Organization is a critical component of academic success. In general, being organized as a student means taking some time each day to plan out what you need to accomplish within a certain time span and make sure you have all of the tools or materials to complete those tasks. Have you ever written a dynamite paper but mistakenly submitted it a day late? Or studied for an exam only to realize during the exam that you must have lost an important article before studying? Have you ever found yourself thinking “I know I’m supposed to be somewhere important right now but I can’t remember where,” then realizing too late that you missed a meeting with a professor? Following the organizational strategies below can help you avoid potentially stressful and damaging situations like those noted above.
Strategies for organization:
- Have a separate folder and notebook or 3-ring binder for each class. Color-coding materials by class can help. For example, have a blue folder and notebook for Economics, a red folder and notebook for English, and so on. This way, you won't show up to Economics with your English notebook.
- Keep all papers, including handouts, notes, readings, and graded work at least until final grades are reported. Date everything.
- Have a printed copy of the syllabus in the folder for each class (don’t forget to read it and refer to it when you have questions).
- Use a planner. There are far too many deadlines and commitments to successfully keep it all in your head: big due dates, weekly assignments, work shifts, sports practices, tutor sessions, meetings with professors, group project meetings, etc.
- There are benefits (and some drawbacks) to both paper and online planners, so you may need to experiment a bit to see what works best for you.
- Keep the planner with you, bring it to each class and wherever you study. When a professor announces a deadline or changes one, put it in the planner right away.
- Take a few minutes at the end of each day review the current and following day in your planner. Did you accomplish everything on your list for today? If not, add those items to tomorrow’s list of tasks. By writing down your schedule for the following day (including commitments and tasks), you’re able to fall asleep with a clear mind, as opposed to trying to fall asleep while your mind races to remember everything you need to do the next day.
- Set aside a specific time each week to thoroughly map out following week in your planner. Friday afternoon can be a good time to do this so that you can be sure to utilize the weekend for accomplishing necessary school work.
- Set reminders for meetings and other important commitments on your phone.
- A simple “to do” list can be a helpful start when you’re feeling overwhelmed. These lists help you remember everything you need to do and can give you a sense of accomplishment when you start crossing off completed items.
- Sit down at a computer at least once a day to thoroughly read and respond to emails. When we (often mindlessly) check email on our phone while waiting for class to begin or walking across campus, it’s easy to forget to follow up on important emails. Take the time to include an appropriate greeting, capitalization, complete sentences, and a closing.
- Save computer work early, often, and in multiple places. Professors are rarely sympathetic to the “my computer crashed” excuse when there are so many options for safely saving your work.
- Organization beyond your academics is also important. Set a regular time to clean your room and do your laundry; a messy room can add stress without you realizing it.
- Pack your backpack and pick out your clothes the night before. Set an alarm and double check it, especially if you have an early class or other commitment. If you have a tendency to hit the “snooze” button, label your alarm so that you are reminded what you are waking up for. For example, “8:00am meeting with Dr. Jones!!!”