Student Perspective: The Power of Creating Systems

Student reading through books and assignments

This student-authored post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom.

As a college student going into my junior year, I can confidently say that I would not be where I am academically without the executive function skills I learned from the Research Institute for Learning and Development (RILD) ↗(link opens in new tab/window). These organizational systems have adapted and grown as I get further into my education.


My tried-and-true system begins with a spreadsheet of every assignment I will get throughout the semester. I put each assignment, no matter how trivial it seems, into my color-coded spreadsheet. This essentially becomes my all-in-one resource. For me, finding each assignment’s information in six different syllabuses creates a sense of disorganization and stress.

Chart with columns for assignment names, associated class, and due date.
Chart with columns for assignment names, associated class, and due date.


While this spreadsheet is overall a helpful tool, the next executive function tool I use is even more important. This takes some imagining, but my holy grail is a Google document with two different sections. The first section contains a chart to put each assignment for the week. This chart includes the assignment, class, and due date. Once a week I look at my wildly color-coded spreadsheet and plug in each assignment for the week. This step can be adapted based on what your needs are. Extra columns can be added for things such as want-to’s or need-to’s, expected time, or priority rankings.



The final step is to use the second section of the Google document. This section consists of a calendar where I meticulously plug in each assignment based on whatever day I want or need to do an assignment. In this step, I can break down bigger projects or papers into smaller subsets for accountability. At this point, I can see how capable I am of the workload in front of me, even though it might have previously been daunting.

Calendar with assignments broken down by day.
Calendar with assignments broken down by day.

Goals Met

As silly as this whole process sounds, it honestly is one of my favorite times of the week. I look forward to the calm that washes over me when the calendar is filled out. I look forward to the joy and satisfaction I get from crossing off completed items. And finally, I look forward to teaching these strategies to others as RILD has done for me.

In the end, finding the right system for you is the key to organizational success. If this one doesn’t feel right, many different strategies exist for you to try out! For more advice from college students at RILD, check out this post.

  • Julia Ronkin, SMARTS Student Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development: