Self Care: Organization, Starting the Semester Off Right

By Amanda Gagnon


We have all been hearing a lot about self care during the pandemic. There are a lot of different ideas and techniques to work towards keeping ourselves physically and emotionally well. When it comes to starting a new semester, organization is a form of self care. Starting the semester with a plan to keep yourself on task can make things easier for you, and considerably less stressful.

I recommend taking the first week of the semester to get a system in place to organize yourself. You’ll know what is coming up in your classes and can you give yourself enough time to put the most effort into your projects. The first week of the semester there are not typically large assignments to work on – so assign yourself the task of mapping out your semester.

How do you do this? There are a number of ways you can organize yourself. I’ll give you a few methods that I have used and worked well for me. The first step with any of these options is to get the syllabus for each class (they will be available in Brightspace once your class opens on January 19th). The steps will vary depending on what your preferences are, but the goal is the same. You want to be able to see your course work for the semester in a visual way to get it out of your head so you aren’t spending your time stressing and missing deadlines.

Option 1: Hands-on 

PURCHASE: Desk Calendar – they start at less than $5

If you like to hand write things this may be a good option for you.

  • You would purchase a large desk calendar and have some different colored pens/markers/highlighters
  • You can get as creative as you want (glitter, googly eyes, whatever you like… you can have fun with this if you enjoy being artistic)
  • Choose a color for each class and then take your syllabus and start writing in the assignments on their due dates
  • Go through the syllabus for each class, adding using a different color to differentiate your classes and assignments
  • When you are done you will have a visual that will help you organize and maximize on your time – you’ll see all the work for all of your classes in one place
  • You’ll be able to see how classes overlap, perhaps you have two big assignments due in two different classes – you will have it all in front of you to be able to plan effectively
  • It is also pretty satisfying to cross things off once you have completed them
  • You can take a photo with your phone to have the information on the go

Option 2: Google Calendar

PURCHASE: Nothing!

  • You all have a Google Calendar account attached to your SMCC email
  • This is free software and there are a number of videos and resources online that can give you the information you need to effectively use this tool
  • Similar to the desk calendar option, you would go through the same steps
  • You would select a color for each class and then enter the assignments on the due dates
  • The added bonus of Google Calendar (outside of being free) is that you can set reminders! You can set multiple reminders for larger projects, weekly reminders for things like discussion board posts, and have your phone remind you when you have work to do and what you’ve planned to work on
  • This option requires some technical knowledge, but this program is very user friendly
  • There are also free widgets you can place on a screen in your phone so you can peek at your calendar quickly
  • Google Calendar tutorial:

>>> Get into your Google Calendar and Google Sheets (and more) from your
SMCC Gmail inbox:

Option 3: Google Sheets

PURCHASE: Nothing!

  • If you prefer a list view over using a calendar, another option is to make a spreadsheet
  • I like Google Sheets because it is cloud based, what I enter on my phone or computer will sync up and be changed on both
  • For this method I would make a column for each week and then rows for reading, discussions, papers, and other assignments
  • I would have a notes section where I would list details such as when discussion board posts were due and details for the big projects
  • I would also have a link to a Google Drive folder where I had all my course content saved
  • As I completed assignments I would unhighlight them to make it easy to see what I had left to complete
  • Similar to the Google Calendar, Google Sheets is on the cloud and accessible across devices
  • There is some technical knowledge necessary for this software, it is similar to Microsoft Excel.
  • There are online resources to show you how to use this free program
  • Google Sheets tutorial: 

These are just a few examples of methods that have worked for me. There is a hands on approach, and two digital methods on free software. There are also more traditional options, such as planners that would be a similar process (I liked the bigger calendar for more writing space) – whatever works for you!

Again, I highly recommend you take your first week of classes to get organized and set a positive tone for the semester. You’ll know what to expect. You won’t be in your head all the time worrying about what you need to do. You won’t be missing assignments and turning things in late (if the professor will even allow late submissions)… you’ll be working smarter not harder.

Please feel free to book an appointment with me if you need some help getting yourself organized:

This is an important type of self care, but also a way to commit to your own success.