Talk to several students about college, and one issue will always rise to the top, which is that keeping up with the assignments is a pain. Unfortunately, assignments make up most of your grades, so you have no choice but to do them if you want to pass. But how do you manage all that college homework and still have time to study and have a life?
Here’s how to keep track of college homework:
- Write everything down.
- Have a calendar.
- Use a planner.
- Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.
- Set reminders.
- Digitize your notes.
- Divide complex assignments into small tasks.
- Eliminate distractions.
- Stick to the schedule.
- Have a homework accountability team.
Read on as I will explain how these tips will help you in keeping track of your college homework.
1. Write Everything Down
In the words of David Allen, “Your brain is for having ideas, not storing them” (source).
If you’ve ever wondered why you forget so many things, it’s because your mind wasn’t meant for storing loads of information, and you shouldn’t try to force it. Instead, write down everything the lecturer says you should do later, so your brain has room to process what you learned that day and be creative.
So, what should you write down? Every little thing, including time and dates, and the following:
- Daily homework
- Long-term assignments
- Upcoming quizzes
- Books to be read
- Weekend and after school activities
- Random things you want to remember later, like asking your teacher something or borrowing a certain book.
The only efficient way to do this is to write down everything immediately when it’s assigned or when it comes to mind. Don’t tell yourself that you will write later, because you may not.
If you don’t have a physical planner on hand, set a reminder on your phone to write it down later (source).
2. Have a Calendar
The next step to tracking your homework is to have a working calendar system, which can be paper, digital, or a combination of both. I recommend using both but go with what works better for you.
The sole purpose is to give you structure so you know what time to do what, instead of guessing. It also frees up space in your head so you can think about other things. Instead of having to remember classes, due dates, and assignments, you have a visual cue of what to do next so you can stay organized and on track.
If you have a digital calendar such as Google Calendar, you can get automatic reminders of important events and things you need to do before time. The type of calendar you use doesn’t matter as long as you can easily dump all the important events and tasks there.
Some of the things to include in your calendar are:
- Assignments due dates
- Exam dates and term papers.
- Clubs or extracurricular meeting times
- Your work schedule if you have a part-time job.
- Important appointments with doctors, dentists, or professors.
- Group meetings
Ideally, you should be able to see the entire semester’s calendar at a glance. This will let you see what you have for this week and next week and possibly any long-term assignments whose deadlines are drawing near.
You will also be able to slot in long-term homework on days when you are not so busy.
3. Use a Planner
The difference between a planner and an organization calendar is that you can have daily to-do lists with a planner, not monthly or weekly. This will help you stay organized, prioritize what is most important and stay away from distractions. To make a planner work for you, look at your list of things to do as well as your calendar, then plan your day accordingly.
Do you have an assignment due on Thursday? Schedule it on Monday and Tuesday so you can edit and hand it in before the due date. Schedule daily homework in the morning to be done before attending that class.
It’s important to slot out at least an hour daily for homework, even if nothing is urgent.
You will also include your classes, study time, cleaning, extracurricular activities, and any appointments you have that day. You should do this daily and tick off an activity once you are done with it.
Again, you can use a digital or paper planner or both as long as you do it daily and follow it.
Schedule your assignments during slots where you don’t have a class, the 2 hour period before classes start, and the evening if you don’t have other mandatory activities. You can also utilize your lunch break for eating and finishing one homework.
Some of the best digital planners for college students include:
4. Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
You have your calendar and your planner on hand. How do you ensure they work for you? It’s all about knowing how to prioritize. If you count classes, games, time with friends, and study time, you have very limited time to do your homework during the day.
This means you have to make the best of the little time you have by picking one or two assignments you can do.
Look at your calendar and your to-do list and see what is more urgent. Do you have homework that is due today or tomorrow? That should be number one on your list. Number two should be the next most urgent thing.
That said, it’s important to avoid holding off things until the last minute unless the time frame to do your homework is only one day. This is why making time for homework every day is crucial.
5. Set Reminders
Even with a planner, it’s possible to have things fall off the cracks with all you have to do in college.
You can ensure you don’t miss homework deadlines by setting a reminder on your phone, which should ring during a period when you are usually free and not when you are busy in class or a club.
