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How to Stay Organized in College

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Some believe that being organized is solely a straightlaced affair and that in order to think, nay live outside the box, one must first confine oneself to the tables and grids of the average agenda.  However, that's not really the case. On the contrary, organization is a fluid entity whose personality mirrors whoever stands before it. Its benefits are open to all, from list lovers to line loathers, from those who believe in a place for everything and everything in its place to those who have a method to their messy madness.  That's what this article is all about, embracing organization’s intuitive nature and exploring to inspire ideas for your order-keeping arsenal.

Before we dive in, let's quickly recap some tried-and-true organization tips we've all probably heard before:

Keep like things together.

Assign special colors to particular categories.

Keep and adhere to a regularly updated schedule.

Select an outfit and pack the night before.

Manage time wisely, to name a few.

Now on to the fun part!

How to write?  When in doubt draw it out.  Most planners are very by the book, no pun intended. They recycle old formats repeatedly. Many find comfort in the succinct predictability of their column filled pages, while others would rather run in terror at the thought of all that structure.

Well, making descriptive annotated lists isn't the only way to effectively track the things that matter. When in doubt, draw it out. Ditch the planners and bullet journals for a sketch pad. Use special designs and symbols instead of mere words. You don't even have to arrange them into that pesky terror inducing columns. Scatter each page with the tasks of the day however you like, perhaps using some special priority markers, such as color or size, to emphasize importance.  Your schedule is basically your life's blueprint, so its design has to work for you. Have fun with it.



Take notes like an Ivy Leaguer.  This point is more for those who believe that nothing beats good clean structure.  Organized notes create organized lives.  They provide the framework for how we learn, think, and live, so it's pretty coincidental that Cornell University's specially designed note-taking system is framelike in appearance.  Developed in the early nineteen hundreds by Cornell University Professor Walter Pauk, its format consists of a larger right column, the main note taking section, a smaller left column, a section for shorthand questions, keywords, and comments, and a bottom section to summarize.  The left and bottom sections are filled in as main notes are reviewed.  Cornell note-taking not only keeps primary note components separate, and easily locatable, but consequently makes for easy, efficient studying as well.


How to manage time?  The power of the Pomodoro.  The Pomodoro Technique is a time management tool, perfect for staying organized. It splits long periods of work into short, separate sections of high-intensity focus, punctuating them evenly with shorter breaks. Traditionally the work portions are set for twenty-five minutes each, and the break portions, five. However it is perfectly acceptable to adjust these slots to whatever time suits you best.  The Pomodoro not only encourages one to stick to those tedious, long-winded study sessions by offering regular windows to do whatever in between, but it's a proven productivity booster that gets things done faster, and frees up extra time that can be used to do even more whatever. Create a safety net for those days when organizational goals fall a little short, perhaps?

Time sure does fly when you're fast asleep.  Sleep is great, sleep is fun, sleep keeps us from losing our minds, but sometimes it plays the role of organization’s worst enemy. This is where regularized sleep patterns and early rising come in handy. Yes, I know, it's a tale as old as time, but the number of those who know and those who do are vastly different.  Long bouts of sleep as opposed to naps every now and then can really help to sustain an orderly head, and subsequently an orderly life. As for being the early bird that catches the proverbial worm?  Setting the body's natural schedule to work for you subconsciously reinforces the inclination to get things done efficiently and ahead of schedule as well as provide the extra time required to make all this happen.

How to balance work and play?  Every valid contract needs at least two parties.  The word party means different things to different people: Club hopping with friends, outings with family, downtime with the characters of a novel. No matter which you prefer, organizational protocol dictates the necessity of prioritization. To keep your die-hards from becoming your distractions, you must make a contract of sorts with yourself. From the gamut of events set for the upcoming year, choose a select few so you can plug them into your plans in advance. Develop your own personal criteria for free time eligibility. Except the sad fact that even members of your chosen few may need to be sacrificed for the greater good. Finally, make a promissory declaration to yourself, write it down if you must, including all the above factors, plus any extras you think will increase your likelihood to follow through with it.



Invest in your future.  If you desire a more concrete approach to distraction management, try investing... literally.  Rather than with yourself, make a contract with a dependable accountability partner instead.  As an incentive, relinquish something valuable to him/her, and give permission to take permanent custody if contractual obligations go unfulfilled. It doesn't get more concrete than that. Some money, your favorite jacket, movie tickets, it doesn't really matter as long as it keeps you committed. If this approach is a couple degrees too spicy for your taste, add a Redemption system so that, if necessary, you can win back your stuff through honoring your contract on another try.


Well, there you have it!  A smorgasbord of ideas and idea stimulants. If nothing else, I hope you leave with a mind reintroduced to the creative, flexible nature of organization. You don't have to fit yourself into a specific mold to reap the rewards of being organized, rather it is eager to mold itself into whatever you need to become your best self.

Written By: Gabrielle Chin | All Rights Reserved

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