Stay organized in college with the use of something you most likely have in your pocket---your smartphone. Fifteen years ago, the main tool for keeping track of day-to-day activities was a day-planner which was cumbersome to carry around, and easily misplaced.
Smartphones, now proverbial extensions of our bodies, are able to accomplish everything that pen and paper could do, and more. As a bonus, it can be backed up in multiple locations in case you misplace your phone.
With the use of your smartphone, you can ensure that your semester is organized, that you are on-time for events, and that your study time is productive.
Calendar your semester
A major benefit of smartphone calendars is audio alerts. This feature is invaluable, especially for those who forget to check their calendars on a regular basis.
Organizing the information from your syllabi at the beginning of the semester is time consuming, but worthwhile. Once it's done, you don't have to stress about missing deadlines. Within the first day or two of class, you should:
- Enter all important deadlines from your syllabi into your calendar (tests, papers, projects).
- Set alerts for each of these assignments at a time that will be convenient to check them---i.e., not at 5 AM or during another class.
- For assignments, make calendar alerts that will remind you a few days before the assignment is due, the day that it is due, and 10 minutes before it is due. That way, you have multiple lines of defense and no excuse for forgetting to turn in an assignment.
- If it is a larger assignment, enter a calendar “countdown” so that you don't find yourself in a time crunch---i.e., two weeks till paper due. Also, you can break it up into smaller chunks, and then place deadlines for each of those chunks on your calendar.
A term paper for example could have a deadline for the outline, the intro, the rough draft, reminders for people to review your rough draft, and the final draft. Always plan to have the assignment done a minimum of one day early. That way, if anything happens at the last minute, you have enough time to fix it before the actual due date.
- Follow your plan!!! The reason why some plans don't work is that the person doesn't follow them. It's not rocket science.
As the semester moves on, you'll be glad that you don't have to be constantly checking your syllabi. Edit your calendar if needed. Don't assume you'll remember that the test was moved forwards or backwards a week. As soon as events come up, input them into the calendar. This will keep you from accidentally double booking yourself with a study group on the same night as your friend's birthday party.
It used to be that we only set alarms to get up in the morning. Smartphone alarms are much more versatile because you can set as many as you want, you can set them up to a week in advance, you can set reoccurring alarms by day and time, and even name the alarms. If you tend to be forgetful, use this feature to it's full advantage.
- For those who have a hard time getting up and getting to class on time, set 3 alarms: one for getting up, one for 5-10 minutes till you leave (to alert you that it's time to start gathering your belongings), and the third for when you need to be walking out the door. This is especially helpful for people with a long morning ritual.
- Set reoccurring alarms for reoccurring events. Luckily, if your schedule changes on a daily basis, you can have reoccurring alarms specific to each day of the week.
- If you have a tendency to hyper-focus, set alarms for everything! You might be taking a nap or studying between your 12 and 2 o'clock classes, and completely lose track of time. Set the alarm with enough time for you to pack up your belongings and be at class on time.
- Set alarms the night before for non-reoccurring events, like doctor's appointments, meeting a friend for lunch, or picking up bananas on the way home, just in case you don't hear the calendar alert.
- If the event is less than seven days in advance, you can set it as a reoccurring alarm for the day that it will happen the following week. You'll have to remember to turn it off afterwards, or else it'll keep telling you that you have a 3 o'clock dentist appointment.
- If you have a hard time getting to bed, set 3 alarms: one telling you to start wrapping things up, one 15 minutes later saying to start getting ready for bed, and one for the time you want to physically be in bed. This gives you adequate time to wind down and finish anything that you are working on.
- NAME ALL THE ALARMS! You can change the alarm names so that it doesn't read “alarm”. Be descriptive: “Leave in 10 minutes” or “Lunch with Margot”.
- If you are an online student, make alarms for predetermined study times. If you need transition time, make 2 alarms: one alerting you that study time will start in an hour, so be packing up whatever you are doing, and then a second one to signal the start of study time.
You might start getting worried that you will have too many alarms going on, but alarms can do two very important things: 1) they can remove the worry to remember everything, which can lead to unnecessary stress and lessened focus when you do get around to things; and 2) they will help you get mentally prepared for a task before you have to actually start working on it, thus making your time more productive.
Timers are an invaluable tool for organizing your study time. Some people are comfortable studying for hours at a time. For those who are more easily distracted, timers will help you stay on task, while allowing time for breaks. This is especially helpful for those with ADD or ADHD.
- Use your timer to keep yourself from getting off-task. Determine the amount of time you want to study in chunks. For example, if you decide that you want to study for the next hour, then set your timer to go off in 1 hour. Any distractions that come your way, you can tell yourself that you will address them as soon as the timer goes off.
- If you'd like to take a break between chunks of study time, put your break on a timer (something like 15 minutes). Too many times people say “I need a break” and then get on Facebook for the next 2 hours. Make your break an actual break, with an actual planned time for the break to end, and for you to get back to work.
- If you have a few hours before you need to leave and don't want to go through the hassle of setting an alarm, figure out how much time you have and set a timer instead. It accomplishes the same goal.
Do you always feel like you write a to-do list and then you can't find it? There are a number of apps in phones that will allow you to create notes with different names. If you'd like a dedicated “to-do” list app, Wunderlist, Task, and Pocketlist are all included on the Forbes “Best To-Do list Apps.” Several apps allow you to create lists verbally.
Smartphones are here to stay and vital for people who are either incredibly busy or incredibly forgetful. With your smartphone, you can create a schedule with manageable goals, study time with fewer distractions, and set alarms that remind you to be where you're supposed to be, when you're supposed to be there...as long as you stick with the plan!