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QuaranTIME Management: Creative Calendaring

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By Faith Harron
Undergraduate Learning Consultant
Class of 2021, Mechanical Engineering

Getting tired hours earlier, the heavier courseload starting to pile up, extenuating circumstances becoming the norm, dealing with the uncertainty while trying to accommodate schoolwork and other responsibilities...

Calendaring and to-do lists are not first priority. Things might get done, maybe, but not when we plan—and maybe not on time...

My uncle sends me a meme about needing a clock that tells you what day of the week and month it is. I concur that this would be useful. But I’m also (re)learning how to calendar and manage my time and expectations, and why it’s important to continue doing so.

Why calendar?

One of the main goals of scheduling during quarantime is making a reassuring, uncomplicated plan.

Humans quite like knowing what to do and the time it takes to do it—doing so actually reduces our stress, rather than creating it. Not knowing when I’ll have time to do an assignment only adds to my worry.

Creating a plan to simulate “normal life” and then sticking to it can provide certainty and continuity amidst news that can be anything but.

What’s a good calendar?

I mean, it’s kind of like a good major—whatever works best for you is what you should do. But if you’re looking for our recommendations, a good calendar has:

  • Enough space allocated for each day.
    • Many calendars don’t provide the same amount of time for weekends as for weekdays, but we find that undergraduates are most productive on Sunday, so making sure there’s enough time there is important.
  • Hourly or by half hour.
    • Allows you to break up the day into clearly-visible chunks, and makes finding time for work or a break easier.
  • Color-coding or reminder capabilities: especially if your calendar is online, setting reminders for class times or due dates can be useful. If you prefer paper or you have an artistic streak, color can delineate different classes and work.
    • Choose one color per class and stick to it—you can change your Canvas class colors to reflect this.
  • Time allotted to non-negotiables, which include (at minimum) classes, sleeping, and meals, but can include a job or other responsibilities depending on preference.
    • Students perform better with consistent routines, regardless of when those routines occur (including between weekends and weekdays).
    • Eight hours of sleep (preferably during the night) is vital for academic success—students getting just seven hours of sleep perform 33% worse on critical thinking and analysis tests than peers sleeping for eight.
    • Routines are also an important component of resilience. Read more on the crucial nature of resilience, especially now.
  • Time allocated for self-care.
    • Especially in these times, finding something to do just for enjoyment is crucial. This can be anything from recreating famous paintings with household objects to building an indoor obstacle course to cooking with friends.

What do I put in my calendar?

If you need help beginning your plan, I find a simple t-chart with four categories like the one below useful.

The four columns are:

  • to-do: a short title for the designated work/task/meeting
  • time: an estimate of how long the task will take
  • due: when the particular task is due/will happen
  • do: an idea of when you think you’ll have time to complete this task or when this meeting will occur

I also aggregate my tasks by type: school/classes, extracurricular/work, and other.

Notebook page with four columns drawn

Tasks I consider non-negotiables are class, sleeping, meals, and workouts. These will be sorted into my hourly calendar first. After non-negotiables, it’s easy to see where and how much time I have weekly, and I can allocate remaining tasks from the list in the spaces.  

Some students find that seeing all these tasks on the calendar is overwhelming. To alleviate this, just non-negotiables can go in the calendar, and the task list can be referred to when you have time and aren’t sure what to do.

Overall, creating a schedule can help lessen worry surrounding class and other responsibilities, as well as serve as an opportunity to add certainty and control to daily life in the middle of—well, everything. We hope this empowers you to start planning in a way that makes sense to you!

Bonus tip: your Academic Skills Coaches are here for you throughout the quarter. If you need help, reach out and schedule a Zoom session with us. We can chat about anything that's on your mind.