plan to get organized

On Tuesday, February 28 from 12-1PM in the FPH Faculty Lounge, Joel Dansky, disabilities services coordinator, presented a special organization and time management workshop for an eager audience of new students. Did you miss it? Need more information? You’ve come to the right place! Read on for details on what happened, how to find support, and further time management resources.

What Happened:
While participants enjoyed a catered lunch, Joel asked each of them to introduce themselves and share what challenges they face with regard to time management and getting organized. Common themes included starting work earlier, structuring time more effectively, balancing multiple priorities, procrastination, and breaking large tasks down into smaller pieces. With these concerns in mind, Joel presented a brief powerpoint which addressed many of these challenges, and offered strategies to help students to plan ahead, make the most of the unstructured time between classes, and work more efficiently. Joel then introduced a three part system for organization,The Big Picture,” “The Weekly Grind,” and “The Daily Plan,” which led to an interactive portion of the presentation. Through the use of a variety of different handouts related to these models, participants had the opportunity to create a color-coded, visual representation of their weekly and monthly schedules, and identify pockets of valuable time that they didn’t realize they had!

What We Learned:

  • Procrastination, distraction, and perfectionism are the three enemies of effective time management. Think you do best under pressure? The work you produce isn’t likely your best work, just the best you can do with the limited time you’ve allotted. Planning ahead can help to alleviate stress, no matter your reasons for waiting until the last minute. By creating small, manageable goals and structuring your time more effectively, you’ll accomplish more and yield better results!
  • Big Picture” is a useful tool for mapping an entire semester. Participants received an 11″x17″ academic calendar for this activity, but you can do it yourself with a planner or a regular calendar. At the start of the semester, gather your syllabi and mark down all of the important dates and deadlines for each course on your calendar. Once you have a full picture of what you’ll need to complete and when, you can identify key steps and work backwards to create small goals for yourself. This will help you to start things ahead of time, and avoid the confluence of too many deadlines all at once.
  • The Weekly Grind” allows you to create a visual representation of what a typical week looks like for you. Using colored pencils, participants mapped out their regular schedule on a weekly calendar in an effort to identify blocks of time between fixed appointments, classes, and other obligations. What did they notice? They have more time than they think they do, and you might too! Take these chunks of time and specify what you’d like to accomplish in each, and give some structure to the larger periods of free time (long weekends, etc.), making sure to vary the types of work you do each day. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish!
  • Find a daily planning system that works for you. One calendar that you look at every day is better than several that you don’t, so find something that is portable, visual, and spacious enough for a to-do list, and keep it with you throughout the day. Don’t overload yourself, but do keep your planner as up to date as possible with class, work, and meeting times, as well as appointments, deadlines, and fun things.
  • It’s okay to start small — if you try to change everything about your time management all at once, you might end up feeling overplanned and discouraged. Pick one assignment that you’d like to get started on early, and create a plan to accomplish that goal. Once you see how successful you can be when you plan ahead, you’ll be more likely to incorporate good time management into more aspects of your life.
  • The best system is the system that works for you, so feel free to try a few things as you work to get yourself organized. No system works 100% of the time — keep yourself open to new ideas and ways of planning. Don’t hesitate to reward yourself for accomplishing particular tasks. There are lots of different ways to get motivated!

Use These Resources:

  • Want hard copies of the workshop handouts? Interested in some personalized time management support? Get in touch with the workshop facilitator, Joel Dansky, at He’s happy to help!
  • Can’t get enough of these great academic skills? Join us for another workshop! This presentation was the second in series of skills-based lunch workshops for new students, led by tutorial faculty and other staff members. Our next lunch workshop, Finding the Right Sources, will be held on Wednesday, April 4 (Advising Day) from 12-1PM in the FPH Faculty Lounge. Meet the research librarians and learn how to find the sources you need for your final projects and papers. See you there!

Questions? We’re happy to help! E-mail us at for more information!

keeping up with your reading

On Thursday, February 16 from 12-1PM in FPH 108, Lise Sanders, associate professor of English literature and cultural studies, presented a special reading skills workshop to a packed house of staff and students. Couldn’t make it? Need a recap? Read on for more information about what you missed, and how to get a hold of the resources that were shared in this session.

What Happened:
While participants enjoyed a delicious catered lunch, Lise invited students to share what brought them to the workshop, and what obstacles they most frequently face with regard to completing all of their reading. Common themes in the room included identifying the most important pieces of information to absorb, how to prioritize reading tasks, focusing too much on details, and the need to read more effectively in the time allotted for a specific task.

Sound familiar?!

With these concerns in mind, Lise went on to to introduce a variety of different techniques to address these issues, keeping participants engaged with one another through reading, paired sharing, and other activities. Lise shared a number of handouts with the group, and offered participants the opportunity to ask questions after discussing a variety of techniques.

What We Learned:

  • In order to read more effectively, you must commit to being an active and engaged reader. Read with the firm intention of deducing the author’s main point, not just to get through the right number of pages. Your focus will aid your success.
  • It’s okay to ask ahead! When you receive an assignment, consider speaking to your professor about what areas of the reading you’ll be focusing on in class discussion. This will help to guide your reading and make you more prepared to participate. If you have concerns, talk to your professor. They may have specific tips to help you maximize the effectiveness of your reading time, particularly with regard to the text at hand.
  • Approaching an entire page of text can be difficult to do. Train your eye to focus on the line you’re reading by using something to mark your place on the page. In the workshop, students used their fingers to guide their eyes across lines on the page. With practice, this can become a mechanical technique for training your eye to move faster.
  • You can diagnose your own comprehension and retention of your reading by pausing from time to time to verbally summarize what you’ve read. Participants engaged in pair sharing to assess their own comprehension in the workshop, but this is also something that you can do on your own. By summarizing aloud, you can move the knowledge you’ve gained into deeper memory.
  • When reading nonfiction, you can and should feel free to read the conclusion first. There’s no point in keeping the conclusion a secret from yourself, and reading in reverse can help you to better seek the features that will allow you to identify the main points of the text. Look up terms after your first review so you won’t have to continually stop while you’re trying to read.
  • Remember that as a reader, you have a unique critical perspective. Consider your own arguments and critical engagement with the text while you read — this will help you to gauge your own retention and comprehension.

Really Good Advice: Good Brain Time vs. Bad Brain Time*
Think about the times of day when you’re most “on”. For some of us, it’s first thing in the morning, while for others, it’s very, very late at night. Do you know when your own good brain time is? If so, use it! Prioritize your reading and other tasks based on when you’re most “on” — you’ll likely read and absorb more during your good brain time. Wondering what to do with your bad brain time? Save tasks that require less thinking for these periods. Once you’ve identified your own rhythm, you’ll be able to accomplish more.

*Lise attributes this concept to Lauren Berlant, one of her graduate advisors at the University of Chicago.

Use These Resources:

  • Interested in viewing the workshop handouts? Want to learn more about reading techniques? Get in touch with the workshop facilitator, Lise Sanders, at She’s happy to help!
  • Can’t get enough of these great academic skills? Join us for another workshop! This presentation was the first in series of skills-based lunch workshops for new students, led by tutorial faculty and other staff members. Our next workshop, Plan to Get Organized, will be held on Tuesday, February 28 from 12-1PM in the FPH Faculty/Staff Lounge. Learn how to manage your time and improve your organization, all while enjoying a free lunch. See you there!

Questions? Did we miss something? E-mail us at for more information!