Do you need some help to get your shit together in college? Don’t worry! We have plenty of tips to help get you organized. From study tips, to life and college hacks, this list will get you back on top of things in no time.
1. Buy a desk calendar.
To some this may sound antiquated what with all the innovative ways you can map out your life at the touch of your fingers on your smartphones (and that’s a good strategy too). But for me, there’s something about physically writing out my week and seeing it in front of me every morning that helps me focus on the upcoming events. I’ve gotten so acquainted to it that I now keep a calendar year round even when I’m not in school, just so I won’t miss a beat.
2. Use a weekly planner.
This may seem redundant, but instead of using it as a portable version of the aforementioned calendar I prefer to use my agenda specifically to write down assignments and due dates for each of my classes—a trick I learned in high school that I carried with me to higher education.
3. Color coordinate the supplies you use for each class.
I do this because I’m a bit anal when it comes to staying organized (yes, one of my graduation gifts was a label maker!), however, I find that it really helps me keep track of everything I need. I make sure that for each class I have an individually colored notebook/folder and matching pen with which I record my assignments. That way I never grab the wrong notebook for lectures or mix up due dates.
4. Create daily to-do lists.
You can do so via post-it’s, various phone apps, a whiteboard; whatever works for you. I cannot even begin to describe the satisfaction that comes from crossing off even the most mundane tasks. Sometimes I’ll even write things down that I’ve already finished just so I can get that little high of checking it off my list. It’s silly, I know, but often it’s the little things I do that make me feel accomplished at the end of the day.
5. Balance work and play.
If you’ve been working overtime on a project or spending extra hours in the library cramming for an upcoming exam, make sure you take the time to recuperate and do something for you. Whether that means carving out an hour of your time to take a yoga class at the rec center, or treating yourself to an almond croissant from the local bakery (my vice), do something that will take your mind off work for a moment.
On the other hand, if you’ve been partying a lot lately and missing your AM lecture series, it’s never too late to get back on track and refocus. College is where you learn not only about your intended major, but also about how to maintain a healthy adult lifestyle. Bonus tip: don’t work and play in the same space. I, myself, prefer not to work in the library, but I also don’t resign myself to working in my bed or dorm room. I try to find a nice quiet place on campus (like an unused lecture hall or study lounge), or a cozy cafe nearby where I feel more productive.
6. Create incentives/rewards for yourself.
This goes along with the previous tip. If you’re finding it difficult to focus, think about something you want, or would like to do, and promise yourself that you’ll grant yourself whatever it is once your work is complete. For example, don’t start the next season of OITNB on Netflix until you’ve handed in your Lit Paper on Friday. Or, if you’ve just gotten yourself through a particularly exhausting week, take a breath before jumping into your next string of assignments. Do something for yourself as a reward for your efforts. My favorite way to unwind it a boozy brunch with girlfriends!
7. Stick to a schedule.
Your classes are scheduled which leaves you with a finite amount of hours in the day to accomplish everything else that you need to get done. Now, I’m not suggesting that your schedule needs to be all-encompassing to the point where you must pencil in bathroom breaks, sleep time, etc. That would be ludicrous. Personally I think following the same strict schedule day in and day out can get monotonous, but having a general guideline of when I need to eat so as not to fatigue, or when I ought to get to the gym in order to have a fulfilling workout keeps me from feeling flustered.
8. Get enough sleep!
Go to bed earlier, take naps, sleep in if you need to, but make sure you get those Zzzs; otherwise you’ll find it difficult to adequately accomplish anything you set out to do. I don’t know how or why people choose not to provide their body with an ample amount of sleep (somewhere in the ballpark of 8 hours should do). Personally, I flourish when I am well rested…and there aren’t too many things that can top a good 3 hour long nap!
9. Work out your stress (literally).
There’s nothing you can do that will prepare you for the stress you will encounter in college. No matter how organized you are, at some point in your college career (and for most of us this happens more than just once) you will feel overwhelmed by stress. The only thing that works for me when I feel anxious is to hit the gym, hard. I try to workout regularly to keep my energy up, but the workouts I have when I’m under pressure are by far the most satisfying. After an invigorating round on the treadmill I leave feeling ready to take on my problems head first (not to mention fit AF!).
10. Don’t take on too much.
Figuring out how much you can handle takes practice, so don’t expect to get it right your first semester. Over the course of your first few terms at school you will be able to determine what your ideal course load is and the maximum credits you can take without sacrificing the quality of your work and your life. The same goes for clubs, social events, and part-time jobs.
11. Speaking of extracurriculars, I’m not in any way trying to dissuade you from pursuing them!
Getting a job or participating in a sport/club of some kind forces you to better manage your time as you are now beholden to not only your class schedule, but also your extracurricular schedule. It also gets you more involved with your school and provides you with an opportunity to meet like-minded people. So if you find an activity or intriguing job offer, don’t shy away just because you’re afraid you won’t be able to manage.
12. Keep your room/apartment/house clean!
Maybe you make a chart so you know exactly which roommate’s week it is to clean, perhaps you divvy up the chores to make them more manageable: it doesn’t matter how it gets done, just that it does. At school, I like to do my laundry the same time each week so that it won’t grow to monstrous proportions, and I always wash my sheets at least every two weeks. Other than that, my suitemates and I would clean the place about twice a month (more if needed) and we would share the common area responsibilities. There’s something about coming home to a clean house that makes you feel like you can do anything, plus cleaning can be a cathartic exercise.
