Finding Your Method: Organization Strategies

Everyone has their own way of staying on top of things; some people can’t live without Google Calendar, while others take a planner with them wherever they go. When I first got to college, I had to learn what method would be best for me; my schedule and work load was totally different than in high school, so I had to make some changes. Whether you're a first-year or an upperclassman trying to curb some of your stress, you can always experiment with new methods. While you won’t really know what works for you until you try it on for size, here’s a few different methods you can use to keep yourself together this semester. 

Love having everything in one place? Get yourself a planner.

Got a meeting? Put it in the planner. Need to read 50 pages for class? Put it in the planner. Keep forgetting to get your friend a birthday present? Planner, planner, planner. Planners tend to be organized just by day, but some even go hourly so you can further plan out your crazy life. They’re your go-to for month- or semester-long reminders, as they usually have sections for notes, and also for the day-to-day commitments that you can’t afford to forget.

Planners might, I dare say, be the most popular method of organization, but you don’t have to go along with the crowd. I’ve been told to keep a planner ever since high school, but it hasn’t always worked for me. It gets lost in my backpack, it’s never on the right page, and I can never decide if I should leave it on my desk so that it’s always there for me to see or if I should keep it in my backpack so that I can write things down during class. If you’re wed to planners but also experience some of these issues, try buying a pocket-sized planner (or even just a simple note-pad) that you can always keep in a pouch in your backpack, away from all of your other books. Then you can keep another planner, maybe one with more space, on your desk with deadlines and meeting reminders.

Need convenient reminders? Use calendars.

If I’m going to remember to do something, it needs to be written out somewhere clear as day. That’s why I keep a calendar on my desk; this way, my paper and project deadlines are always right there for me to see—all my important info is just a glance to my right. The only challenge here is making sure all of your books and papers don’t clog up your desk and end up covering up your calendar. But there’s an easy fix for this issue: tape your calendar up on a wall or stick it onto your tack board. Just make sure it’s in a convenient spot so that you don’t forget about it.

If you like desk calendars, you’ll also probably be a fan of Google Calendar. Basically just an online hourly planner, Google Calendar lets you create events and sends you alerts to remind you about them. This is crucial— especially if you know that you always forget about that one assignment that’s due every Sunday, or if you know that you have a crazy day ahead and will need a little help remembering to go to your appointment at the Wellness Center.

Like to keep it simple? Buy some sticky notes.

When all else fails, I remind myself about things by writing it on a sticky note and putting it on my desk—usually right in my eye line. This is the method that I end up falling into when the semester gets crazy and I don’t have the energy to devote myself to a planner, a calendar, or anything that takes more effort than grabbing the nearest piece of paper and writing something down. It works for me because it is so simple; I don’t have to try hard to get into the habit of writing a quick reminder. I also find writing notes helpful when I get really swamped and need to plan out the order in which I'm going to complete everything for that day. It becomes like a mini to-do list that I can use to track my progress.

Another good alternative for people who just need to jot things down quickly is the Reminders app. You can set reminders to go off at a particular time—like Google Calendar without the actual calendar. I use Reminders for everything from reminding myself to take my prescription to pushing myself to send important emails. I also have the app for my computer; I keep it open on my desktop at all times so that I never have the chance to forget anything. 

Or use any method that works for you!

Do whatever you need to do to keep your life in order; your method is your method. Also, these strategies aren't mutually exclusive. If you use a planner, a desk calendar, Google Calendar, and a white board by your desk and are killing the game, good for you! It’s all about experimenting, building habits, and finding the best way to keep yourself sane when college life tries to get the best of you. So go out and find what works for you!