I love being in college. And, though my room may not always show it, I also love being organized and productive. One of my most popular posts on this blog is my Ultimate Guide to College Organization, and since it’s been read and shared so many times, I thought I’d make an updated, expanded guide. Here are my top 45 tips for staying organized in college!
It may seem like a lot, but you definitely don’t need to implement all these tips. Just read them over and see which ones fit you and your lifestyle. Above all, remember that caring for yourself is the most important. Having an organized life on the outside means nothing if you are not happy with yourself and your life.
1. Be motivated. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you are motivated to tackle the mess in your life. Otherwise, when the going gets tough, you will get sloppy. My advice is to make a list – yes, with real pen and paper – of why you want a clean, organized, and manageable life. Tack it up somewhere where you will see it when you start to feel unmotivated.
2. Keep a planner, or a planner app. During the school year, I use my planner religiously to track my classes, assignments, and social plans. You can see how I use my old Erin Condren planner here, or check out my review of the Emily Ley Planner App here.
3. Use only one planner. Just as important as using a planner is only keeping one. If you have both a paper planner and an app, or multiple planners, the odds are that something will eventually slip between the cracks when you forget to write down your plans in both. Also, having more than one will take up a lot of your time.
4. Keep it with you. During the school year, I always have my planner on-hand. That way, if I get a new assignment, make plans with friends, or have to schedule a doctor’s appointment, I can write it down immediately before I forget.
5. Stick to your plans. Have a rule: if you write it down, get it done. That way, your planner is more than a helpful reminder of what you could have accomplished today: it’s an actual guide to what you will be doing.
6. Plan at the beginning of every week or month. At the beginning of every new week, sit down and write in your activities, classes, and any reminders (call Mom!) for the coming days. I don’t have the time to do this all at once at the beginning of my semester, so doing it on a weekly basis works for me.
7. Use the days-before-it’s-due system. I learned this trick over at Organize My College Life. In your planner, use red pen to mark the day an assignment is due. Write it out in blue pen in the two days ahead; black for three to five days ahead; and green for six to nine days ahead. That way, you will always see assignments coming up on the horizon, and won’t ever be surprised by an essay that’s due tomorrow.
8. Schedule chores. Doing laundry, taking out the trash, you name it. Planning to do this every Sunday will keep your laundry from piling up on the floor, or your bin from overflowing.
9. Save all your syllabi. This is so important. If your professor gives you a guide to what your entire semester is going to look like, don’t lose it.
11. Make an assignment list. When I was taking five classes, keeping an assignment list saved my tail quite a few times. Gather all your syllabi together and make one long sheet of every day that an assignment is due. You can see how I do it here, or learn Organized Charm’s great method over at her blog.
12. Keep to-do lists. I keep a to do list every day. Do it in your planner, on your phone, or over email – the point is, it will help you stay on-track.
13. Wake up at the same time every day. Whether you’re a morning glory or a late riser, pick a time to wake up every day and stick to it. Often I find that when I oversleep, I feel that my morning has been “wasted” and I don’t do much work. Waking up at the same time every day will help you avoid this and get into a set schedule.
14. Make your bed when you get up. Making your bed will keep your room clean, and will keep you from crawling back in if you’re sleepy.
15. Have a consistent schedule. Try to keep a daily or weekly schedule that you’ll stick to. I find that I’m a lot less productive when my schedule is all over the place.
16. Figure out your most productive time. Figure out what time of the day you are the most productive. For some people, it’s in the early morning before breakfast; for others, mid-afternoon, or late at night. Find when you get the most work done and try to optimize that time for productivity and work.
17. Stock your backpack. I have a friend who spends 15 minutes a day filling their backpack with what they need to work that day. I find that a great time-saver is to have my backpack always stocked with pens, my planner, and a water bottle. In the mornings, you can slip in your laptop and a notebook and you’re ready to go!
18. Plan your outfit ahead of time. I used to spend forever in the mornings picking my outfit. Now I go to bed with a vague idea of what I’ll wear the next day. It helps me save time in the mornings to know what I want.
19. Clean-desk policy. I admit that I consistently fail at this, but I know that my boyfriend finds it very useful. At the end of every night, try to have a clear desk, with just your computer, lamp, or books on it, and no clutter. It will keep your room tidy and make it easier to find what you need in the morning.
20. Clean-floor policy. Ditto with the floor. Again, this is a weak spot for me, but I try not to have any clutter on my floor during the week so that it is easier to get and find what I need.
