Trust me, I’ll be the first to admit that the beginning of a new semester is stressful. A new semester brings new classes with new structures, a new set of responsibilities among your extracurriculars, and sometimes even new living situations.
So, in light of trying to keep this semester less hectic and stressful, I’ve decided to share my 4 tips for organization bliss in the life of a student. And please share any more tips you may have!
1. Keep a “Master To Do List”
If you’re anything like me, your mind is full of ideas, ideas, and more ideas. There’s nothing wrong with being an “idea person”, but in the stress of everyday life, new ideas can get overwhelming. “Apply to X job”, “Write a blog about Y”, “Make this adorable canvas art from Pinterest!”… the ideas seem to be never ending and are hard to straighten out from what you have to accomplish today, tomorrow, or within the next week.
I have found that keeping a large To Do List with ideas and projects that you’d love to get to, or should do eventually, helps clear the mind of the clutter of long-term tasks. As a result, you’ll be able to focus on more short-term items while keeping track of those wonderful ideas for when you’re done with what has to get done.
2. Keep your day short
So now that we’ve gotten the long-term, dreamy ideas out of the way, how do you tackle the everyday tasks? I’ve found that doing the exact opposite of my long-term lists, by making my daily to do lists as short as possible, helps me stay focused and feel accomplished.
If you don’t own a plethora of sticky notes, stop what you’re doing right now and go buy some (my favorite are the kind with a few lines). I write down as short of a list as possible of things that I need to accomplish that day (and in order preferably!). The key is to practice constraint when making your daily to do lists so that they result in productive, yet successful days where your list is completely checked off in the end!
3. Work smart
At first I had these two tips in separate items, but I realized that it sums up to one thing – work smart. The key to working smart throughout the day is to 1) group your small tasks, and knock those out first in the day and 2) reward yourself with breaks to avoid burnout.
While it is easy to get caught up in the hustle of even the most productive days, I’ve found out that burnout eventually will find you. To avoid the resulting and awful waste of time, be conscious of how long you’ve been working and the rigor, and take breaks leisurely. By giving yourself rewards and time to relax before you need it, you’ll prolong your productivity and ideally avoid burnout altogether.
4. Keep an extremely updated calendar
This is where technology comes into play. We are no longer in the days of having to remember our plans until we get home to write them on our calendar… YOU HAVE IT IN YOUR POCKET! Now, I will be the first to admit that I absolutely adore my paper planner. However, you have to be realistic about it’s accessibility. You are not going to pull out your planner every time your friend mentions plans for a Friday night.
Instead, I use my iPhone calendar to keep plans of times/dates for more than a week in advance, or anytime that I don’t have my planner with me. Then, I use my planner to keep track of To Do items, homework, exams, notes, and my weekly plans. At the start of each week (usually on a Sunday), I sit down with both calendars open and make sure they reflect each other’s plans. This way, I know that I am always updated and keeping track of my commitments. Plus, it helps to have my schedule in two places if god forbid, I lost one!
I hope these 4 tips on how to stay organized will help you as you begin a new year and new semester. Overall, the best advice I’ve ever gotten when I was stressed out was “worry is the misuse of the imagination”. Keep calm & plan on!