Getting organized for the semester


HOW TO SURVIVE THRIVE WHEN IT SEEMS LIKE YOU HAVE 25 HOURS WORTH OF WORK AND ONLY 24 HOURS IN THE DAY – FROM THE EYES OF AN ENGINEERING STUDENT


Ever had that feeling where you have a daunting mile-long to-do list, and the end isn’t in sight? Feeling so overwhelmed by how much you have to do in so little time? Have you started falling behind on work and missing meetings because you’re overwhelmed?

I’ve been there. I’m still there sometimes, but I can manage it so much better now, and hope this helps you to do the same! Just follow these 5 simple steps and watch the magic unfold. Hope you find it helpful!


STEP ONE: CHECK YOUR SYLLABUS(ES) & RECORD DUE DATES

I usually do this at the beginning of the semester, but it can be done no matter how far you are into your classes. I go class by class, focusing on the assignments and readings. I make different folders in OneNote for each class, and the first section is always “Course Info”, which consists of “Deliverables”, “Assignment Descriptions”, and sometimes “Schedule” pages. On the “Deliverables” page, I record all of my deliverables for each class in a table (I use OneNote but you could use anything).

Here’s an example of the table I include in the “Deliverables” page from my optimization course:

Item

Weight (%)

Due Date

Grade

In-class problem submission (15 submissions)

10

N/A

100%

Quiz 1: Linear Algebra/Simplex Method

8

Oct 8

100%

Quiz 2: Sensitivity Analysis

...

...

...

...

Note: I highlight the cells in green once the deliverable is complete and record the grade as soon as I get it.

This table can be found in the “Templates” file attached 😊


STEP TWO

Most syllabuses include brief descriptions for the assignments as well. I sometimes like to just copy and paste these descriptions into the “Assignment Descriptions” page. Again, you can use anything, I just use OneNote! This one’s SUPER DUPER QUICK AND EASY!!!


STEP THREE

Next up, we want to populate our “Schedule” page with weekly unit names, dates, required readings & activities, and assessments. The number of columns on this one may vary from class to class, depending on what’s in the syllabus. For some of my classes, we don’t really have readings or weekly assignments, just big projects, so I don’t create the schedule page. Here’s an example the most detailed schedule I’ve had:

Unit #

Unit Name

Unit Dates

Readings

Activities

Assessments

1

Managerial Accounting and the Business Environment

May 13-23

Chapter 1

Unit 01

☒Review outline & assessments

☒ Complete Practice Test

☒ Practice Exercises E1-1,2,3

​☒ LearnSmart Unit Assignment 1

DUE May 23, 11:59PM

☒ Post-Class Quiz 1

DUE May 23, 11:59PM

2

Cost terms, Concepts, and Classifications

May 24-30

Chapter 2

Unit 02

☒ Practice Exercises E2-2,3,4,5,6

☒ Practice Problems P2-13, 15, 16, 19, 21

☒ LearnSmart Unit Assignment 2

DUE May 30, 11:59PM

☒ Post-Class Quiz 2

DUE May 30, 11:59PM

3

Cost Behaviour: Analysis & Use

May 31-June 6

Chapter 3

Unit 03

☐ Practice Exercises: E3-1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7

☐ Practice Problems: P3-14, 15, 16

☐ LearnSmart Unit Assignment 3

DUE June 6, 11:59PM

☐ Post-Class Quiz 3

DUE June 6, 11:59PM

4

...

...

...

...

...

I highlighted the tasks I didn’t get to, so I could refer to them when studying to get some fresh problems. Once again, I colour the cells as the weeks go by.

(This template is also attached!)


STEP FOUR

Now that you have your courses laid out, it’s time to set up your calendar. If you like to keep things classic with a pen and paper calendar, or you have a whiteboard, do whatever works for you, but I personally like to use my Outlook. It lets me organize all my meetings and deadlines, get reminders, colour code my entries, and sync with my phone calendar.

Let me break it down – I usually have 9 or so categories: one for each course, one for my co-op, one for GWIL, and one for life stuff (i.e., appointments). Then I put my course outline (or my “Deliverables” page) on one screen, and my calendar on the other, and I record ALL the deadlines for anything that contributes to my grade (do this for all your classes). I also make sure to set reminders for each one; I tend to give a week for midterms, finals, and major assignments, and 3 days for quizzes and smaller assessments. This ensures I never have to scramble last minute because I forgot something!

2020 - Pandemics

3100 - Design

3170 - Biomaterials

3410 - Systems & Control

3430 - Heat & Mass

Accounting 2230

Co-op

GWIL

Life

STEP FIVE

Keep a day planner!!! I usually map out my days either the morning of, or at the beginning of the week. I’m working at my co-op full time right now, so I plan my days in much more detail using this website. I break up my weekly tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces, and schedule time slots for everything.

HOWEVER: When I’m in a full course load at school, I use a paper planner; I could honestly spend hours in Indigo looking them all… This is a lot simpler than the one I use for work, but I find it super effective for school! I prioritize my To-Do list and estimate how many items I can fit per day – then I just draw little checkboxes for each of the items and check them off throughout the day as I complete them!