Making the Syllabus Work for You


5 minute read

September 1, 2020

          I am currently writing this the day before my first week of classes. This is an extremely stressful time for everybody since they have no idea if they’ll like their classes, their professors, or even the kids in their classes, or if their classes will be hard and time consuming or easy breezy.


          To add on to all of that stress, the professors give you a thick stack of paper dripping with fancy legal words like “syllabus,” that’s filled with all kinds of overwhelming information like the learning objectives and the academic integrity policies.


          Anyways, here you are, just finishing up your first week of school with a stack of syllabi and most likely work schedules, practice times, club meetings and other extracurricular activities that you have to attend. How do you keep track of all this information and all these schedules?? Through the power of organization and planning of course!


          I am going to tell you the story of how I personally keep track of all the information in the syllabi. And not to brag or anything, but I am an extremely humble human being. Like, I am so humble, I should get awards for it. There is nobody humbler than I am, it’s crazy! But anyways, the one thing that I’m not so humble about is my organization skills. I love to talk about how organized I am and how I plan. Most of the time people find it super annoying, but hopefully today, in this blog post, you’ll find it helpful. Or, you may find it annoying still. Whatever. I’m going to write it anyways.


          Now I do have to admit that my strategy is a little time consuming and does take some effort, but I promise you that in the end it is worth it! Spend a little time now to get organized and you will save countless hours of work and effort later! The first step is to do something groundbreaking and unheard of; actually, reading the syllabus! I know, crazy, right?


           Once I get all my syllabi, I skim them over for two main sections. The section on assignments and exams and the section on how the class will be graded. I then open up a Word document and start taking bullet points of every assignment that I have in each class. Whether it be weekly work, monthly work, or exams. I take note of their frequency and date. I also take note of how much each assignment is worth so that I can budget my time accordingly.


           Once this is done with every class, I open up a NEW Word document and create 7 bullet lists, one for each day of the week. I start by going through and entering the things I have each day of the week that are set in stone. My work shifts, practices, club meetings etc. Next, I add the things I want to be doing daily or a certain amount of days of the week, whether that’s working out, meditating, practicing guitar, whatever it is. Now I have 7 bullet point lists that give me a good visualization of what I need to be doing each day. I can see what days are going to be my busy days and what days I have a lot of free time.


           This is where that original Word document, with all the notes on the syllabi comes in. I am going to compare both documents side by side and figure out what day of the week I want to complete each homework assignment. For example, if I have discussion posts for one class due on Tuesday nights, but I work for 8 hours on Tuesdays and I am completely free on Mondays, I would schedule to do the discussion post on Mondays each week. I do this for all weekly assignments and work.


           At last, I have a complete understanding of what days I am busiest and what days I am free. This is when I schedule the things that are more flexible. I have a 3hr block on Wednesday to do Laundry, I have a 5hr block on Saturday to go grocery shopping and meal prep. I am busiest on Tuesdays, so maybe that should be my rest day at the gym.


           The final step is to include in a text box, on the side of this Word document, a list of all the exams and assignments that have due dates not on a weekly basis. I have an exam on September 24th, I have a book report due on October 13th etc.


           Now what do you do with this master list of everything you’ve ever needed? First of all, make sure you save that shit. Second of all, use it to plan every week!


          Every Sunday night, I make to-do lists for the coming week based on this detailed Word document. I use an app called iNote and make a checklist for every day of the week, copying off what my Word document says. I also make sure to include the days I want to work on assignments that aren’t weekly. So, if I’m making to-do lists for the week of September 7th, and I see I have an exam on the 11th, I may plan some days to study that week.


          I then complete all my tasks on a given day and cross them out once I complete them so that hopefully, by the end of the day, I have a very satisfying blank to-do list!


          Okay, so now that I’ve actually written that all out, it seems kinda complicated. Hopefully, I’ve explained it in a way that makes sense, but if not, you have three options. One, as always you can contact me with any questions. Two, you can simply use this as a starting point to make your own unique organization plan. Or three, give up and don’t do anything or listen to anything I say ever again cause it's just too hard. The choice is up to you. But don’t choose choice three, that’s lame.


Happy Thinking,

           Seagull Strength

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