Table of Contents

Calendar: Plan for A Successful Semester

Photo of Google Office in Mountain View, CA, 2022. Used on a post about calendars. Calendar.

After my post about residing in the top 1% of Rochester Institute of Technology’s student body, I received requests to discuss my time management, calendar techniques, and study habits.

Calendars help me organize all the tasks I need to complete and when I need to do them. Additionally, my calendar helps me track and manage how much time I allocate to activities. For example, I have designated time for homework, work, and free time.

One thing to note is that everyone has different goals, needs, and circumstances. Some of my friends love using checklists along with a calendar, while others love using Trello or Notion. I like using Google Calendar and the Pomodoro Technique.

I use Time Blocking, a technique where I mark time on my calendar to complete all of my daily tasks, including some mundane ones, like meals and free time. Some people think scheduling free time is unhealthy, but allocating free time helps ensure I do not overwork myself. In short, if my calendar techniques do not work for you, that does not mean it is unhealthy or unproductive for everyone. Hopefully you can find a system that works for you!

Pomodoro

When I schedule a large block of time to do a task, I use the Pomodoro Technique within that block. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that breaks work into intervals, typically 25 minutes in length, separated by short five or fifteen-minute breaks.

The Pomodoro Technique allows me to stay focused longer because I give myself short breaks for mind-wandering and stretching.


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Google Calendar

I use Google Calendar to plan almost everything. However, I am looking for a free and open source alternative.

Recurring events

Before I get into the specifics of what I put on my calendar, I want to note that I heavily rely on the recurring event feature. The feature allows me to save time by entering all my recurrent weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly tasks at once and ending them on various dates. For example, my lectures end before finals, so I set the end date for my lectures right before finals.

I perform four significant updates to my calendar annually: directly before fall semester, winter break, spring semester, and summer break.

Flexibility

I would also like to note that although I schedule time for almost everything I do, my calendar is flexible. For example, if I have to complete two readings due on the same date, I work on whichever activity I want to do first, even though one event may occur before the other on my calendar. The order I complete the tasks does not matter, considering I finish both by the deadline.

Calendar events

Summary section

Here is a highly condensed version of what I put on my calendar. 

Event summary
  1. Class times (orange)
    • Format: CODE-### (online/in-person) Name of Class – Class Section Number
      • Example: CSEC-123 (online) Introduction to Software Development I – 02
    • Location
      • Room number or Zoom link 
    • Details
      • Prof’s contact information
        • Full name
        • Email address 
        • Communication preferences if any (platform, times, etc). 
      • MyCourses link to the class homepage
  2. Commute for in-person classes (brown)
  3. Prof and TA office hours times (tan)
    • Format:
      • CSEC-123 – ProfName – Office hours 
    • Zoom and/or myCourses links 
  4. Week number as an all-day event on the Sunday starting that week (purple)
    • Week 1 – Week 16
  5. Unofficial tutoring (lilac)
    • Like WiC, CS Theory Office Hours, and SSE 
    • Format: CSEC-123 – ProfName – Office hours 
    • Zoom links and or myCourses links
  6. Supplemental Instructor (SI) times (orange)
    • Location
      • Room number or Zoom link 
  7. Club and volunteering times (purple)
    • Location
      • Room number or Zoom link 
  8. Commute for in-person, SI, and outside office hours clubs (brown)
  9. Exams and finals (hibiscus
  10. All day events relating to exams and finals (hibiscus)
    1. Weekly test reminder, all-day, one week before the exam
    2. Reading day 
    3. “Final grades due” day
  11. Weekly homework times (blue)
    • Format: Course Name (XX hrs/wk)
    • Location: Link to where I can find readings and assignments
    • Description: Other links to where I can find readings and assignments
  12. Recurring weekly quizzes (hibiscus)
    • I’ll often subtract from homework time if it is recurring take-home quiz 
  13. Winter break as an all-day extended event (blue-green)
    • Format: Starts (DATE) – Ends (DATE)
  14. Work (dark green)
  15. Free time (green)
    • Try to have at least 1 hour a day of free time where I can do whatever I want

Courses

The first thing I do is enter my lectures using recurring events. 

  • Color: orange
  • Format: CODE-### (online/in-person) Name of Class – Class Section Number
    • Example: CSEC-123 (online) Introduction to Software Development I – 02
  • Location:
    • Room number or Zoom link 
  • Description:
    • Professor’s contact information
      • Full name
      • Email address 
      • Communication preferences if any (platform, times, etc). 
    • MyCourses link to the class homepage

Example events

Office hours and supplemental instruction

The times for office hours and supplemental instruction (SI) at my university are often undetermined until the second week of school. Once the times are determined, the faculty email the students in the course. When I receive these emails, I update my calendar as needed.

If a class has an SI, I treat their sessions as formal class time because I always attend these. 

  • Color: orange
  • Format: CODE-### (online/in-person) SI 
  • Location
    • Room number or Zoom link

I also insert my professor and teaching assistant’s (TA) office hours. However, I color these events because I do not always attend office hours. If I go to office hours, I usually subtract time from homework events since I often ask for help with homework.

