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One of the things college students struggle with, is organization. What are some encouraging tips and detailed advice on how to stay organized and overall manage time?

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Nancy’s Answer

Hi, Ayen,

Good question!

  1. Have a calendar that you like using: either digital on a smartphone, a paper spiral, a small 3 ring planner, or any system that you will have with you at class, at the library, at work, and at home. I used to use a datebook, then I switched to a flat calendar, and now I use the app on my phone.
  2. Schedule in time for exercise, doing laundry, going to clubs and social events, and work, not just class and study time. Be realistic.
  3. Schedule in time to start longer term projects, papers and problem sets early, well before they are due, so when something takes longer than expected you are not in a panic.
  4. Go to instructors’ office hours for tips, extra help, and to get a relationship going with a potential mentor. They have seen some common mistakes made by students in planning.
  5. Make a routine. Sticking to a routine helps you feel in control and to resist wasting time. For example, you want to join friends at a party or event on Thursday evening, but you say, “Sorry, I’ve scheduled time in tonight for my composition, but I can go to that movie night tomorrow!”
  6. Schedule sleep. This is number one for feeling good and capable. Be as consistent as possible with it to avoid oversleeping on your less busy days. This is difficult but experts say good sleep hygiene is important for thinking and performance. (Robert Stickgold, 1999).

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Cassidi’s Answer


Being organized can be a lot of fun. Once you have a system that works well for YOU, you can be a successful, organized individual.

Be Proactive! By planning, making lists, preparing for events, you will feel more organized, and ultimately feel more confident.

Figure out what needs to be done first - There are a few things to take into consideration when trying to determine what to do first. Is there a deadline? Are any tasks on your to-do list quick wins? Does one of your tasks have a higher priority in importance?

To echo what others have said, having a routine is a great start. Figure out what works for you, and stick with you. That could be writing things to do the next day before bed, or jotting them down when you wake up. You can even include simpler tasks, such as "drink coffee", or "make bed". Add in fun things too, like seeing friends, or attending an event.

In regards to physical organization, it is also about finding a solution that works for you. Put like things back in the same place. When it comes to notes, and studying - try color coding, an index, or tabs!

Good luck!

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Julie’s Answer

I see a lot of answers here about keeping a list. This is an integral part of understanding and coordinating your work. Use Covey’s important/urgent/not important/ not urgent square method and label abcd for each item on your list. Then write down no more than 5 things from your original list on a separate sheet or area. Don’t add anything to either list until those five things are complete. Once they are, do one thing from your not important and not urgent list (read for 15 min, newspaper catchup, walk) then write down the next 5 things.
This helps me avoid adding things to my list in order to procrastinate what I really don’t want to do but need to.

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Bonnie’s Answer

Great question! Start out by keeping it simple and making a “to do” list and cross off tasks as you complete them. This will also help you feel accomplished!

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Kelsey’s Answer

Hi Ayen,

In addition to all the advice above (completely agree!), I recommend using color coding. I use a planner and write down all my to-dos as the week goes on. When I finish something, I mark the checkbox AND highlight it in blue. This is my "completed" color. If I didn't finish something, I draw an arrow in the checkbox, highlight it in orange, and move it to the next week. This helps me see what I'm accomplished and what still needs to be done. Even if some weeks have a ton of orange, other weeks have a ton of blue. The colors help me stay motivated and it's nice to look at :)

Try a few things, some people work better with digital organizers and others (like me) with analog paper organizers.

Find what's right for you and you're golden!

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Kolbe’s Answer

Organizational structures will vary quite a bit from person to person. What works for one may not work for someone else. So, I'll tell you what works for me, but also give you some resources of other organization apps and websites that may be more useful to you.
First off, if you want really great organizational content look up Thomas Frank on YouTube. Half of the apps/programs I'm recommending I found out from him.
1. Get a good planner: You can do this on google calendar if you want but I perfer writing since its quicker for me to get my thoughts on a page then type it out, especially for smaller tasks you don't really want to put on google calendar.I highly reccomend Michael Hyatt's Full Focus Planner. There is a student version for 30 bucks. The idea behind it is to pick 3 critical goals that if you complete, will make you feel like you've had a productive day and focus on those first. It essentially forces you to priotize which can be a college student's kryptonite because of all the assignments thrown on you at one time. If you don't want to buy the planner, you can still practice the priortization method.
2. Note taking sytem: I've tried probably every note taking system out there and theres only been a few that I like. Here are the top ones.
a. Rocket Book - I like taking hand written notes, but I also like being able to hit "ctrl-f" on a keyboard and search for a key term or definition. Rocket Book is the best of both. Its a reusable notebook (you can wipe the pages with a damp cloth and it removes the pen ink) and you can scan the pages with your phone and store them in your favorite note taking app (evernote, google drive, email, etc..). It allows you to create catagories where your notes are stored and it has built in handwriting recognition software where you can search for words and it will find it in your hand-writing. It was very useful for me in college.

b. Evernote: I was never a huge fan of typing notes in evernote, but if you do better typing notes, this is a good tool.
c. Roam Research: This is a cool program I've recently found for note taking. Also found from Thomas Frank's YouTube channel. May be worth looking into.

To-do list: I use the full focus planner for my to-do list, but if you like digital to-do list then Todoist is the best one on the app store. The important thing is pick one process for capturing your to-do list items. Don't split them between two apps or between digital and hand-written. Another app I use, which is a bit more complicated to use, is called Notion. Notion gives you a ton of options to customize notebooks, to-do lists, and user-interfaces. But it has a big learning curve.

General advice: Plan your to-do list with a buffer in mind. If you have 2 weeks to get an assignment done, act like you only have 1.5 weeks. Inevitably a last minute assignment or some curve ball will be thrown your way and your schedule suddenly becomes a mad rush to accomplish. Also, if you finish early, go talk to your TA about your assignment or even your professor. Sometimes I've had TA's/Professors so happy I completed an assignment early, they'll talk through the problems with me and catch simple errors I could then go back and correct. The number one piece of advice I can give you on organization is stay consistent and even if you aren't using your to-do list system or note taking system for a couple days, don't feel like you can't jump right back in where you left off.
Also, organization is about giving you time to accomplish the goals that are important to you. So make time for something important to you and don't focus soley on studies.

Good Luck!