This article was first published Jan. 9, 2016. Please click here to see my more recent posts.
As a college student, it’s crucial to start the semester strong with a consistent method of tracking your assignments—but if a traditional paper planner isn’t your style, you might have better luck with my Due Date Spreadsheet.
Specifically designed for ease of reading—and editing—my Due Date Spreadsheet takes only a few minutes to compile, but it can save you a ton of time later in the semester.
If that sounds right up your alley, let’s go ahead and get started!
Materials needed: Syllabi for all courses; word processor (Microsoft word or equivalent)
Set up your Due Date Spreadsheet as you go! Download your FREE .docx file here to follow along with this post.
How to Set Up Your Spreadsheet:
1. Create a table in your preferred word processor.
You can download a blank template of this spreadsheet for free, or you can set it up yourself in Microsoft Word. (You can also use Excel, but I prefer the user-friendly format of Word—and I’m much more experienced with it.)
If you’re going DIY, you’ll want to include a clear label for the month (as shown), then create a 4-column table with several rows. (You can go back and add rows later if needed.) I suggest adjusting the columns to the length illustrated in the figure below.
2. Make a key for class names.
Next, for each of your classes, assign a highlight color—for fun and ease of reading—and a shortened/abbreviated name, to save space. Note both in a key—easily created by formatting a 2×3 table—so you don’t get scrambled later!
3. Input due dates.
Now it’s time to get started. Using your syllabus for each class, record the due date for each assignment and the day of each exam in your spreadsheet.
The best way to do this, I’ve found, is to do go through each syllabus one-by-one, completing each full course one at a time. To start, I put the date for each assignment due in the leftmost column, in chronological order. (I like to include the day of the week, also; M=Monday, etc.)
Then, in the next column, insert the abbreviated class name, highlighted in the correct color, as noted in your key.
The next column over houses the name of the actual assignment, whether it’s a reading, test, essay, quiz, or otherwise. You may need to abbreviate or shorten the name of the assignment to fit it in your table—but be mindful that you’ll need to be able to decipher what you wrote later!
On the far right, I label what type of assignment it is (RD=reading, HW=homework, EX=exam, etc.), so I know how urgent it is, and so I can keep track of what needs physical work, and what just needs to be studied.
Don’t be afraid to add rows, pages, and months as needed. Make this spreadsheet work for you!
Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:
How to Use Your Spreadsheet:
Now that it’s all set up, your spreadsheet is ready to act as a planner.
Option 1: Print it out!
This spreadsheet is made to be printed and hung on your dorm wall, so you mark through assignments as you complete them and check on your progress—but you can even carry it around in a folder or a page protector in a binder, if you like!
Option 2: Keep it on your desktop for easy access.
I find that a lot of professors change their due dates around throughout the semester, so I like to keep my spreadsheet editable by leaving it on my computer. This way, I can add, change, or rearrange assignments at any time. I keep track of what I’ve completed by striking through assignments, or even by deleting the entire row!
Option 3: Share it on Google Docs or another cloud-based software so you always have it handy.
If you like to use a physical planner, but want to use this spreadsheet as a reference or a back-up, keeping it accessible from multiple devices might be just right for you! Simply pull it up on Drive whenever you need to double check something and you won’t have to sift through your entire syllabus for the due date of one specific assignment.
I hope this spreadsheet can be of use to you as you work through the upcoming semester. Staying organized is half the battle—so you’re already closer to that 4.0 than you think!