  • Color: tan
  • Format: CODE-### – name – office hours (OH)
    • Example: CSEC123 – John Doe – OH
  • Location:
    • Room number or Zoom link

Clubs

Although I include my time at clubs as “free time,” I color the events purple to make them stand out. It helps me mentally consider clubs as personal commitments rather than “free time” where I can do whatever I want.

  • Color: purple
  • Location
    • Room number or Zoom link 
  • Description
    • Sign-in link if necessary

Commute

Living off campus, I give myself thirty minutes of commute time (door to door) to most events. Typical things I enter commute times for include in-person classes, office hours, SI, clubs, and miscellaneous events (e.g., grocery shopping or appointments)(brown). 

Week numbers and holidays

Next, I add a week number to each week using my university’s academic calendar. Assigning numbers helps me know which week we are on throughout the school year and helps me find when we have exams or quizzes (some syllabus use week numbers instead of dates)(more on this later). I also put in school breaks and holidays.

  • Week number as an all-day event on the Sunday starting that week. Each semester has a total of sixteen weeks
    • Color: lilac
    • Format: Week # 
  • Holidays and school breaks (e.g., fall, winter, and spring break) as an all-day extended events
    • Color: blue-green
    • Format: Starts (DATE) – Ends (DATE)

Exams

Then, I read the course syllabi for exam dates and incorporate exams into my calendar. Additionally, I schedule my accommodations for each exam with each professor or university. All of these events are colored hibiscus.

  • Exams and finals
    • Format: CODE-#### Exam
    • Format: CODE-#### Final
    • Location: wherever the location is. 
  • All day events
    1. Exam reminder.
      • Note: This is an all-day test reminder one week before the exam. 
    2. Reading day
    3. “Final grades due” day

When I outline my homework, exams, and quizzes, I create a checklist list for each course, so I know which events I entered into my calendar, what resources I need to read, and what information I still need to parse.

Course list
  • PUBL 363
    • HW times
      • Assignments linked 
      • Description assignments 
    • Office hours
      • Contact information 
    • Exams 
    • Syllabi read 
    • Books
      • Acquired 
      • Setup on iPad 
  • CSCI 250
    • HW times
      • Assignments linked 
      • Description assignments 
    • Exams 
    • Syllabi read 
    • Books
      • Acquired 
      • Setup on iPad
  • CSEC 380
    • HW times
      • Assignments linked 
      • Description assignments 
    • Office hours 
    • Exams 
    • Syllabi read 
    • Books
      • Acquired 
      • Physical 
  • COMM 304
    • HW times
      • Assignments linked 
      • Description assignments 
    • Office hours 
    • Exams 
    • Syllabi read 
    • Books
      • MISSING  

Homework

The amount of time you need to spend on homework is unique to you and your university. At my university, three-credit courses should have at least twelve hours of assignments and studying required (outside of lectures) each week.

However, I spend about sixteen hours a week on most of my three-credit courses that are in computer science or computing security. 

  1. Homework:
    • Color: blue
    • Format: Course Name (XX hrs/wk)
      • Example: Linear Algebra (15 hrs/wk)
    • Location:
      • Link to where I can find readings and assignments 
    • Description:
      • Other links to where I can find readings and assignments 
  2. Recurring weekly quizzes
    • Color: hibiscus
    • Location: link to online quiz website 
    • Notes: I will often subtract from homework time if it is a recurring take-home quiz.

Unofficial study help

Some clubs and academic bodies—like Women in Computing, GCCIS CS Theory Office Hours, and the Society of Software Engineers—offer unofficial academic help. These organizations often have a public Google calendar, which I import into mine or selectively add tutoring events.

  • Color: tan
  • Format: Club – Tutor name – Office hours (OH)
    • Example: SSE – Jane Doe – OH
  • Location:
    • Room number or Zoom link

Work

Next, I add the times for my remote, shift-less work. Here, shift-less means I can work at any time or day as long as I complete my tasks by a given due date. I schedule work for when I have large blocks of time. In the past, when I worked shifts, I would add the shift and commute to my calendar.

  • Color: dark green
  • Format: Job Title
    • Example: Software Security Researcher
  • Notes:
    • I also include a thirty-minute event each week as a reminder to log the time I worked.

Free time

Lastly, I schedule my free time. I try to have at least one hour a day of free time to do whatever I want.

  • Color: green
  • Name: Free filler time, socialization

Personal dates

One other note is that I schedule time for meals, laundry, exercise, skincare, etc. However, these times drastically change, given my circumstances and goals. Thus, I decided this topic is better suited for another post.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this article about calendaring. If you are interested in learning more about my career experience and advice, consider reading some of my other career posts, like Switching Companies: Should you accept a return offer on your internship?

Portrait of Olivia Gallucci in garden, used in LNP article.

Written by Olivia Gallucci

Olivia is an honors student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She writes about security, open source software, and professional development.