Having to figure out how to navigate college while simultaneously juggling jobs, extra-curriculars, a social life, and health is a challenge. In my experience, I had to spend more time on academics than classmates because of gaps in my academic background, as well as the ever-present ADHD. This past semester, I juggled three part-time jobs along with six classes, being the president of an organization, and an avid hobbyist with fantastic friends. It was very hard, and I did have to make a lot of sacrifices, but there are a few things that helped me get organized.
If you have to schedule classes, make sure to avoid weird gaps as much as possible. This past semester, I had a lot of weird 45-minute gaps between classes. While it was a nice breather, I constantly found myself just wasting time between obligations. 45 minutes, personally, isn’t enough for me to really get into homework and delve into responsibilities, but it’s also a really long time to do nothing. By the end of the day, it was late and I had nothing done. Therefore, you should try to avoid weird gaps in your schedule. However, if that’s not possible, try your best to keep yourself accountable. Find the small things in your to-do list that can be done in a short time span and do it then. Keep it consistent. Choose a spot on campus and tell yourself you’ll be there and productive during those weird 45-minute time gaps.
Keeping Track of Responsibilities:
Everyone has their way of keeping track of responsibilities. Some people like planners, others keep everything electronic, and I guess others rely on the grace of God to keep everything in their head. Personally, I like to use both a planner and an electronic calendar, since I can access and edit the latter on multiple devices. On my electronic calendar, I set my weekly classes to be recurring, schedule when I’ll be at what job, and jot down when I’d be at events, social and otherwise, all with its different color designation. Absolutely everything concerning time would be on the calendar, including its location. I haven’t gotten advanced enough to schedule specific tasks at what time, because I’m not the best with gauging how long specific things will take me. If you’re like me, and not meeting arbitrary deadlines you set yourself will stress you out, don’t create those deadlines for certain tasks. Just keep an internal schedule to make sure that you’re getting stuff done. The one pitfall that I did have was creating a planner that became a lot of work to maintain. I would advise that anything you create shouldn’t be too elaborate. I would spend a really long time creating a weekly calendar when I could have used all of that time to be doing readings or writing essays.
The Holy Grail of All Organization:
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by life and my responsibilities, I write to-do lists. They’re the most simple and flexible way of keeping everything in order and to remember what balls you’re juggling.
Bigger picture, you should have different to-do lists for each project or facet of your life. For example, if you’re on the executive board of an organization, write down your goals and a to-do list to achieve them. If you have a big end-of-semester project, then create a to-do list for that too. What readings you’d like to do, brainstorms, drafts, abstracts, etc. Go as detailed as possible. Have big picture and day-to-day to-do lists.
Academically, I organize my to-lists with weekly tasks and daily tasks. At the beginning of the week, I create a weekly to-do list. I look up the homework for all of my classes and dump them on the weekly to-do list. As the week goes by and I have to add more tasks, they immediately go on the weekly to-do list (unless it’s super time-sensitive—then it goes into the daily to-do list). Then, as each day goes by, I write my daily to-do lists at the beginning of the day, starting with the most urgent ones. If I have a reading for the next day, I’ll write those at the top to complete first and foremost. Then, I’ll include other tasks that would be great if I could finish them that day, but it’s okay if it doesn’t. As I complete tasks, I cross them off. On weekly tasks, I like to color-code my tasks once I complete them, so I can gauge how many responsibilities and tasks I have for each facet of my life.
On Keeping Maintaining Your Own Energy:
With my busy schedule, I really had to be intentional about creating spaces for myself. On weekdays, I juggled a job that had me leaving at 11:00 PM. Because I had very little time dedicated to only studying, I had to cram it in wherever and whenever I could. From 8 in the morning until past midnight on weekends, I would cram as much as possible. On Saturday and Sunday, I ran around for 8-hour shifts that were extremely draining. Because of that, every Saturday night, I dedicated strictly to myself. All I did was lay on my bed, recuperate, and not give a single thought to school. Schedule time for yourself where all you can do is exist, guilt-free.
While these tips may be common sense, it took me a couple of years to really find my groove. Above else, find what works for you and stick to it. Happy organizing!