Navigating college can feel like a circus. However, instead of being on the sidelines watching everyone else perform, you’re the clown being forced to juggle multiple things at once. From dealing with midterms and finals, to balancing all your school work, college can feel academically overwhelming. On top of that, you also have to maintain a social life and are expected to make connections throughout your college journey that can benefit you later on down the line.
Long story short, college is truly an experience that tests your multitasking skills. If you want to keep up with the fast-paced lifestyle of higher-education, you’ll need to build up your organizational skills to avoid falling behind. However, you don’t need to worry if you’re not organized now. It’s never too late to start, and this article will help you begin with these five tips for staying organized in college.
Set Up a Calendar
Calendars are a great tool to help you manage your time as a student, stay on top of your events, and organize everything. Whether you buy a cute calendar or use the calendar app on your phone, you’ll always have reminders on you!
Having a calendar can make things easier and free up head space, since you don’t have to worry about remembering all the events you must attend. You won’t have to remember test dates, doctor’s appointments, lectures, campus events, and more because the calendar will have it all down for you. As a result, it should be much easier for you to organize your time wisely. You’ll also reduce the risk of having scheduling conflicts and event mix-ups, since you won’t be planning things using your head.
Want to have your events readily available on your phone? You can digitalize your calendar by using Google Calendar or the calendar app on Apple or Android. A physical calendar may take up space in your bag or room, so having it on your phone will help you save space.
Set Up a Planner
Almost every successful college student has used a planner at least once to assist them throughout their academic journey, since this item is essential for staying on task and keeping you on top of your assignments. In college, professors won’t remind you of your assignments like teachers used to do in high school. This means it will be up to you to keep up with all your deadlines and test dates to maintain a decent grade.
You can maximize the use of your planner by coming up with a system that works for you. Some great techniques are...
Making daily to-do lists.
Color-coding your assignments based on course/category.
Highlighting important assignments.
Arranging your tasks based on difficulty level.
Breaking down your large assignments into mini-tasks.
Digitalize Your Notes
You will need to take in-depth, clear notes in most of your courses to effectively organize the information you’ll receive from your professor. However, lectures can be long and include a lot of information thrown at you. Understandably, you wouldn’t want to spend your time crunching 100 slides worth of lesson plans into one notebook, so digitalizing your notes may be the best solution!
Using digital notes allows you to easily access all your notes in one place instead of having different notebooks and binders for various courses. That way, you won’t have to stress about misplacing or damaging any papers. Plus, you can save them to your device of choice, so you won’t have to worry about losing your notes if your device is damaged.
Another benefit is that digital notes allow you to quickly type your notes instead of handwriting them, making it easier to avoid hand cramping. If you prefer handwriting your notes but want to keep the added perks, you can write your notes with a tablet pencil or Apple Pencil (for all the iPad users out there).
You can use different software/apps to achieve this, such as Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Evernote, Notability, Nebo, Collanotes, and Goodnotes. They also come with added features to enhance your note-taking skills, like letting you add to your documents, reorganize your notes, add comments, and highlight pieces of text. If you don’t want to give up writing by hand, there are always apps where you can take photos of your handwritten notes and make them into a digital copy.
Keep Your Study Space Tidy
A cluttered space is usually the result of a cluttered mind, so it's vital that you make an effort to try and keep your space clean. One study published in the scientific journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin stated that women who had “cluttered” living spaces and “unfinished projects” were more likely to be depressed and fatigued, compared to those whose areas were clean.
Cleaning your space can have multiple benefits, such as giving you a sense of motivation and accomplishment to start other tasks. Instead of worrying about the mess around you, you'll focus on the assignment in front of you. Therefore, you should make it a daily habit to try and clean your study space or desk every morning. It’s a small task that can help you start the day fresh. Even though everything is digital nowadays, it helps to organize whatever paperwork you receive from your professors so you’re not cluttered or unorganized.
Make sure you plan and stay on top of your due dates! Your syllabus will become your best friend when it comes to accomplishing this goal. Getting used to the class structure and types of lesson plans your class goes over, as well as determining what you'll be reading the next day, makes you prepared for the following day. This also gives you more time to familiarize yourself with the material before class starts, and formulate questions to ask the professor.
Planning ahead is a strategy that applies to every aspect of your life, not just college. Whether planning to go out, heading to an interview, or preparing an outfit, planning ahead can reduce the anxiety of being late and overwhelmed because you’re unorganized.
I hope these tips have brought you one step closer to figuring out how to stay organized in college. College is no walk in the park, so the fact that you’re reading this article and trying to improve your habits says a lot about your willingness to grow. Maintaining excellent organizational skills is crucial to getting through college and can help prevent you from getting future burnout. It may seem like a struggle now, but keep persevering! You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve when you keep your wits close and focus on organization. Good luck!