The semester has begun, so it’s another four months of balancing. Some of you may be working, full-time students, involved with student organizations, or have other outside of class commitments. Staying organized is a high priority. You have to make sure you’re getting everything without suffering from burnout which comes from too much stress. We’ve collected five tools to help you stay organized this semester so you can meet those deadlines and show up to work five minutes early.
Never underestimate the benefits of a good planner. A planner can be used for so much more than a standard to-do list. When looking for a great organizational planner, we recommend finding one with these three features: a monthly view, a weekly view, lined space under each day on the weekly view.
These three features are important to have because they will allow you to keep track of things for both the present and the future. Use the monthly view to put in your work schedule, club meetings, class big deadlines (tests, quizzes, essays, etc), and other commitment meet-ups. This way you can see in one place what you need to do and can compensate when you’re allocating your time.
Next, you can use the weekly view to layout what tasks you need to get done. Whether that be reading two chapters in your psych textbook, emailing back the officer for your student org, finishing that literary analysis essay, or calling your mom. This is where the lines come in. You can map out the tasks you know you need to get done immediately, and even plan out a semester reading/study schedule. The lines allow you to make lists and then check items off. The benefits being that you stay on top of your to-do lists, and feel satisfied by marking things off the list.
Not everyone can get behind a physical planner. Maybe you don’t have room for it in your bag, you’re prone to losing notebooks, or are just worried you’ll forget it as you’re rushing out the door to make your 9am on time. That’s okay! Just because you don’t carry a planner with you doesn’t mean you still can’t stay organized with a calendar.
Apple and Google calendars work just as well for the student who may not have a pencil, but is more likely to leave their pants at home than their phone. There are plenty of ways to stay organized by simply using a phone calendar app.
To those of you who prefer Google calendars, they have multiple features that allow your digital schedule to function the same as your physical. First, Google allows you to set color-coded calendars so you can add events for different purposes. You could have purple for class, blue for work, and so on. Additionally, you can add subtasks to each day which act as a virtual to-do list. You can even set reminders on when to complete tasks.
Apple calendars operate almost the same way as Google, you can color-code your events to increase organization as well as add notes to each event. Say you are using red as your “class deadline” color, you can add notes in the event such as page length, topic ideas, a writing schedule, and general guidelines from your professor. This allows you the freedom to put all the information you’ll need to complete the assignment right there in your phone calendar.
You’ve got your syllabi, sheets for individual assignments, graded work, forms from your advisor, and informational pamphlets from student orgs. It can get challenging very quickly on keeping everything accessible and organized. Let us revert back to the days when you were required to have a different color for every middle school class, and suggest you look into folders.
Folders are cheap, easy to pack in your backpack, and are multi-colored for easy organization. Even if you just have one folder with multiple pockets, it will make your life much easier than folder sheets of paper up in your backpack or having your planner close to bursting with the amount of things you’ve shoved in it. We recommend picking up a plastic set as opposed to paper, you’re paying about a $.30 different and they will end up lasting you the entire semester and beyond.
Cornell Note Taking
We know, we’re really going old school here. Hear us out, Cornell note taking will greatly improve your organizational game over traditional note taking. For those of you not familiar, Cornell style divides your paper into three sections: the cue column, the note taking column, and the summary section.
First, the note taking section. This is the section where you are taking the physical notes during class, you can use bullet points or arrow for aiding in getting the information. However you best write things down, you do it all in this column. Next is the cue column where you put your who, what, when, and where’s. This section is used after class, it’s where you put general keywords and phrases to assist you with the notes taken on that page for easy reference when you’re studying for tests. And finally, we have the summary section. This section you fill in last, once class is over. Condense your notes to a few sentences for easy reference later on (also, it checks that you were paying adequate attention during the note taking process).
This style of note taking ensures that you get the information, understand what you just wrote down, and makes it easier later on to find specific notes if you are studying for a test or writing an essay. Try it out and see if it helps with your organization!
This may seem easy, and a bit obvious, but there is a significant need for using multi-colored pens. Whether you are organizing your calendar or taking notes, assigning different colored pens for each part of your life will tremendously up your organizational game. It teaches you to become used to certain colors (say green for your busy work schedule), and look out for others (say red for deadlines and tests).
A colored system also allows you to see the balance in your calendar between the many aspects of your life. If your calendar is covered in orange for social events, you may want to see where you can fit in some study time. On the flip side, if it is all yellow for class work, try giving yourself a breather and schedule some quality time with friends.
In the end, organization is about balance. In order to avoid burnout and all the stress that accompanies, use these tips to stay on top of your tasks while simultaneously avoiding tipping in one particular direction. You want to hang out with friends and work towards that 4.0, but don’t do one at the expense of another. Sometimes it can be hard to say no to a movie night, or spend an extra hour at the library, but if you have proper balance it will all even out in the end.
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