College changes your sleep schedule and study habits, whether you want it to or not. You’ll be busy with classes, clubs, friends, a job, and seemingly about a million other commitments—and it’s easy to get frazzled with all of this on your plate! The mistake most college students make, though, is not taking control and organizing their lives in a helpful way. You 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! Here are my best organization tips.
1. Get a planner
A paper planner is invaluable. Sometimes your college will sell them in the campus store with specific events for the school year included, but you can pick on up at Target, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., depending on what you’re looking for. Pick one in a size that will be most useful to you. If you plan on carrying it in your backpack and you have big handwriting, there are larger planners. If you’re like me and often switch your planner from your backpack to another bag, a smaller one might make more sense. Mine is 6”x8”, and it goes everywhere with me.
When choosing a planner, you want to decide how you’ll use it. Do you want a monthly, weekly, daily view? Do you need all three? Do you want to have to flip through to find the day of the week? Do you need tabs to make it quicker to find things? These are important questions! 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!
2. Write it out but make it fun
I love (and strongly suggest getting) multicolored pens. At the beginning of the semester, you can pick which color pen belongs to which activity. In my first year, I wrote in one color pen, and every time I would open my planner and 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.
Along with your portable planner, you also may want to get a monthly wall calendar. They’re great for keeping track of your big-time items, like exams and project due dates, as well as any recurring meetings and important events. This way, you can easily see into the upcoming weeks and what you will have to accomplish. And you can color-code this one too!
3. Track your to-do list
If you still feel overwhelmed, you might find making yourself a daily or weekly to-do list helpful. You could 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.
4. Use your phone or tablet
If you’re not a paper-and-pen kind of person, there are plenty of apps to help you with time management. In fact, you can use the reminder app already on your phone for things like paying bills, tests, work, or anything else you can think of. Here are some other organization apps you can download that may also be helpful:
- Planner Plus: It automatically connects to your calendar and any Facebook events. You can input Tasks or Projects, assign them a priority, and be alerted when due dates are upcoming.
- myHomework Student Planner: A free app where you can input homework assignments. It’ll ask you for a brief description, which class it is for, the priority level, and the due date. If your professors use Teachers.io, you can import your classes from there, otherwise, you can manually add them.
- Pocket Schedule Planner: This app prompts you to add a semester and all your courses, picking a color for each course. You can input the days and times, and even the location and the professor! You can also add exams and assignments with descriptions, pick due dates, set priorities, and schedule reminders.
5. Create a filing system
To keep your college class materials organized, have a folder with enough pockets for all your classes or individual folders or binders for each class. In addition, have a separate notebook for each class so you won’t get confused when your biology materials get mixed up with your public speaking notes. Organize these materials 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’ll be in order for the next week!
6. Get ready the night before
Preparing for your classes the night before saves you precious sleep time in the morning. This includes packing your backpack for the day. Stick whatever books, notebooks, and folders you’ll need for your classes. I always pick my outfit the night before because it gives me 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. And if by chance you sleep through your alarm, you at least know you can just grab your backpack and go!
if you feel like you’re drowning in all of your responsibilities, try a couple of these tips! You might be surprised by how much they help. Everyone learns what best works for them throughout college, and now you have a solid foundation to develop your own successful ways of organizing!
You can find a ton more advice on staying on top of your school life in our Majors and Academics section.