With both a new year and a new semester beginning, it’s the perfect time to find new ways to stay on top of assignments and organize your daily tasks. To get you on track, here’s a guide to help you weigh the pros and cons of four different organization methods.
What you’re looking for: a time-blocking technique.
Google Calendar is easy to connect to your Google account. You can add events, block out your time visually, and modify events seamlessly. You can also invite others and allow them to respond to events that you’re hosting, like a study break or a meeting. The online calendar syncs between devices, so you can access it from anywhere. If you’re part of a club or an organization, you can also direct anyone who needs to meet with you to your Google calendar so they can see when you’re both free!
It’s harder to just put “tasks” into your calendar. Google has a own to-do list widget, but it’s separate from the calendar, so you can’t view them side by side. Therefore, you won’t be able to see what you need on your calendar to do unless you block a time for it.
Best tip: Color-code your time slots to make it clear what each event is without even having to read the description. For example, classes can be purple, while homework and workouts can be green and yellow, respectively.
Substitute: Not convinced by Google Calendar? You can use your device’s manual calendar, like iCal for Apple or Calendar for Microsoft Windows.
What you’re looking for: a flexible task-oriented approach
Notion is a collaborative online program, so you’re able to share your plans with others and access your schedule anywhere. It has a minimalistic interface that’s easy to navigate and it’s pretty aesthetically pleasing, with the added ability to identify tasks or notes with emojis, as well as incorporate code if you so wish. You can assign tasks to yourself and track your progress, filing them under categories like “Not Started,” “In Progress,” and “Complete.”
Since it’s not a conventional calendar, if you have a recurring event, you’ll have to write it in as many times as you want it to appear. Similarly, although Notion embeds other platforms, it’s pretty self-contained, so you have to set everything up yourself. If someone invites you to a Google event, for example, you have to write that in as opposed to being able to automatically add it to your calendar. Notion is also still a relatively new platform, which means that it still has some kinks to work out and it takes some getting used to.
Best tip: You can also tag your tasks with priority to help you organize which ones to complete first. Students can get a free upgrade to a Personal Pro plan that allows unlimited file uploads and tracks version history.
Substitute: Any online or physical to-do list will have the same idea as Notion. Many platforms, such as Todoist, allow you to categorize tasks and check them off as you go, though the opportunity for collaboration may vary depending on the application you choose.
What you’re looking for: a more concrete task-oriented approach
The Eisenhower Matrix, explained more in-depth here, is a way of categorizing your tasks that can be created with any sheet of paper or online template. You separate tasks into a matrix with columns that say “Urgent and “Less urgent” and rows titled “Important” and “Less important”—while the original convention is that each box is designated “do now,” “schedule,” “delegate,” or “skip.” You can decide how you want to deal with each category; for example, delegating might not be an option. The matrix provides a visual and organized approach to tackling what might be a full schedule and allows you to properly prioritize your work.
It may take some time to determine what setup works best for you, between deciding what tasks go in which boxes and how you want to manage each box. The method depicts priority rather than deadlines, which can make it hard to think long term.
Best tip: Don’t get bogged down in the boxes. Sometimes, to best maintain focus, you need to take a break from an urgent and important task and spend time on another, even a less urgent and unimportant one.
Substitute: Any method of grouping tasks by priority that works best for you. It will help you answer the question, “Where do I begin?”
What you’re looking for: a mixture of everything
First, you get the immediate satisfaction of crossing tasks off your list when you complete them, which is something you might miss out on when it’s digital. Depending on the format of the planner you choose, you’ll likely have space for both a day to day to-do list and a month-long planner. This means that you have room to schedule both events and regular assignments.
It can be a hassle to carry around a physical planner with you every time you want to see what you need to do next. If events change, you’ll have to cross them out, which means if your schedule moves around a lot, your planner may get messy quickly.
Best tip: Devise a standard rule for how you want to organize assignments. Two common ones are writing assignments in the “day” area for when they are assigned and noting their due dates there, or writing assignments in the “day” area on the date they are due.
Substitute: Can’t find any pre-made planners that fit your style? Go for a bullet journal. You can start from scratch with an empty notebook and make sure it looks the way you want it to.