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How to Deal with Your Organized Mess

I’m an organized mess. 


An oxymoron, maybe, but 100% true. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You write down all the dates in your planner, you set alarms, you highlight the syllabus, and yet you still miss things. You’re “organized,” but you’re clearly a mess. People seem to have the notion that if you carry a planner and write down dates, you’re going to magically remember things. Turns out, it actually doesn’t work that way. We’re going to go over color coding, digital notes, and how something as simple as syllabus placement can make all the difference in the world.


Before we dive into this journey of self-organization, let me address a couple of things.


1) Not everyone is the same. Some people are visual, others are tactile, and some simply auditory. Just because everyone uses a planner, doesn’t mean you should.


2) If you have been using the same system, switch. Don’t be afraid to try new ways to learn, or new ways to keep up with everything. It’s going to be a trial and error type deal but you’ll survive, I promise.


3) Maybe it’s not the system. If you’ve used multiple systems to no avail, there’s an underlying issue. Perhaps it’s a motivation or discipline issue. It’s usually time management, but you could also be overwhelmed with activities.  


I am going to break down my organizational system, that I have tweaked multiple times to help me become more efficient. Maybe you won’t be able to 100% adapt to what I do, but hopefully you can take something from it that can help you. 

I color code like it’s my job

My mind connects colors with certain subjects and categories and I use that as the foundation for my calendars. I use Apple Calendar because I have a MacBook Air and an iPhone, and I can access the most recent version of my calendar on both devices at all times.

Red is for “Personal” because of the sense of urgency and it includes bill due dates, doctors’ appointments, and personal matters.

Orange is for “Work” because I work for UTSA and that category also includes football games and school events. You can customize yours to whatever that color brings to mind. 

Now, the color coding goes beyond that.


I have a white board calendar in my room because I am a tactile learner. I need to have a tangible item I can connect to my due dates and events otherwise it doesn’t seem within reach. And guess what? The same colors apply. Here is a look at my October.

You can also take the color coding even further! Get journals that match the associated color, or take the notes for that class with a certain pen color. Do whatever is going to help you focus but most importantly, help you learn.


Digital Notes

Remember how I said I was a tactile learner? Well, I avoided digital notes for years until I learned how to make it work for me. I would fall behind in class trying to keep up with the professors because I couldn’t write as fast as they talk. Here’s the secret.


Take notes in the “Notes” section in PowerPoint under the slide.


Crazy, right? Or if your professor doesn’t provide slides, start a Google Drive, a Pages folder, or whatever you use. The point is, take notes off the content provided in class. If you need to hand write – like myself – this forces you to go back later and transfer them into a journal even more. I know it sounds like extra work having to transfer them, but it’s an amazing study tip. Handwriting your notes after already taking them in class serves as a review before exam time. Then you don’t have to cram a month’s worth of material into a couple of hours before the exam. Boom, you’re a pro. 

Sticky Notes

From my bathroom mirror to the fridge, my room is covered in sticky notes. They have lunch reminders, daily pick-me-ups, and any special things I need to know for the day. If you’ve ever seen “Being Mary Jane” then you know what habit I’m talking about. I often thought, “I wish I could do this for my classes without losing the stickies.” Well, you can. It’s 2017, you can do anything. I use an application for my laptop called “Stickies” that basically allows me to add digital stickies to my desktop. It’s BRILLIANT.


You can also add physical stickies to your class journals or textbooks if that’s your thing!

Syllabus Strategy

Remember how I mentioned a novel and a half ago about how putting your syllabus in a new place can help tons? Well, it’s true. I’ve been doing it for two years and I don’t know how I did college before. Ready? Here it goes. Take the schedule section out of your syllabus, cut it out, and tape it to the inside of your journal. Then take the pages that have the contact and exam info, fold them in half, and tape them to the inside of the back of the journal. I provided some examples for you visual learners. It’s the simplest thing ever, but it makes the biggest difference in the world.


College is already hard in general, adding a part time job, getting involved, and trying to stay fit can drive someone insane. It took me forever to find the perfect system, but remember we are all different. Organization, isn’t about making everything “perfect”, it’s about customizing several variables so that it works for you. Your system is supposed to make it all easier for you in the long run, but it will take some effort. If you have any unique tips you’ve come across, share them with me!

Esmeralda is a senior Marketing and Tourism major at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her major interests include anything to do with food, organization and the outdoors. She usually buys more books than she can read, drinks too much coffee for her own good, and is a grilled cheese enthusiast. You can find her giving UTSA campus tours or actively getting her life together one calendar update at a time.
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