How to get organized for the new semester!

Hi guys!

Just a quick blog entry on my next project. I’ve read up on new types of study-habit structuring, and have come across a project I really liked called “4 weeks to a 4.0”. It’s a “four-part series to help you transform into an efficient student,” where each week tackles a typical problem area for students, such as time management, note taking, organization etc.

I’ll link to each weeks article at the beginning of the related paragraph, and I highly recommend visiting Cal Newport’s site, as it’s been a huge inspiration for me. I also recommend his book “How to Become a Straight-A Student”, where he explains many of the concepts from the articles in further detail.

For week one I found it hard to create an autopilot schedule at first, not knowing whether I’d have recurring tasks. Therefore, for this tip I recommend attending class for a week without scheduling any work when the new semester starts, and looking at your lecture schedule to map out which tasks repeat week after week. After I’d mapped out what tasks needed to get done on a regular basis, I created this activity planner, which I just hung on the fridge. That way, I knew I’d see it every day.

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I’ve also added in volunteer work and work-outs, as these are also recurring on my calendar. Really, anything you want to do on a regular basis, whether it’s learning how to play the guitar, or practise jiu jitsu, or even setting aside some time for relaxation or meditation, put it on the calendar. That way, you know you’ll have time for it.

I also have a system for mapping out my week which I’ve created myself. I use these three books:

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The pink is for mapping out the entire week; what’s the required reading? Which assignments will take up most of my time? This book is all about the finer details that the autopilot schedule does not mention.

The black moleskine is my day planner. I bring this with me to university every day, in case the professor says something about the work that is not mentioned in the lecture notes or schedule, or if I get an idea for an assignment (or a blog post). That way I can write it down as soon as I get the idea or message, and not have to struggle with remembering it all day.

The gold notebook I usually only use on very busy days, or when I’m in an exam period. I use it to plan individual days, hour by hour. It makes the workload seem more manageable, as I get to rip out the page or cross off things on the list when I’m done.

Week two is all about taking smarter notes. This I’m just going to link to Cal Newport’s blog post on, and again, I highly recommend just clicking through the links he’s included, such as “Why Most Students Don’t Understand the Real Goal of Note-Taking”.

Week three builds on week two in its mastery of assignments. One tip I’ll add for reading assignments, is that if the professor has added some questions about the text, read these before doing the reading assignment. I usually keep the questions next to me while reading, and try to answer them as I progress through the text. Remember, you can always alter or edit your answer later, if something you’ve written contradicts what is mention later in the text.

Week four is something that I’ve prepared for, but have yet to utilise, namely “The Project Folder Method”. I have purchased four project folders, as I’m taking three university courses on English grammar and literature, and one math subject which I’m reading independently. My plan is to use the entire folder for both the coursework and the essays and assignments. I’ve marked the outside of the folders with important dates, such as the exam dates and when important obligatory assignments are due. I’m planning on using plastic sleeves or other inserts for essays, and marking the front of these “sub-folders” in the same way, with important dates and plans for research and writing.

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I think this is a cool project, and I hope it will inspire some of you to try something similar! I may write a follow-up after a few weeks, letting you know whether the system has worked for me or not, but as of today, it seems like a clever way of structuring your work.

I hope your semester is off to a great start!

– Benedicte

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How to get organized for the new semester!

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