments, try to determine how much time each will take and mark the assignments that will take the longest.
2. Create or buy a calendar or planner and write in the assignment deadlines.
There are tons of tools available to keep track of assignment deadlines: paper calendars, paper planners, whiteboards, apps, and more. It doesn’t matter which tool you choose as long as it’s one you can regularly check and update.
If you’re feeling ambitious, consider planning your assignment deadlines a couple of days before the course due dates. This way, you’ll always be ahead and you’ll have some buffer time in case you run into any unexpected problems.
3. Look over the whole calendar.
Are there any busy days? Are there any big projects with overlapping deadlines? Do any big projects require preplanning to be done at a certain time? Reviewing the calendar can allow you to plan designated workdays. It can also help you see which days will have a lighter workload, allowing you to get a head start in preparation for days when your workload seems like it will be heavier.
4. Check to see if any of these big assignments are broken down into smaller projects. If the big projects haven’t been broken down for you, break them down yourself!
For example, instead of writing “find sources” into your planner, try breaking it down into something more manageable like the following:
Determine research questions.
Meet with topic librarian.
Find 15–20 sources.
Read through sources, making notes and references along the way.
Choose the most viable sources.
Create an annotated bibliography.
5. Try scheduling backward.
For example, if you have a big research paper due at the end of the course, create a plan like this, adding dates and time periods appropriate to your schedule:
Polishing and editing: one week
Writing the rough draft: two weeks
Outlining: one week
Finding sources: two weeks
Deciding on a topic: one week
Although learning new material can be challenging, you should always feel excited about where the new knowledge can take you. Don’t dampen that excitement by allowing yourself to feel overwhelmed; use these steps and our other suggested time management skills to get ahead and stay ahead!