Organising Disorder

Do you find yourself a few weeks into the semester, fumbling around with multiple notebooks, random bits of paper and post-it notes, trying to remember where you wrote down that thing, that your tutor, said you had to get done this week? Are you overwhelmed with stuff that needs to get done and not sure what to start first or how you’re going to complete it all? It’s time to get yourself a student weekly plan.

When you have a plan and know exactly what needs to get done and when you’re going to find that stress and overwhelm start to dissolve. Wherever you are in your studies, your organisation or your semester, there is always an opportunity to make a plan for how to move forward as efficiently and effectively as possible.

There are three steps you need to work through to manage your week. Let’s go through them one at a time.

01 | Typical Week Plan

A typical weekly plan is a general plan and starting point as you move through the semester one week at a time. As soon as you have your class timetable for the semester you can start to develop your typical weekly plan and block out the times allocated to certain activities.

A one-page weekly plan can be set up as a grid or table to include the seven days of the weekdays across the top and the times of the day down the side in half-hour or quarter-hour increments. You can use a full 24 hour day from midnight, or simplify it from an hour or two before you generally wake up to an hour or so after you go to sleep.To make it super easy, I have created a template for you to use as part of my “Start-Up Student Planner.”

Once you have your typical weekly planner printed out or set up, it is important to start to add in the things that will be consistent over your semester and do not change each week. These could include:

  • Class times – When will you be in class each week?
  • Travel – How long will it take for you to travel to and from each class to ensure that you arrive early and on time.
  • Sleep – How much sleep do you need each night? What time do you need to go to bed, and what time will you wake up?
  • Meals – How much time do you need to eat each meal? Will you be at home for some of them or out of the house?
  • Exercise – When will you do exercise each week or day? Are there classes you want to attend? Or is there flexibility in the times each day?
  • Work – If you have a job with fixed hours each week, this needs to  included.
  • Planning – When are you going to review your plan and set yourself up for the next week? Maybe Sunday afternoon or evening?

Once you have all the things that are fixed in your week, you can now see the white space around them, and start to fill in the other things that need to happen.

  • Study – How much study do you need to allocate for each subject per week according to your unit guide or outline. Start to consider the best time to complete the work for each subject based on the content and the tasks and the way you study.
    • Do you have one full day dedicated to one subject, where you attend a class and then spend time directly afterwards studying or in the library?
    • Or depending on the subject and the type of information, do you need to break up your study into smaller chunks throughout the week?
  • Personal Maintenance – Do you need to include time each week for grocery shopping, cleaning the house, food preparation or other chores? Block in some time on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
  • Hobbies – Consider time for hobbies. Do you go to a class each week?
  • Social and Family – Do you need to spend time with friends or family each week? Does your family have a fixed Friday night dinner?
  • White Space – It is important to leave chunks of “white space” throughout your day that allows for unexpected tasks or activities that might come up, as well as just taking a breather.

02 | Prioritise

Once you have put in all the things you need to do during the week, it is highly likely you may be stuck for time to complete everything including all your study, especially if you are working or have a lot of other commitments.

Here’s the truth of many university courses and in particular design and architecture school. It is a demanding course and it is expected that you do a lot of work. If this is something that you are passionate about you need to prioritise and figure out how you are going to do this.

You may have to choose to make some sacrifices with your time during the semester. For example, you may have to put aside some of your hobbies or social activities or let go of video games or Netflix if you want to give your study the time it requires to do well. You may have to explain to friends and family that during the semester your priority is your study, but in the holidays you will commit to reconnecting with them.

Also, consider if there are things that you can do together. For example, if you travel to university can you use this time to study. Or, if you go to the gym or run, is there any way to re-listen to recorded lectures as part of your revision.

Studying architecture or any design discipline is a fine balance. The most important thing is to manage your time to include sleep, food and exercise so that your mind and body are in optimum condition to complete the work.

Once you have this Typical Week, this is something that you can print up and include in a digital or analogue diary, subject notebooks or pin-up above your computer and desk or scan into your phone.

03 | Individual Weekly Plan

Now that you have your “Typical Week Plan” you have a general overview of everything that needs to get done each week. However, no week is ever the same and things are going to change. So we have to start to allow for that.

As you move through each week, you will also start to develop a “Task List” of specific tasks and activities that need to occur each week. These will include exercises, homework and assessments for each subject, as well as some personal tasks such as paying a bill, getting a new student card or buying some equipment for your classes.

You will already have allocated a block of time for some of these activities on your Typical Weekly Plan.” For example, you may have 3-4 hours allocated for study for a history subject. The tasks you need to complete in this time might include research and find articles, read articles and take notes, decide on a topic, create an outline, write at least 200 words to get started.

Tasks and time are two different things. Task management is the things you have to do. Time is when you will do what.

Every Sunday night or afternoon, you can take out your “Semester Plan”, “Typical Weekly Plan” and “Task List” and adjust these for your next week ahead.

If you have an assessment due that needs a little more work than another subject, you can change your study hours for that week. If you have a family event that has come up for a Friday night you can include that and shuffle a few things around. Maybe you have to give up a night of video games for one week.

What Next?

Once you have a Weekly Plan in place you can start to breathe a sigh of relief. You will feel yourself start to relax as your brain can let go of trying to hold onto and remember everything. It’s sorted. You know when it’s going to happen. It’s in your plan. You can free up some of that mental bandwidth for actually getting the work done.

However, the plan is not the end. It’s just a plan. You’re going to need to refer to the plan, revise the plan and implement the plan. This is going to take commitment and practice. Chances are you won’t get it perfect the first time. Things will take longer than expected, unexpected task or events will arise, and you’ll get distracted. Because you’re human. So take it easy on yourself, take note of what works well and maybe not so well for you, and make adjustments as you go.

If you only do one thing this week that was slightly better than the last, you’re improving!

Liz at ArchiMash

PS… If you have any specific questions or comments about weekly planning, task or time management or productivity in general, I would love to know. You can ask me here at archimash.com/askliz.


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