College changes up your sleep schedule and your study habits, whether you plan for it to or not. You will be busy with classes, clubs, friends, a job, and seemingly about a million other commitments, and it’s very easy to get frazzled with all of this on your plate! The mistake that most college students make, though, is not organizing their lives in a helpful way—or in any way at all. Soon they miss assignments, forget about commitments, and feel the overwhelming pressure of having too much to do and not enough time to do it. Don’t let this happen to you; beef up your college organization skills!
So without further ado, here are my best organization tips. First up, we’re going old school . . .
Get a planner
Yes, I know you have apps on your phone (and I’ll get to them in a sec), but I have found my paper planner to be invaluable. Sometimes your college will provide you with a planner, but you can find them at Target, Walmart, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., depending on what you’re looking for. Pick on in a size that will be helpful to you. If you plan on carrying it in your backpack and you like to write big, there are larger 8”x11” planners. If you’re like me and often switch your planner from your backpack to your purse to your other purse, a smaller one might make more sense. Mine is 6”x8” and goes everywhere.
When picking a planner, you want to decide how you will use it. Do you want a monthly view, a weekly view, a daily view, or all three? Do you want to have to flip through to find the day of the week or do you want to just clip it so you can turn right to the current week? These are important questions, people! Another thing to keep in mind is how much you will be writing in it. The last thing you want is to have too many line items and not enough lines! Now your serene, organized planner is messy and you’ve written in the margins. *shudders in horror*
Related: Time Management is Your Best Friend
Write it out (colorfully!!!)
To go along with your planner, you will need utensils to write in it. This year has been the year of white-out for me, but if you hate crossing things out or making corrections, you may want to stick to pencil. I also love (and strongly suggest getting) multicolored pens. At the beginning of the semester, you can pick which color pen belongs to which activity. My freshman year, I wrote in one color pen and every time I would open my planner I’d have a mini freak out because it looked like I was booked all day, every day. Now, with each activity being a different color, I can quickly see how my day will be broken up.
Track the bigger picture with a calendar
Along with your portable planner, you may want to get a monthly wall calendar too. They’re great for organizing and keeping track of your big-time items, like exams and project due dates, as well as any recurring meetings and important events (like your birthday, obviously). This way, you can easily see into the upcoming weeks and what you will have to accomplish.
Use your phone or tablet
If you are not a paper and pen kind of person, there are also plenty of apps to help you organize your time. Most smartphones have a calendar app built in, and they also probably have a reminder app, so you can set alarms. I use my reminder app for paying bills, because I get a notification about five days before the money will be taken out of my account, so I can either transfer the funds, or just know that I have enough money for everything that will be deducted! But you can also use reminders for tests, work, or anything else you can think of.
Here are some other organization apps I have found helpful—and they’re all free!
- Planner Plus, which automatically connects to your calendar and any Facebook events. It then gives you the option to input Tasks or Projects, assign them a priority, and potentially be alerted when things are due. You will also be able to choose what the “soon” in “due soon!” notification means: anywhere from one to seven days ahead of time.
- myHomework is another free app where you can input homework assignments. It will ask you for a brief description, which class it is for, and the due date. If your professors use Teachers.io, you can import your classes into the app; otherwise you can manually add them. This app also gives the option to choose a priority level for each assignment. And, as always, you can set up reminders.
- The last app I like is called Pocket Schedule. This app prompts you to add a semester and the duration of the semester. Then, you add your courses, picking a color for each course. You can input the days and times of each course, and even the location and the professor! Then, you can add exams and assignments with descriptions, pick a due date, set its priority, and schedule a reminder (of course!).
Stick(y) to it
If you still feel overwhelmed, you might find sticky notes helpful. Specifically, you can put a sticky note for each day of the week on your desk, so you can see right in front of you that Monday you have a speech due, a meeting during lunchtime, and an event at night. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, the last thing you want to do is mess up your priorities and work on something that isn’t due for a week while the assignment due tomorrow is forgotten! Plus, at the end of each day when everything is completed, you can throw away the sticky note and watch yourself get through the whole week! Plus, it’s super satisfying to cross things off and then throw the whole day away (or at least it is in my Type-A opinion).
Create a filing system
To keep your college class materials organized, I suggest having a folder with enough pockets for all your classes, or individual folders or binders for each class. In addition, having a separate notebook for each class will help you stay organized, plus you won’t get confused when your biology materials mix in your public speaking notes. Organize these materials on your bookshelf or dresser in the order of the classes during the week. When you’re finished, put them at the back of the stack, so at the end of your week, they will all be in order for the next week!
Get ready the night before
Something else that I have found helpful is to prepare for your classes the night before. This not only saves you precious sleep time in the morning, but then you won’t be rushing around trying to find everything while you’re still half in dream land. This includes packing your backpack for the day. Stick whatever book, notebook, calculator, and folder you’ll need for your first class (or if you have back-to-back classes, pack those materials too). I always pick my outfit the night before too, because I have more time to try everything on and decide what I like, which is way easier than in the morning when it’s dark and my roommate is still asleep. Then, if you do by chance sleep through your alarm or there’s a fire drill in the morning that messes up your getting ready schedule, you at least know that you can grab your backpack and go and still be prepared!
Some of you might be exhausted just from reading this and probably think I’m nuts. But I will say this: if you are feeling a little overwhelmed or like you’re drowning in all of your responsibilities, you might want to try a couple of these tips! You might be surprised by how much they help. Everyone learns what best works for them over their semesters in college, and now you have a solid foundation to develop your own successful ways of organizing!