13. Make your bed everyday.
I sound like your mother, but she’s a wise woman who knows what she’s talking about, so listen up. Making your bed every morning is a statement that says you’re now ready to face the day. A made bed also changes the look of an entire room. It’s a small detail that makes you feel so much more productive. And when you come home at night you’ll have nice warm sheets to climb into, making it that much easier to fall asleep.
14. Invest in a nice timepiece.
Wearing a watch may seem unnecessary considering there’s a clock on the smartphone screen you check every two minutes, but it is a necessity. Unlike high school, most college classrooms do not have clocks, or if they do, they’re all the way in the back of the lecture hall where no one can see them. This is rather inconvenient when you have a mere ten minutes between classes that are on opposite sides of campus. A watch ensure you’ll never be late to another class, meeting, or interview again. Furthermore, while you’re sitting in the lecture hall that does not boast a clock taking your timed final you’ll wish you had another way to tell time than just on your phone (which is hidden in your bag as it’s presence was forbidden). Still not convinced? Even if you don’t feel like you would get enough practical use out of one now, remember that a good watch is an investment that will last you for years to come as you enter the professional world, and they’re stylish to boot!
15. Keep track of your spending, earnings, investments, etc.
Don’t blow your whole paycheck on $11 margaritas and overpriced cab rides. Be knowledgeable of how much you’re taking in, how much you’re spending (and on what) and how much you need for future plans like summer trips/spring break. Learning to budget is difficult, but it’s a practical skill that you’ll carry with you into adulthood – so the sooner you master it, the better. For starters, set up mobile banking so that you can keep track of your accounts no matter where you are, and be mindful while you’re out with friends about the cost of things.
16. Pull yourself together.
Before leaving the house, try to polish yourself as much as you can muster (trust me, I know there are some days where this is just not happening). I’m not saying you need to have runway ready hair and makeup everyday, or that you cannot be seen in public unless you’re in stilettos and a pencil skirt. It has nothing to do with how you look to others, that comes later when you have a real jobs with wardrobe and grooming standards you are compelled to adhere to. For now, it’s all about doing what makes you feel fierce. Sometimes the best feeling is spending an extra 15 minutes in bed and throwing your hair up in a messy bun, grabbing the same leggings for the third day this week and making it to class with seconds to spare. Most of the time, however, I feel my most confident when I take the time at the start of the day to do my hair, cover my dark circles, and put together an outfit that doesn’t look like I slept in it. I don’t care if anyone notices the effort I made because I notice (and I notice when I don’t).
17. Set goals for yourself and stick to them.
You can start small, but I urge you to start thinking about what you want for your future. I’m not necessarily talking career planning; your goals could be about anything. For example, if you know you want to travel, start working with your advisor to map out when and where you’ll study abroad, and then plan your credits accordingly. The sooner you work on this, the better; you don’t want your opportunity to sneak up and pass you by because you were unprepared. Another great thing about planning early is that it gets you excited for what’s to come, and encourages you to work harder to achieve your goals.
18. Save everything!
From syllabi to flyers about the Jewish Society’s Hallal Sale; save, save, save! I invested in a huge accordion folder at the beginning of college and got in the habit of keeping every paper I came into contact with each semester. I, naturally, labeled each file and started keeping track of not only my school work but also other things like medical documents and miscellaneous paperwork. It’s such a relief knowing that I have everything I need in one place, especially come finals time! Then at the end of each semester I toss out what I won’t need again to start fresh. This is good practice for the real world where you’ll need to keep track of things like receipts for tax purposes.
19. Check your email daily (or as often as possible) and filter your emails.
When you get to college, email is the main means of communication between students, professors, and the school, so it’s important to stay on top of any messages. For me, it’s easier to stay organized and access past emails if I have specialized folders for different subjects so I know precisely where to look for things. It’s also a good strategy to set up a junk email account for online shopping and other unimportant messages, so that these won’t clog your inbox.
20. Don’t lose momentum.
Keep going when you’re working on a project or a paper: don’t get too caught up on the details while you’re in production mode. This is especially helpful for my fellow writers out there as you will inevitably be writing a lot in college and beyond and you’ll be beholden to deadlines so you have to push through and remember that you will edit later. If you find yourself stuck at the start of something big, don’t panic just get started. It will sort itself along the way but don’t pull back to look at the big picture until you’re finished. At that point, you can slow down and take more care with the finishing touches.
This was a rather lengthy post, so I thank you for making it to the end! I know much of what I’ve said here seems like common knowledge, but for those of you who struggle to get your shit together; I hope these simple and easy to implement tips do the trick. Remember, college is a stressful time but there are always ways to make it easier on yourself. Good luck!
Any other tips to get your shit together in college? Share in the comments!
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A MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS MAJOR WITH A CONCENTRATION IN WRITING, CATHERINE TRANSFERRED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF TAMPA FROM PITT IN THE FALL OF 2016 AND IS LOVING THE WARM WEATHER AND PALM TREES! SHE LOOKS FORWARD TO TRAVELING AND EXPERIENCING ALL THAT COLLEGE HAS TO OFFER BEFORE GRADUATING in 2018 AND CONTINUING TO WRITE PROFESSIONALLY.