If I knew then what I know now
File Management, File Management, File Management…and scheduling.
Hi, my name is Conor, and I am a second year PhD student in UCC’s economics department. If I knew then, what I know now is a platform which allows us postgraduate students to pass down the knowledge we have acquired during our time in UCC, with hopes of making your transition into third level education as smooth as possible. While incoming first years will undoubtedly benefit most from this type of blog, I guarantee even final year students will learn something from at least one of these (past or future) blog posts.
The aim of this post is to signpost ways which will allow you to make your academic year a little bit less stressful by offering advice on file management, scheduling, and specifically tell you about what has worked for me.
Whether you are an incoming first year, final year, postgraduate, or professor, file management is foundational to how you work. I have always been a fan of compartmentalising everything I do. In terms of a file storage system, this might result in me making twelve different folders throughout the year, one for every module (for example, you do whatever works for you). Within these folders then, is everything I will ever need for that specific module (i.e., lecture notes, slides, readings, assignment files, and exam prep files), and nothing else.
As basic as it sounds, this prevents work from getting lost, and prevents the cluttering and overwhelming of workspaces, which can be a nightmare come exam season and deadlines. Having an organised workspace will ultimately boost the quality of your work, because you’ll be spending less time looking for those notes, and more time utilizing them to improve your assignments, while also having more time to study them.
Complimentary to this, is the OneDrive services offered to UCC students (or any cloud storage system really). Alongside my plea to make a file management system for your college work, I am also urging you to back it up on a cloud storage. Using a cloud service to store your work protects you from calamities like your laptop breaking, or your memory stick breaking or going missing. These types of disasters tend to happen at the worst times, as I found out when my laptop broke two weeks out from exams in my second year.
Although consistency ensures the maintenance of a great file management system, there are things you can do to make attaining this consistency a bit easier. From my experience, the most important of these is effective scheduling. The semester is twelve weeks long and there is nothing to suggest leaving all your exam prep work until week eleven is the optimal strategy. Spreading your workload across these twelve weeks will naturally be conducive to a relatively less stressful exam season, and the same approach is valid for assignments.
Assignments have always been a friend of mine, but that is by no means the case for everyone. Either way, making a start on them as soon as the titles/topics become available is the way to go. I always found the reading for an assignment takes more time than the actual writing process. So, by cramming quiet, early to mid-term weeks with readings, I was generally able to complete the writing process comfortably within the deadline. Adopting this mindset to both assignments and exams is complimentary because if you get the assignments out of the way sooner rather than later, you give yourself a clear, uninterrupted run at exams.
Scheduling can also be approached in terms of weighting the amount of time you want to spend on assessments based on what they are worth/the module requirements. For example, if you enrol in a module with an end of term exam worth 80% of the overall grade, while a midterm assignment makes up the additional 20%, it generally makes no sense to divide your study time equally between the assignment and the exam or dedicate more time to the assignment. So, I suggest thinking on your feet when deciding how best to prioritise your time; That is not to say disregard such midterm assignments, as they are important and could be the defining factor in pushing you over grade-lines, just be weary of the time you dedicate to specific projects.
To sum up, I believe file management and effective work scheduling are catalysts to academic success. I have offered suggestions on how a file management and scheduling system might emerge and work in your favour, but ultimately, I want to emphasize the importance of implementing whatever type of system suits you.