Q: I’m a student, not a businessperson. But I still find it just as hard to keep to my schedule and finish my tasks and appointments. I can’t finish my study plan! Do you have any advice for me?
A: Absolutely! Total, Relaxed Organization is a life-saver for students. With TRO you’ll get more done with less stress, which means you’ll learn better—because stress actually kills brain cells! (The Franklin Institute 2004) Fortunately for your brain cells, we’re going to share some secrets that make TRO work in a school environment, and help you learn faster in the process. Some of these secrets are based on TRO fundamentals for everybody-and some are specifically tailored for student needs. Here you’ll find our 10 golden rules of student organization (plus we’ll throw in one extra, bonus rule that lets you get more sleep when things get crazy).
Before we start, however, be sure you’re using or looking at Total, Relaxed Organization training. That’s the foundation. So, without further ado, these rules are the tweaks that make it fit perfectly into campus life:
Rule #1. First off, plug all your syllabus assignments into your task list (the Trog Bar if you’ve got it). Use the hard date (or “reminder”) for the day and time when you can’t put that task off any longer without stressing. Then use the “Due Date” for the soft goal (usually a day or two before).
- Enter the assignment due date and essential information in the subject line:
Math 310, Chap 34 (Due 4/17)
Rule #2. Schedule your classes and long-term projects. For most assignments, you may want to schedule a “Study” block to work on a bunch of general assignments. In other words, don’t put every assignment into the calendar. You shouldn’t have 80 tasks every night like “do homework for Bio,” “do homework for Trig,” or … “do homework for Super Smash Brothers Melee Theory and Practice.” (And yes, that is a real course offered at a real university.)
- For longer projects, schedule shorter blocks as the “next step.”
- Example: 10 hours of research time (the next step of a project) could be broken down and scheduled as “Research 2 hours” one day, then “Research 4 hours“ another day, until all research is done. Most of the time, you won’t know how much total research time is needed until you start, anyway!
Rule #3. Don’t try so hard! By that, we mean: don’t try to start and finish a big assignment in one sitting. Instead, learn to use the project/next step TRO approach to advantage. You will see a huge increase in productivity if you use your short class breaks to accomplish small steps in a lengthier project (a few pages of reading here, a few questions on an assignment there, etc.). For more help in this area, check out the lesson called “Deferring” in our online training manual.
Rule #4. Do similar tasks together. For example, write when you’re writing, and research when you’re already researching. After all, if you’re already in a “writing frame-of-mind,” why not take a shot at a bigger assignment while your brain’s warmed up? This goes together with #2 and #3: do part now and feel confident about finishing the other steps later.
Rule #5. Busy students should not run errands during the week! Collect your errands and run them all at the same time. For example, schedule your weekly run to Kwik-e-mart for one to two hours on a Saturday.
Rule #6. Leave room for lunch. And socializing, for that matter. And naps. Otherwise, you may go insane. Insanity tends to be bad for productivity.
Rule #7. Give yourself ample “buffer” time. When you’re scheduling, don’t book everything back-to-back, or you will find yourself falling behind. And falling apart! Students’ lives are predictably unpredictable, so this is the only way you can plan for unforeseen obstacles.
Rule #8. It’s okay to say no. Really. Say “no” early to things that will overflow your schedule. If someone asks you to take on some task or run for some office or join some club, and you get a sickening, panicky feeling in the pit of your stomach … that’s your brain telling you “don’t do it.” Listen to it!
Rule #9. Step awayyyyy from the computer. You know why I’m telling you this. If you think about it, you probably get at least one Facebook message, or one Gmail chat message, or an email every three minutes. That means you’re distracted every three minutes, and that means your concentration is broken. It takes even longer to get yourself back in the groove after you’ve been interrupted … so just turn it all off. Maybe even turn off your music – especially if it’s got lyrics in it. You might be tempted to take a break to belt your favorite song into a hair brush while serenading the mirror. Don’t even pretend like you’ve never done it!
Rule #10. YouTube and video games are the ultimate no-no. I think this rule speaks for itself, no?
Bonus rule #11: Be an early bird. Start the very first step of projects weeks in advance (for example, brainstorm for a paper topic, ask the teacher a question about the final project, make an outline for your big paper, pick up project materials, etc). This helps us put up safeguards against procrastination, who is our nemesis (yes, that’s right – procrastinating assignments is Public Enemy #1). Then a little later, re-process the project and set up the next step as TRO teaches you to do. This way, piece by piece, you complete the project – instead of pulling an all-nighter right before a deadline.
Follow these rules, and you’ll be golden … just like they are.