But there is one more thing you need to consider when setting reminders. Don’t set it to ring on the due date. Set a reminder for two to three days before the due date so you have time to complete the homework. If it’s a short deadline homework, set the reminder for that evening before the due date or the morning of, so you don’t forget.
In addition to using a digital reminder, be sure to include several reminders on your physical planner. The simple act of seeing something you need to do that day when you look at your planner in the morning will keep you on your toes all day.
6. Digitize Your Notes
Have you ever started to do your assignment and realized you left the notes you need for it in school? Or perhaps you have the books with you, but it’s taking forever to find exactly where those specific notes are.
Taking notes digitally and saving them on your computer eliminates these problems.
You have easy access to your notes, especially if you save them on Google Docs, and it’s easier to organize them for easy access. If you cannot take notes digitally in class using a computer keyboard or smart pen, you can transfer them in your own time from paper to computer.
Alternatively, use an app to photograph your hand-written notes and transcribe them into digital copies.
When you have all your notes with you all the time, it’s easy to do your homework wherever you are. It will also take less time to find the resources you need to do your assignments.
7. Divide Complex Assignments Into Small Tasks
Some college assignments are long, hard, and complicated. You have to do research, write the projects and add other stuff to make your homework the best. Doing this every day can be overwhelming, especially since you have other things to attend to.
The best way to handle such complex work is to divide it into small manageable tasks you can do every day. For example, if you have a writing project, take 1-3 days just for research and jotting down what stands out from your research.
You can block one hour or even 45 minutes every day for that.
After that, go through your rough notes and develop an outline and a good heading, which should take one day slot. Take another day to do the actual writing and another day to edit.
The important thing is to dig into this homework every day and give yourself a deadline for completing it. In the end, it won’t feel so overwhelming anymore, and you will not struggle to finish in time (source).
8. Eliminate Distractions
A big reason college students fail to complete assignments on time is distractions. Social media, television, hanging out with friends and spending too much time on extracurricular activities.
While all those things are important for a young person, they have to be given their own time.
Slot these activities for evenings when you are free and after you have completed your daily to-do list. Alternatively, you can set a timer for things like social media and stop immediately the timer goes off. If your distraction is notifications on your phone, switch off the phone or put it on airplane mode while doing your homework or studying.
For most college students, avoiding distraction means going to a secluded place where their friends won’t find them. You can try the library basement or a hidden corner in the basement, where no one will find you.
Another great tip is to wake up earlier than everyone else and take an hour to do some homework before the day starts.
9. Stick to the Schedule
A planner and a calendar will not help you if you can’t stick to a schedule.
You will still slack behind on your homework if you choose to hang out with your friends or sleep during sessions where you don’t have classes instead of doing homework.
It will also not work if your schedule is not realistic.
For example, if you’ve scheduled homework time from 5 am to 6 am, but you are not a morning person, that will likely not work. The same applies if you are too tired in the evening and can’t focus on homework.
The best way to stick to a homework schedule is to slot it when you are most productive. If that is before the first class starts, go ahead and put it there. The second period is also a great slot because you are not tired yet, and the first class of the day has already stimulated your brain.
All said and done, though, sticking to a schedule is all about discipline. Train yourself to do things when you say you will do them, even if you don’t feel like it.
The planner will only work if you follow it.
10. Have a Homework Accountability Team
I don’t know about you, but having a support team comes in handy for me. Find a mastermind group to do everything study-related, including homework. This will make things easier and fun, especially if you throw in some competition.
The secret to making this successful is finding people on the same wavelength as you.
If your accountability partners couldn’t be bothered to finish their homework on time, they will only pull you behind. Find people who are accountable, responsible, and who can help you with homework as much as you can help them.
The top students in the class are a good place to find these people because they don’t become top by luck. Once you have that, pull your weight and try to teach as much as you learn from them.
The last thing in keeping track of your college homework is reviewing your daily planner and calendar. At the end of each day, have a quick look at your planner and see if you ticked off everything you need to do.
If you completed the homework, make sure you put it in your bag or set a reminder to send the digital format first thing in the morning. If there is homework you didn’t manage to do, slot it as number one on your next day list. This will ensure everything is done and on time.