The Perfect Plan

It’s the night before the big paper is due. All that can be heard is the incessant ticking of the clock. Tick, tick, tick.

The cursor blinks wildly on a predominantly white screen, with only a name, date and course number typed up in the upper right corner.

Maybe starting the 10-page term paper at midnight the night before was not a good idea.

“(Keeping organized at college) is like a full-time job. You have to depend more on yourself,” Assistant Director for Educational Services Bob Wilson said.

Wilson attributes the difficulty of efficiently organizing time at college to the unstructured environment and nature of it.

“It is more incumbent on the student to plan to accomplish things they need to (accomplish) to have a successful college career,” Wilson said.
He said it is important to maintain priorities and avoid distractions.

“Simply stop and ask, `what is the best use of my time right now?'” Wilson said.

If self-discipline does not work, a good place to talk about time management problems is the GW Counseling Center.

Debra Davis, associate director at the Counseling Center and psychology intern Susan Varady sat with five students last week at the Get Organized workshop and helped them with their time management issues. Here are her tips:

1) Organize workspace and study materials

“What are your optimal conditions for studying, noise-wise and space-wise?” Davis asked.

Davis said finding a habitual place to study is a big key to keeping organized. Music can be a nuisance for some people while studying, but for others it can be a necessity. Some people need to study with an ample amount of space around them, while others only need a desk and a chair.

It is also important to keep things organized in separate notebooks for separate classes, Davis said. This way time is not wasted looking for things that are needed, she said.

2) Keep up with healthy habits

“Take care of your physical self,” Davis said. “What you ingest can interfere with your focus.”

Too much caffeine and other stimulants such as nicotine and sugar can be distracting. Exercising and getting enough sleep are also important issues to consider when organizing time, she said.

Get at least eight hours of sleep, have a regular program of physical exercise, eat well-balanced meals and have regular periods of relaxation to keep up with a healthy schedule, Davis said.

3) Prioritize and budget time

“It’s hard to hold everything in your head,” Davis said. “Get them down on paper. It takes time but saves you a lot of time in the long run.”

Keeping an appointment book with to-do lists is a solution, she said. Davis warned about making lists too general. Being more specific and breaking things down into smaller categories helps.

“It gives you more motivation to check things off a list,” she said.

Davis said a good way to prioritize a list is to use the ABC system. Label all extremely important things that need to get done that day with an `A.’ The things that are important but not as crucial should be labeled with a `B.’ Things that do not matter should be given a `C.’

Multi-tasking is also a good way to organize time, she said. Doing two simple things at one time can cut down on time and give more space to relaxation or socializing time. Do the laundry while reading history is one example.

4) Avoid distractions and procrastination

“A balance between a social life and academic life is the hardest dilemma for students,” Davis said. “(While studying) learn to say no to people who distract you.”

Students have different reasons for procrastination, but getting over the reasons is a key to time management and organization, she said.

First budget time to activities and classes that require your presence, then to studying, schedule time to watch TV, browse the internet or socialize with friends. A rewards system can keep the set schedule intact and relieve academic pressures, Davis said. After finishing a certain amount of work, going out with friends can relieve stress and keep up morale, she said.

Sophomore Thomas Jenne said he attended the Get Organized workshop to try to improve his grades.

“I wanted to find other possibilities and options to organizing my time,” he said.

Jenne said he often found himself torn between his social and academic lives. He said he wanted to increase the amount of responsibility he put into organizing his time so he is not struggling to get things done.

He said the workshop was conducted in a good setting. It was a friendly and comfortable small group of people that could openly talk about their problems.

“(The workshop) gave a good overview of solutions and opened my eyes to different ones,” Jenne said.

Tick tick tick. It is now 3:30 a.m., and now only two pages have been typed up on the screen. Next time the paper will be planned out a week in advance. Pencil it in the appointment book. Next time.

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