Across the country, the school year has started for many college students. Students might wonder how to stay organized or manage their time. When I began the journey to become a second-career nurse, I was balancing school, work, parenting, and my personal life. Having a planner was critical for me to manage my time. Below is a list of seven things I included in my planner and recommend students to include in theirs – the last one may surprise you!
- Class times. Put in all your scheduled lectures, discussion sections, clinicals, & labs.
- Class dates of quizzes, exams, and project due dates. Take the syllabus at the beginning of the semester or quarter and jot down when all the quizzes, exams, practicums, & project deadlines are taking place. Use a different color or shape to identify these in your calendar quickly. I would use blue for quizzes and red for exams or significant projects. The color coding allowed me to easily see when something was coming up and when I needed to study or prepare for something that would impact my grade.
- Commute time. I live in Los Angeles, and sometimes commutes can take an hour or more to/from school or work. It’s important to factor this in if commutes can be lengthy in your area, especially if you are responsible for daycare or preschool drop-offs & pickups. Remember to factor in parking as well since that may add to the time it takes to get to a destination. Some people have to park in a garage or lot far from the building where they work, have classes, or have clinical. One of my clinicals took place in a hospital that was a 15-20 minute walk through a tunnel and stairways from the parking lot where we were assigned. If you forget to factor in the extra time it takes to park and walk to your destination, you can end up being late.
- Other family members’ schedules. Your family’s schedule is essential. I put in when my parents need me to give them rides to doctor’s appointments or dental procedures. I also add my husband’s business trips (meaning I’m single-parenting my daughter while he travels) or when my daughter has dance, sports, religious education, classmate birthday parties, or school events.
- Meals, sleep, & shower/hygiene schedule. If you need 6-8 hours of sleep to function, make sure you schedule it in your calendar. I say this because my targeted bedtimes would sometimes surprise me based on how early I’d need to get up for my commute, etc. Sleep schedules are also important to note if you have children or other family members who require your help to get ready for bed or to get ready for their day.
- Study time. The other mom in my nursing program and I found it challenging to study at home once our kids were out of school. I sometimes booked a private room in a library or computer lab to study. Mostly, I would use my spare time to read or do homework between classes or before class if I arrived at school early. I recommend scheduling studying time to realistically determine how much time you have to study, especially if you have other competing obligations such as family or work.
- Events or activities that nourish me or bring me joy. I also color-coded these events or activities to quickly glance at my calendar and see that I planned something fun each week. This one activity was not an obligation or part of a busy to-do checklist of duties. It was something I looked forward to doing and had nothing to do with school. I recommend including at least one weekly activity that replenishes you and brings you joy or comfort. Make it happen. The activity could be family game night, happy hour, facetime with a long-distance friend, attending a party, reading a book, yoga, hiking, painting, baking, massage, seeing a musical, or going on a mini-retreat. Each person has different interests and things that bring them joy. Make sure you know what that is for yourself. Ensure you are doing something for yourself at least once a week that helps you reset. You may be a student balancing many things in life, but you’re not a robot. You are a human and have other interests and desires outside of school. Make sure you regularly do things that light you up!