College is the time where you go out on your own and develop your own routine. There is nobody hovering over you to make sure you get things done, it’s all on you now. But don’t stress, this doesn’t have to be difficult. It all comes down to how you handle this change, and I promise you that being organized makes college a lot easier! I’m pretty confident when I say I excel in organization, planning and time management (since everyone laughs at me for it), so I decided to share some of my organization tips and secrets to help make sure your college experience is nothing but smooth sailing.
- No more needle in a haystack — Create a folder for each class to store all your documents. Saving everything to one location will confuse you. You’ll be thankful you kept everything separate later on when you’re looking for a particular file.
- What is “asdfghjkl.doc”? — Name your files accordingly. This way, you know what each file is without having to open it up. Many computers have a search feature (Spotlight on Macs for example), so if you’re looking for your research paper, type in “research paper” and voila, you found it!
- Tag, you’re it! — Your Mac’s Finder has a tag feature. Use it. For example, I have tags labeled: to be read, portfolio pieces, yearbook, internship, PRSSA, and important. You can assign multiple tags to one file or even to folders. And they’re color coded! 🙂
- Back, back, back it up. — Invest in an external hard drive to back up your computer files (and actually remember to back it up frequently). If you don’t want to pay for an external hard drive, you can use a cloud-based storage system such as Dropbox and put copies of important files there. Better safe than sorry, right?
- Use it or lose it — If you don’t need old files on your computer, trash them. They’re just taking up storage space on your hard drive. Oh, and remember to periodically empty your trash.
- Sync or swim — Every computer has a calendar, or some way to access a calendar. I think you know what I’m going to say next … actually use this calendar. Then, set it to sync with the calendar on your phone so you always have your schedule with you and will never forget an appointment or meeting.
Class and Study Organization
- Syllabus week — For college students, the first week of classes is known as syllabus week, where all you do in class is review the syllabus for the course. Then after you leave the classroom, you shove the syllabus into the bottom of your backpack or in a random folder and you’re probably never going to look at it again. Instead of doing this, put each syllabus somewhere safe and actually refer back to it for assignments. If you go off what the professor writes on the syllabus, I can promise you’ll get a better grade versus someone who doesn’t review the assignment’s requirements.
- But planners are a girl’s (and boy’s) best friend — Do I even have to go into detail about this? I know what you’re thinking, why do I need a planner if I can use my phone? Well, it’s easier to keep appointments, to-dos and notes all together and see an entire week or month at a glance. And there are various studies and articles that discuss how writing things down versus typing it helps you remember better. There is also no syncing involved, and there are millions to choose from to match your needs or budget. You can get one from Target or Staples that is simple, or you can take it a step further and get an Erin Condren Life Planner (scroll to my previous blog post for a coupon) or a Plum Paper Planner, both of which are customizable so it is tailored to your needs and has a bunch of accessories and add-ons. And if you are set on sticking to iPhone productivity apps, here are my favorites: Fantastical, Calendars 5, Appigo Todo, GoodTask, and 2Do. You can check those out if you’d like. They sync with iCloud reminders. The GoodTask app for Mac is awesome, nice to look at and convenient!
- “I can just review the powerpoint slides and I’ll be fine” — Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I beg you, please just take the time to make your own study guide or note cards to study from. Quickly reviewing slides won’t do you any good, trust me. Which brings me to my next point…
- Go! To! Class! — Enough said.
- I think we need to take a break — Break up with unified notebooks, folders and binders. Buy separate folders/binders/notebooks (or whatever you use) for each class. Here’s how I do it: I have the same classes on Mondays/Wednesdays, then other same classes on Tuesdays/Thursdays. I buy two notebooks and two folders. Yup, you guessed it: one for my Monday/Wednesday courses and one for Tuesday/Thursday courses. Half of the notebook is dedicated to the first class, the other half is dedicated to the second class. Ditto for the folders, one class on the left and one on the right. Are you still following or did I lose you?
- Live life in color — Color coding is always an easy way to help you get organized. Maybe you have a red folder and notebook for one class and a blue folder and notebook for another. This is super simple and is a tremendous help. You can take it one step further and color code your notes too using colored pens or just colored Post-it flags.
- Your mind is a map — Mind mapping is a fun way to lay out your ideas. It’s great for very visual people. I recommend checking that out if you are one of those people. Because sometimes plain lists and notes are a little bland.
- Clean up your act — Just kidding, clean up your room. Common sense here, keeping your room clean helps you find things faster and will make you more productive. So make your bed, put your laundry in the hamper, and go through that stack of papers cluttering up your desk.
- White is right — Okay, that headline is a little dumb. Anyway, here’s my next tip: get a whiteboard, put it on your wall near your desk, write down your to-dos and assignments. Now you always have this information right in front of you while you’re in your room and you won’t forget anything again. Super easy, super effective.
- File it, don’t pile it — That one was catchy, you have to admit! Buy a magazine file to stash (neatly) in your room. Then get a vertical file folder for each class (and label it of course). Next, when a million papers are accumulating in the folder you bring back and forth to class, empty what you don’t need anymore and stash each into its appropriate file folder. Now you don’t have to keep all the papers in your regular folder to weigh down your bag, but you’re not throwing anything out, you know… just in case you need a paper again. (This is helpful in regard to exams. Put your exams in your file folder and when the final comes around, use the old exams as a study guide.)
General Organization Tips
- Don’t sweat it — Don’t procrastinate, be proactive. If you tend to have a habit of procrastinating (guilty!), set your own deadlines to meet. Having a set deadline forces you to do your work, and if your deadline is a few days before the assignment is actually due, you now have a few days to relax and not stress about the work.
- Be there in a flash! — Oh, flash drives. Tiny little miracle workers. So much data, such a small device. Attach a USB drive to your car keys or something in your backpack so it won’t get lost. You never know when one will come in handy (more than you think).
- Counting sheep — I needed to throw this in and it’s mainly geared toward freshmen who are new to college, but please try your best to get a decent amount of sleep each night. I know sometimes you think you need to stay up extremely late to study for a big exam. Instead, just review your notes a little each day and get a good night’s sleep before the exam. Because if you are exhausted, you won’t do well on your exam, and the late-night studying won’t be worth it.
- Empty wallet? — College is a time when many of us get our first credit cards. Here’s advice: if you can’t afford to pay for the item you want at that moment, chances are you won’t be able to pay for it at the end of the month when you get your card statement. Here are two pieces of advice: first, only use the card on small purchases to begin building your credit, and second, consider making a budget for yourself. I budget an allotted amount each month for groceries, clothing, etc. and although I’m still a poor college student, it’s better than being a broke college student.
I know that is an overwhelming amount of information but with a little practice, you’ll be an organized student in no time! If anyone has other student organization tips, feel free to comment and share! Good luck to everyone in school!