21. Spend 5 minutes a day cleaning. Seriously, you will be amazed at what you can do in five minutes a day. When I’m having a hard time staying motivated to keep organized, these few minutes at a time save me from total chaos.
22. Have a system for taking notes. It doesn’t matter what kind you use – Cornell notes, color-coded scribbles, or Word Notebook – just make sure that you have a system and stick to it. It will make it easier to review notes later on.
23. Don’t question and don’t stop yourself while writing. This is how I get my essays done so quickly – don’t worry too much about the quality of your writing while you’re at work. I find that I can hold myself back endlessly by worrying about a single word or sentence. Instead, let go of your inhibitions and don’t be afraid to write a terrible first draft. You can always edit later.
24. Use a timer. Work in bursts of time. Some people swear by 25 minutes; I prefer to work for an hour at a time, and then take a longer break. Either way, using a timer will keep you accountable and prevent you from wandering over to Facebook or Pinterest while you should be working.
25. Work and play in different areas. I heard the following from a nurse: bed should be for the three S’s: sleep, sickness, and sex – not work. Work at a desk or in a library, and reserve your room or bed for hanging out and sleep.
26. Use the 8/8/8 method for balancing your life. I heard this tip from the same nurse. It’s a way to divide your time to be responsible and still relax. Try to sleep for eight hours a day, spend eight working, and eight hours for the rest of your life – time with friends, eating, etc.
27. Set your own deadlines. This has saved me countless times when it comes to writing essays. If you have two essays due on the same day, vow to finish one of them on a different date; for example, a week or three days before it’s due. This will mean that you have to get started earlier, but it also means you will not have to scramble to finish all your work at the same time when your actual due dates come around.
28. Make yourself a schedule. Making yourself a schedule, even by using Google Calendar and screenshotting it, can be really useful. You get to have a copy of your permanent schedule on hand.
29. Set up email filters. I use Gmail, and I find email filters and tags a great way to organize my emails so that they stay organized without too much work. I use one tab for personal and one for academic, with different tags for different activities and classes. It helps make my inbox feel more manageable.
30. Use SelfControl, or actual self-control, to limit time spent on websites. This app keeps you from accessing websites like Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter when you should be working. It is free and highly customizable – you can block any website you like.
31. Back up your computer using a hard drive. That way, if it crashes, you won’t lose all your hard work.
32. Disconnect from the internet for a few hours a day. Unplugging is a healthy way to curb stress and keep yourself from wasting too much time on the internet.
33. Give each class a color. Each of my classes gets a distinct and separate color like blue, red, or green. I then match all my binders and notebooks for that class to that color, so that they are easier to find and grab when I am on the go.
34. Keep binders, folders, and/or notebooks for each of your classes. Everyone is different, but I find binders the easiest for most of my classes. Find out which one(s) work best for you and then do your best to keep them organized.
35. Have system for organizing your binders. I love this one by the Holladay Life.
36. “If you take it out, put it back” rule. This is the easiest way to keep a desk clear.
37. Toss duplicates. You don’t need two staplers, or three rolls of tape. Give one away put it in storage for when your first one breaks or runs out.
38. Keep any “might needs” in your desk drawer, rather than on your desktop. Keep staplers, hole-punchers, etc., in your drawers rather than on the top of your desk. This will help keep your desk neat and organized.
39. Label loose cords. Use masking tape to label your cords with words like “camera,” “iPhone,” etc. This will help you identify them after you forget what they’re for.
40. Label your chargers ends with the same washi tape. I saw this tip over at gurl.com, and I loved it. Using the same washi tape on your cord ends will help you know what to unplug when you’re in a rush. Bonus: it helps when untangling, too!
41.Use a binder clip at the edge of your desk to store your charger ends. I learned this trick over at Instructables and I’ve found it really helpful for not losing my cord ends.
42. Keep a white board with reminders to yourself. I love using my whiteboard as a place for reminders and notes to myself. You can find them pretty inexpensively at your local supply store, or even CVS.
43. Sleep enough. I can’t emphasize this enough. Sleep is so important! Try to get between seven and nine hours of sleep a day, depending on your age and preferences. It will help you stay alert and happy during the day.
44. Meditation/yoga/mindfulness/prayer. Find something that makes you feel connected to yourself or your spirituality. Mental health is so incredibly important, not just for being organized, but for being a balanced and happy person. Take care of yourself!
45. Go easy on yourself. No one is perfect, and it can be incredibly difficult to stay on top of everything in your life. Do your best, but remember if you mess up that it is okay to make mistakes. All that matters is that you are trying.