How to Keep up to Date With Coursework

Two Parts:Organizing CourseworkDoing the Work

Learning to manage your time in order to complete coursework is an important skill to develop while in college. You never want to fall behind in your assignments. By carefully planning your time, and sticking to the schedules you create, you should be able not only to keep up with what you have to do, but excel in doing it.

Part 1
Organizing Coursework

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    Keep your desk clean. Keep your notes and textbooks organized by class, and don't let papers pile up. This will decrease the chances you lose something or forget an assignment that you need to do.[1]
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    Create a calendar. Once you get the assignments for all of your classes at the start of the semester, make a calendar listing all of the due dates. This will allow you to see how assignments overlap, and when you should be concerned about work piling up.[2]
    • Your calendar should include tests, due dates for papers and other assignments, and anything else in your classes that will affect your grades.[3]
    • Make sure to have just one calendar for all of your classes. If you spread things out across different places that will increase the chances that you forget or lose something.
    • Put your calendar in a visible place. It should be somewhere easy for you to see so you can always be aware of what is coming up.[4]
    • The class syllabus is a good place to see when all the assignments are due and what they are worth. Be aware that those deadlines can change, so listen for any changes from your instructor, and adjust your calendar as soon as you learn about them.[5]
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    Create a routine. Find space in your weekly schedule to do the necessary work for particular classes, and stick to it. This will help create set-aside times for you to do necessary work. Give time to each of your classes, and make sure that that time is only for work from that class. Sticking to these times will keep big assignments from taking over your time, and keep you from falling behind in other classes.[6]
    • Find the best times for you to work. Some people are "morning people," while others are night owls. You know yourself best, and what times you are most productive. Make sure you devote that key time to doing school work, as that is when you will likely have the most energy.[7]
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    Learn how much time it takes you to do things. This includes working through problem sets, writing papers, reading, or any other work you are assigned from class. Be honest with yourself. You don't want to run out of time because you consistently underestimate how long it takes to do something.[8]
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    Organize your notes. After each class, review your notes, and highlight the important information. This will help reduce the amount of information you will need to review when it comes time to study for exams. By organizing and reviewing as the semester goes along, you'll keep up with and remember more information, and won't need to cram the night before exams.[9]
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    Organize your computer files. You will probably do most of your coursework on a computer in the form of papers and projects. If your files aren't named properly or well-organized, you will waste valuable working time searching for the right files. This is something you should do right away, because if you wait, you will likely lose something.[10]
    • Create folders for each of your classes. Make sure they have clear names. The name of the course (Introduction to Biology), or the course number (Biology 101) are good to use. It might be best to create one larger folder (maybe named "School Work" or named after your school) to hold all these folders.
    • Give your files clear names that make it easy to remember what each is for. Check each course syllabus to see if there is a particular name you should use for assignments. This is important if you turn in papers or assignments online.
    • Save your work regularly so you don't lose anything, and make sure you keep the files in the right folder.
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    Get support. Colleges have a number of avenues available for students to help keep track of assignments and do them well. Find out what kind of academic advising, tutoring, and writing centers your college offers. Look for your professors' office hours, and use them to talk to your instructors about the class and the best way to do your assignments.[11]
    • If you start to have concerns about completing your coursework, you should discuss that with your instructors. They probably won't change your deadlines, but they might have some helpful tips for using your time better.
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    Sleep regularly. A good rule of thumb is to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. While you may feel like you need to stay up later to study or finish assignments, cutting back on sleep only increases the chances you will miss deadlines or do poorly on work.[12]

Part 2
Doing the Work

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    Find a good place to work. You will need to decide what place is best for you. It could be your dorm room, the library, or anywhere else you can be comfortable and focused. You can choose a single study space, or use multiple places. Just make sure that the area you choose is quiet and well-lit.[13]
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    Avoid distractions. When you are doing coursework, whether writing papers, reading, or other assignments, make sure you don't use that time for anything else. That means putting away your phone and staying off the computer except for things you need to complete your work.[14]
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    Do the biggest assignments first. The start of your work time is when you have the most energy. If you have multiple assignments to do, figure out the ones that are the biggest or will take the most work, and do those first.[15]
    • Do not push away assignments that you don't want to do. Those should probably come first, as they will take more effort and require more energy.
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    Keep coursework with you. Having small assignments with you in a backpack or bag can help remind you of things to get done. Also, it gives you something to do if you have a little bit of free time, such as on a bus or waiting to meet a friend.[16]
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    Create a plan for big assignments. Longer assignments, like research papers or projects, can't be done in one or two nights. Instead, you should build a plan to help you do a little bit of work along the way. Most large assignments can't be done in a few hours or a single night, so think about the smaller steps you will need to take in order to finish the assignment properly, and give yourself short term deadlines.[17]
    • In most courses, the assignment schedule is back loaded. This means the largest chunk of your grade will be based on work done at the end of the semester, and this will probably be true for most of your classes. Creating a broad plan as soon as you get assignments, and starting work as soon as you can, will help avoid letting things pile up later.[18]
    • If you are not sure what smaller steps might be, ask the instructor or TA. They know the best practices for the field, and can help you figure out what is important to complete and how long it might take.
    • Don't ask for extensions. It can be tempting, as work piles up, to request an extension or incomplete from the professor. Without a clear deadline in place, though, it becomes even harder to get work done.[19]
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    Avoid perfectionism. Sometimes students get too caught up in doing the best work that they never feel confident in the finished product. Don't let mistakes paralyze you and prevent you from finishing. Think of criticism as part of a process to doing better work, and not a statement on your personal worth. For each assignment, you should create the best work you can at this moment.[20]
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    Reward yourself for a finished job. If you've worked hard and finished an assignment, you deserve to celebrate. Having something as a reward at the end of the process can help keep you focused on what you are trying to accomplish. This can also prevent you from doing distracting things instead of working during study times.[21]
    • Just make sure this reward doesn't get in the way of doing other necessary assignments.


  • Leave time in your calendar for fun and social activities. These things will come up, and you should have space to relax and have a good time.
  • If you have a lot of coursework to complete at once, do the assignment that is hardest and closest to the deadline.

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Categories: College and University Study Techniques