The rhythm of a college semester can be irregular and variable, but it is underlaid by the reliable repetition of the week. Your classes recur on a weekly basis, as do many assignments. Jobs, club meetings, meals, sleep, are all fairly predictable on a weekly basis. This is a good thing, because it means you can plan the majority of your commitments ahead of time, consistently get the sleep you want, liberate your free and unstructured time, de-stress, and have fun!
For the following exercise, download this template schedule. We will follow a hypothetical student as she creates her own weekly schedule. As you proceed through this exercise, you will fill out your own calendar by applying the categories discussed in each step, and end up with a schedule that, while different from our example, should reflect the reality of your weekly life at Columbia!
Our hypothetical student is a senior named Clara. Clara is a work-study student, working 7-8 hours per week at Dodge Fitness Center. She also works 11 hours per week at an outside internship. Clara is writing a senior thesis. She has a meal plan.
If at any stage in this exercise you find that the hours just don’t add up, return to Exercise 1.
Start by filling in the time commitments that you absolutely cannot change. This means courses you must take in order to graduate, recurring appointments you must attend—generally, any commitment where you are meeting with other people in an official capacity. Because these are fixed appointments, also include the requisite travel time to get to these meetings. At this stage you only want to list your committed time.
Figure 1 shows a portion of our example schedule, with just committed time filled in (green). See the full sample (pdf).
Next, fill in the tasks you must dobut that are not strictly time-bound. Start with the largest blocks of time—these are the least flexible commitments so you will have to schedule smaller items around them. Examples include student jobs, internships, and regular sleep. Then move on to meals and exercise. By scheduling these activities first, you are making your health, sanity, and happiness a priority.
Figure 2 shows a portion of our example schedule, with our largest required tasks that are not time bound (yellow). Note that sleep (black) has also been added, with start and end times that are consistent across the entire week. See the full sample (pdf).
Finally, designate the remaining time blocks for your readings, assignments, study group meetings, and reviewing your class notes.
Figure 3 shows a portion of our schedule with all required, non-time bound tasks added (yellow). See the full sample (pdf).
And that’s it! You should be left with unstructured time surrounding the commitments you assigned in steps 1-3.
Figure 4 shows a portion of our completed schedule, including unstructured time (shown in blue). See the full sample (pdf).
You may have noticed that the weekly schedule does not address every area of student time management need. Midterms and Final Exams, for example, demand that you create a special-case schedule just for those periods of the semester. Our guide to creating a great exam study-schedule is coming soon.