If you’d like to begin the new year with confidence and a goal-oriented mindset, the act of creating a schedule can help you in that direction.

When created purposefully, a schedule can be a tool that frees you to place a priority on the matters of greatest importance to you. In their book How to Study in CollegeEleventh Edition, Walter Pauk and Ross J.Q. Owens state that “…following a schedule soon becomes a source of strength and a boon to your life” (p. 44). In other words, a schedule helps you exercise greater control over your time and your attitude, which leads to increased confidence and an enhanced sense of well being. You spend less time worrying about what needs to be done, and when you can do it, because you have a plan that helps you track both your activities and your time.

To get yourself organized, Pauk and Owens recommend a “three-part scheduling system” that consists of a master schedule, a weekly schedule, and a daily schedule.

  • The master schedule provides an overview of planned weekly activities for a set period of time (e.g., a quarter or semester). To begin, create a grid with the days of the week at the top, and the hours of the day listed along the left margin. Fill in all your required activities (e.g., class sessions, weekly meetings, mealtimes, sleep, etc.). The hours of the day left blank represent your weekly blocks of free time. It helps to keep this master schedule posted in a highly visible location, such as above your desk.
  • Your weekly schedule starts with the master schedule as its foundation. (You can make a copy of your master as a starting point.) The events unique to that week (such as doctor’s appointments, lunch meetings, or dinner parties) are then placed in their appropriate time slots.
  • Your daily schedule functions as the day’s to-do list. It should encapsulate all the things you need to accomplish. Write it down on a notecard, or keep it in your smartphone, so that it’s portable and accessible wherever you go throughout the day. (And don’t forget the ever-satisfying act of crossing those items off the list once they’re done.) Consider creating this list the night before — it will help you get all the next day’s tasks off your mind (pp. 46-50).

In addition to these tips, the authors recommend dividing your time into blocks in order to ensure you’re using your resources most wisely. They include the following suggestions for using your time in the most productive manner:

  • Use longer blocks of time to accomplish bigger tasks.
  • Choose to do your most significant tasks during the hours you’re most alert. (For most people, these hours take place during the daytime.)
  • Don’t make your plans too detailed. Crafting a schedule that’s down to the last minute and detail will likely frustrate you, as your chances of following such a schedule to a tee are slim.
  • Account for non-work-related activities, such as exercise or family time, in your schedule. Your plan should encompass your whole life, not just work or school. (pp. 45-46)

Though creating and adhering to a schedule can be a challenge, you’re likely to see the rewards in many aspects of your life. Who knows what goals you’ll reach and tasks you’ll accomplish by creating a plan and standing by it?

Reference: Content adapted from Pauk, Walter and Owens, Ross J. Q. 2014. How to Study in College, Eleventh Edition. Boston, MA. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

What tips, tools, or techniques do you use in order to create a schedule for yourself? What time-management advice do you offer students at the start of the semester? Share them in our comments section.