Organize Your Calendar (and Life!) in 7 Simple Steps

Winter break is coming to a close and this bizarre thing you've had on your hands called “free time” is about to be a thing of the past. Nice, wasn’t it? Given how hectic finals week was, it must have been great to catch up on sleep, run errands, and go about your day without the feeling of impending doom hanging over you.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could avoid ever feeling that way again? Or better yet – if there was a way to use this opportunity to become more productive, more organized and more efficient? Well, setting up your own study schedule is as easy as can be with these 7 basic tips to setting up a study calendar.

1. Assess your current schedule

A schedule will do you no good if you leave stuff out. Don’t tell yourself, “Oh, I know I have to work next Tuesday. I’ll just study when I get home.” There’s a very good chance you’ll forget, so add everything to your calendar.

If you have a regular work schedule, that’s one of the first things you should pencil in. Your calendar should also list class times, exams and assignment due dates, routine errands, and any other activities you do regularly, from going to the gym to your weekly date night with your significant other to attending church.

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At this point, your goal is to assess all of your responsibilities, and to get all of your time commitments in one place. Be realistic, and you’ll set yourself up to succeed.

2. List all the subjects you need to study

Once you’ve entered the more predictable tasks into your calendar, your next step is to list every topic you need to study. Not your classes – the individual subjects of study that make up those classes. Use a course syllabus or a DSST Factsheet like the one below to make sure you don’t miss anything important!

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If you were studying for DSST’s Art of the Western World exam, for example, you would schedule individual study blocks for the art of the Ancient Near East, the art of ancient Egypt, the art of Classical Greece, the art of ancient Rome, and so on.

3. Pull out your calendar

There are no shortage of options to choose from for a calendar, including websites, smartphone apps, and a good old day planner.

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Here’s the only advice that counts: use what’s easiest for you. Some prefer having all of their tasks in a shareable location like Google Calendar; others have a favorite smartphone app that they feel makes all the difference; still others prefer the foolproof nature of a physical calendar, kept close at all times. All that matters is that you’re comfortable with the tool you choose, and that it’s easy for you to use.

4. Schedule study sessions in 20- or 30-minute blocks

A large body of scholarly research agrees that marathon study sessions are counter-productive. In fact, the Pomodoro technique revolves around the notion that bursts of focused effort separated by short breaks keep you fresh and engaged, while also providing better knowledge retention. Also, shorter study blocks will be easier to schedule than 1-hour (or longer!) study sessions.

5. Write down the subject you’re studying in each block

The easiest way to keep track and create checkpoints for your studying is to assign each block to a specific topic. Knowing at a glance what you plan to study that day will also make it easier to organize your textbooks and other study materials, maximizing your study time. It also means you won’t wind up lugging your 1,000+ pages worth of Principles of Finance textbooks around with you all day when you really needed to be studying for your Fundamentals of Cybersecurity exam.

6. Stick to your schedule

This should go without saying, but here it is: There’s no point to setting up a schedule if you don’t stick to it as rigorously as possible. The bad news is it can be hard to get started, especially if you’re not already used to using some kind of calendar. The good news is gets easier once you actually do get started.

Try this: once you have your calendar set up, get yourself into the habit of checking it every day. Make it part of your morning routine. Soon it will be second nature – you fix yourself breakfast and you skim your calendar to see what’s in store for the day. If you’re using a digital calendar, like Google Calendar, you can have it send you an email when you wake up that lists all of your appointments and study blocks for the day.

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Remember that the point to using a calendar is to make it easier for you to stay organi zed. If you find yourself perpetually forgetting to check your physical calendar, try a digital version. If you never remember to check your emailed agenda, set it up to send you a text message reminder. Once you find the trigger that works for you, you’ll quickly develop the habit.

7. Maintain, maintain, maintain!

Don’t forget the skills you taught yourself as the semester recedes from memory. These tips will absolutely help you get and stay organized throughout a hectic semester. They’ll also help you keep tabs on your responsibilities outside of school – whether it’s balancing work and family life, finding time for your favorite hobby, researching new career opportunities or setting aside time to relax!

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Have a great scheduling tip that we didn’t mention here? Let us know about it in the comments, or chat with us on Facebook. And if you already have a calendar you love, check out our tips on how to improve your time management in school.

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