So, sticking with the back to school theme, I thought I’d do a post about a question that I’ve been asked several times… “How do you stay organized during the school year?”
I will admit that this one took some trial and error for me to figure out. I tried using a planner, the calendar on my computer, the calendar on my phone, organizational apps, and finally using a planner again. When I first started college I bought a basic planner and just wrote stuff down in it, as one usually would. But the problem I faced is that I didn’t have a system for how I used it, and I lacked consistency in what I’d write down. I’d be great about using if for a couple of weeks, but then I’d get lazy. On top of that I would use it almost exclusively for schoolwork, as opposed to using it to balance work and my social life as well.
Last year I decided to invest in a pricier planner (the 2012-2013 large agenda by Lilly Pulitzer, in the pattern “Dirty Shirley”), and promised myself that if I splurged on it I would use it religiously. I even went so far as to read articles and watch YouTube videos on tips for effectively using a planner! I’m telling you, I was committed. After seeing what worked for other people and knowing what didn’t work for me, I devised a system to organize all aspects of my life. Some people who’ve seen my planner have called it OCD, but hey, it works for me!
After receiving my planner, the first thing I did was go to Target and buy a set of pens that would be designated for planner use (I like the Pentel R.S.V.P ballpoint pens). I bought a multipack of these pens that came with a variety of colors, and I assigned a color to each of my five classes. For example pink was for my journalism class, blue was for marketing, green was for Spanish, and so on. I am a very visual person so being able to see a color-coded list of everything I needed to get done was super helpful for me! At the beginning of each week, usually on a Sunday, I would go through each class syllabus and write anything that was relevant for the week to come, whether it’s readings, assignments or quizzes. I always make sure to look a few weeks ahead to plan for any exams or bigger assignments that were coming up. I usually will highlight these things too, so they really stand out. This system makes sure there are no surprises that sneak up on me! Finally, I ALWAYS keep a white-out pen on hand in case there’s any changes to be made. I can admit this part is OCD, but I hate the messy look of scribbled out writing!
For Everything Else:
Though it took me some time to figure it out, using your planner to coordinate your life outside of school can also be a lifesaver. This may seem obvious to most people, but for some reason I felt like I wanted to keep these two parts of my life separate. After I gave that up and gained some common sense, I started writing everything that was going on outside of school in my planner as well. Because I still like some separation from these two parts of my life, I use a black pen to record the things not related to school. I think that the contrast between the colors for classes and the black for other things makes it easy for me to differentiate them. I use the planner to record my work schedule, when I plan on going to the gym, dinners with friends, to-dos I hope to accomplish, and any other social activities. Having everything in one place is the only way I can guarantee I don’t double-book or forget to get something done!
So perhaps a lot of this stuff seems basic, but it’s really helped me organize my life in that last year. Taking the time to “prep” my schedule ahead of time and see everything going on in the upcoming week was very beneficial in terms of budgeting my time and making sure everything got done. Hopefully some of these tips will be helpful to you too!