It sounds cold and calculated….and it is! When you attempt to get organized, you need to be objective and systematic, but the ‘stuff’ getting organized is subjective and personal. How can those two worlds marry in harmony? Figure out a system that works for you for time, materials, tasks and obligations. Only you know what you will stick with and use. If it isn’t personally meaningful and helpful, you won’t find value and won’t continue with it.
1. Record things. One Class = One Notebook + One Folder. Make sure to take notes for every course (even the ‘easy’ ones). Use the note-taking technique best suited for that content and review notes within 24 to fill in gaps, rewrite anything illegible and simply review. Try a system to differentiate (maybe different colored notebook paper). Folders may not be enough to distinguish subjects when you get lazy and stuff everything in one notebook.
2. Store things. See #2 for paper notes. Use the cloud and/or USB drives to save homework, papers, etc. Make sure to set up folders and name documents with meaningful names to easily retrieve when needed.
3. Schedule things. Look at your calendar three ways. One: Lay out the whole semester at a glance. Get the ‘big picture’ of all classes and personal events/obligations. Two: Use an app to populate assignments or add them in yourself as needed and (here is the tough part) check it daily Three: Add tasks in your calendar for prep along the way (schedule a Writing Center tutor appointment two weeks before a major paper is due now) to keep you on pace.
4. Habitualize things. Use a routine to stay organized. Check your schedule at the same time every day. Make a plan for the week at the same time on the same day every week. Check progress on the same day at the same time each week. None should take more than 10 minutes of planning time. Example: Daily Schedule Check: 7 AM with coffee; Weekly Plan: Sunday 7 PM after dinner; Progress Check: Wednesday Noon after class.
5. ‘Roll with’ things. Life happens. Adapt and change. You learn new, different and better ways to do things. Take the risk to explore. Re-work your plan when obstacles arise.