‘Excel’ing at organisation

Jacky is in her final year of the JD and has survived only because of the organisational methods listed below.

At the risk of sounding very uncool, I love organising my time. I procrastinate with netflix and timetabling. Tables & spreadsheets are a great way to balance your time, get through assignments, and manage your life. It’s not sexy, but it is very organised.

source: giphy

If you want to use any of the templates below, just click on the link and go File -> Download As.

1. Timetables

If your schedule is consistent:
There are a few ways you can use spreadsheets and tables to organise your time. For weekly recurring tasks, a basic timetable is a nice way to integrate your classes and other obligations. Use your uni timetable as a template and fill in work, meetings, sports etc around your classes.

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Click here to save your own copy.


If your schedule is varied:
This isn’t so great if your schedule varies from week to week, though. I find that once assignments hit, a weekly timetable a bit rigid for me. This is why I am a big fan of a task-oriented table. I organise my subjects and other obligations into columns, and each row represents a day. Then I just fill in each cell with a brief description of what needs doing and when I will perform that task.

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Click here to save your own copy.


If it’s Swotvac:
Swotvac is where everything goes out the window. There’s so much to do but also so much TV to binge watch now that you don’t have class. This is why I recommend using a timetabling strategy that allows you to break down your tasks while still looking after yourself. I use the simple template below and print out one for each day of swotvac. If you’re going to do this, you should also schedule in a few breaks throughout the day.

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Click here to save your own copy.

By breaking down my day into half-hour intervals, I can set clear goals that are small enough to feel very achievable. Instead of saying “I have to write 1500 words today,” I can say “In order to write 1500 words today, I need to start by writing 250 words by 10.30.”

Timetabling like this also means there is a clear stopping point for each day – if studying at night isn’t your thing, this system gives you a guilt-free time to stop working. Is it a bit ridiculous? Yes. Will your loved ones fear for your wellbeing? Probably. 

2. Research

If you’re anything like me, you have definitely spent an evening pouring over your terrible handwriting, trying to decipher page numbers, or ‘ctl+f’ing through every pdf in a folder labelled ‘research essay’ to find where that stray quote came from. It’s exhausting and preventable. Let me introduce you to your research essay’s new best friend:

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Click here to save your own copy.

This way you can store all your quotes with their page numbers, and remember what each text is actually useful for, rather than just having a document full of stray quotes. Game. Changer.

3. Group Assignments

A variation on the task-oriented table can be helpful for large group assignments. Each column is a group member, each row is a day, and then you can delegate tasks into each cell. Doing this in a shared google doc means each group member can tick off on each completed task so you can all see how the group is progressing.

4. Notes

For those of you with take-home or open book exams, a large portion of your success can be attributed to how well you organise your notes. You’ll have more time and stress less if you can quickly identify where to find relevant information. Using a detailed directory is a big help. This is one I made for an exam last year:

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I could quickly find the part of the topic I needed to write about, see all the cases relevant to that section, then use the brief descriptions to narrow down to the best case/s for my answer. This can be adapted to theorists and arguments for essay-based exams.

5. Food

A meal plan is an excellent way to avoid overspending on bad food.  A template like this one for each day of the week, when used consistently, can really help you save money and eat better. This can also really cut down on grocery shopping misadventures. If you’ve ever accidentally bought three roasts from Vic Market because they were on special and the salesperson was so nice and then realised you don’t even own a proper roasting tray…Look, a meal plan gives a much better sense of purpose when you’re buying produce, trust me.

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