Do you find that you often forget commitments you’ve made? Or do you procrastinate and realize you have more to do than you thought? Whatever the case may be, I’ve probably been there. College is a unique experience that’s both amazing and stressful and being disorganized doesn’t help. However, with these simple tips and tricks, you can get organized and have an overall lower stress level this semester.
Buy a Planner
I cannot stress enough how incredibly helpful it is to have a planner. At the beginning of each semester, I make it a practice to look over all my syllabi and jot down every assignment, quiz, and exam due date for all my classes in the calendar section of each month. A lot of stores sell ones that are already made, but if you want to choose the layout of your planner, I’d highly recommend checking out the options that Plum Paper has. You can choose the size of the planner itself, the cover design, layouts for each page, section titles, color scheme, and even add sticker pages if you want. I’ve been happy with both planners I’ve designed and purchased through them so far, and I’d highly recommend checking them out. However, they’re a bit more expensive than the average planner at Amazon, Target, or the Campus Store, so if you like the layout of the pre-made ones, go ahead and purchase one of those! Buy the one that you think would work best for you.
Use Google Calendar
I’ll admit that I was very opposed to using a digital calendar because I much prefer writing things out on paper with pens and highlighters. Plus, it’s one more excuse to spend time on my phone, and I already spend more time on it than I should. However, the calendar in my planner is much too small for me to add my daily schedule and assignment due dates, and I don’t want to carry around a physical calendar, as that’s just one more thing I have to stuff into my backpack. I’ve experimented with a couple other calendars, and from my experience, they just don’t have the same features as Google Calendar.
With Google Calendar, I can color code the categories of commitments I have. For example, I have “Chapel” designated as a dark blue color, and “Theology 1” is marked as red. All my other classes are different colors, and I have a designated color for work. Then, I use a light blue for everything else, from dinner or coffee with a friend to campus events I plan to attend. Not only that, but you can also customize how often your events are repeated. Now you don’t have to manually put in a class to be scheduled once a week three times. You can do it all at once.
As time goes on, you do memorize your daily schedule, but you may forget other less regular commitments. For example, do you have dinner with a friend scheduled for Monday or Tuesday? As mentioned earlier, you could also double-book yourself by mistake. These things happen to everyone, but having a calendar can decrease the number of times they do occur. Some professors and other faculty and staff members also use Google Calendar. If you schedule a meeting with your advisor, for example, you’ll receive an email asking if you plan to attend the meeting. Once you click “yes,” it’ll be added to your calendar. You don’t have to manually add it yourself. That’s another perk of this amazing tool.
Make To-Do Lists
I have two to-do lists that I keep: weekly and daily. For my weekly to-do lists, I set aside some time on Saturdays or Sundays to look ahead at everything I have to do for the coming week and write it all down on a notepad that I then tape in a visible place where I see it often enough that I can add stuff to it or check things off as I go. Then, at the end of each day, I make a to-do list for the next day. That way I’m clear on my goals for the day and can knock them out right away and not try to figure it out in the moment.
I’ve found that if I don’t have to-do lists, I feel less organized and I’m more likely to procrastinate because I don’t know where to start. Or I have four assignments I must get done by the next day, but think I only have one. I understand that to-do lists can overwhelm some people to the point that they don’t know where to start and instead avoid the work entirely, so if to-do lists aren’t your thing, you don’t have to utilize this tool. But if you need clear direction on what you need to accomplish on a given day, I’d highly recommend putting this practice in place.
Mark Your Textbooks as Rented/Bought
I’ve rented most of my gen-ed textbooks, but I purchased the ones for my major and my biblical care and counseling minor in case I want to reference them in the future. Once all your textbooks arrive, place a sticky note inside each one that says “Rented” or “Bought.” By marking which textbooks are rentals or purchases, you can avoid the stress of looking for lost receipts. Then, when the end of the semester comes and you need to return your textbooks, you’ll know which ones you need to bring back to the Campus Store and which ones you own.
Make a “Table of Contents” Page in Class Notebooks
I originally saw this tip on a blog post on Pinterest, and it works so well! Once you’ve chosen your notebooks for each of your classes, leave the first sheet of paper blank, and begin taking notes on lectures and readings on the next page. As you go, mark each page with numbers, title each topic, and then add that information to the empty sheet of paper. Then when you have an exam to study for that only covers a certain amount of material, you can find your notes more easily. It’s been so helpful for me when I study for quizzes and exams or refer back to something my professor said that I want to add to a paper. This is such a great way to work smarter and not harder. Whoever came up with this idea is an absolute genius!
Pack Your Backpack the Night Before
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like rushing around in the mornings, whether I have classes before chapel or not. Packing my backpack in the morning before I leave is more stressful because I have to remember so many things to add to my backpack. And when I push off packing my backpack until the next morning, I often forget one or two things. I make it a daily practice to pack my backpack the night before, thinking through what classes I have, what the rest of my schedule looks like, and what assignments I need to get done. I then pack all my notebooks, pencil case holder, Bible, sermon notebook, and anything else I need.
Lay Out Your Clothes the Night Before
This practice may seem pointless because, unless you’re one of those people who struggles to make even simple decisions, it only takes a couple minutes to pick out your clothes, but I highly recommend this. No one enjoys the feeling of pulling out an outfit in the morning, throwing it on, and getting ready to walk out the door only to discover a small coffee stain on their jeans, especially when they’re already running late. Save yourself the hassle and stress and lay out your outfit the night before. If you do find a stain on that shirt you wanted to wear, you can throw it in the hamper and pick out another one with no pressure of running late for your 8 a.m. class. Those couple of minutes you saved can make such a big difference in your mindset. When you wake up the next morning to see your outfit that you laid out the night before, you’ll feel much calmer and more relaxed as you go about your morning routine. It may be the one thing that prevents you from being late to class!
Staying organized in college takes a little bit of frontload work, but I guarantee it’s well worth it. With these tips and tricks, you’ll improve at being aware of upcoming assignments and not overcommitting yourself. You’ll also be a less stressed and well-organized college student. Now go share these “secrets” with your friends, both in college and even in high school.
Year & Major: Junior, English
Favorite Music Artist: Jeremy Camp, For King & Country
Favorite Quote: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but one of my favorites is, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”-Christopher Robin in Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin
What do you like to do in your free time? Reading, writing, cooking, baking, playing the piano, playing the guitar, spending time with friends and family, visiting coffee shops and bookstores.
Favorite Bible Verse: Psalm 23