The Ultimate Guide to Staying Organized in College

In college, being and staying organized is half the battle. There is a ton on your plate, including and not limited to school, school work, organizations, working out, and somehow trying to have a social life. And while it seems like being organized is just another thing to add onto your never ending to-do list, it’s vital if you want to stay on top of everything and be successful. Today, I thought it would be fun to share my tips on the best ways to stay organized in college.

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Have a Planner

  • Make a system.

Having a system for what goes into your planner and in what color is very important, especially if you are going to utilize color coding. For me personally, each of my classes has a color and each activity that I have, such as blogging, tutoring, classes, church, and social, have their own colors as well. For me, having a color coding system allows me to open my planner and see exactly what needs to be done or is coming up for particular areas of my life.

  • Fill it out.

The first week of each semester, I always take the time to sit down and print off all of my syllabi and then write all of the due dates into my planner. For me, I like to have my assignments and tests written in the monthly and weekly view, just so that I can have it written both ways to reference as I need it. I use the month view specifically for my assignments and then the weekly view holds all of my to-dos for the day, what classes I have, what meetings or class at the gym I have, and all of my assignments, quizzes and tests.

  • Keep it with you.

Now that you have a planner that is all filled out, keep it with you. As a student, I feel like I always have my backpack with me, even at the gym, so my planner is always with me as well. Always having it with you allows you to reference it as needed and have it with you when a friend asks you if you are available to hang out.

  • Have a day set aside to plan for your week.

Every Sunday night I sit down at my desk and plan for the upcoming week. I write down my work schedule, when I want to work out, what homework I want to accomplish at the beginning of the week, and any upcoming school events. Having everything written out before the week even starts gives me an idea of what the upcoming week will entail.

Make a List

  • Have a list of your professor and TA’s office hours along with tutoring times.

I have a folder in my backpack that stays with me at all times. It has the shuttle schedule for my apartment building, my syllabi, homework I need to turn in, and a new addition this semester, my professor and TA’s office hours along with the times for tutoring. Since I’m in several classes that 500 person lectures and that are generally hard, not only do the professors have office hours, but there are TA office hours and tutoring offered through the university. Of course the times are all over the place, so having a paper to reference makes it so much easier to see where I can go if I need help with something.

  • Make an assignment list.

One of my favorite bloggers, Kirsten from Organized Charm, recommends to have an assignment sheet to stay on top of things. Personally, I love this idea. While yes, I have my planner, I feel most accomplished when I can cross stuff off and feel that I am on top of things. This is where the assignment list comes in. I used Excel to create mine, and I fill in all assignments, their due dates, how many points it is worth, and which class it is for in the appropriate column. If I ever have a test, it is bolded. This way, I can just look at one paper and see what I have coming up and what I have accomplished. It’s almost like my own personal syllabus for the semester.

  • Make to-do lists daily.

I don’t know what it is, but the feeling of crossing something off that I have accomplished is one of the best feelings ever. I like to have a to-do list written out for each day so that I know what I want to do and have to get done. I even include getting ready, my classes, tutoring, and meetings that I have for the day. In my mind, it is all still something that I need to accomplish, plus it gives me more to cross off at the end of the day.

  • Have a list of what you want to accomplish that week.

Sometimes, you simply won’t have enough time in the day to get everything done and other days you will look at the clock and it’s only 7pm and your to-do list is done. For the few days that everything is done before the early hours of the next day, I like to have a list to refer to of what things I’d like to get done that week. Sometimes it’s sending a professor an e-mail, doing another load of laundry, changing out the towels in the bathroom, or even baking cookies for the upcoming week.

Schedule

  • Wake up at a consistent time every day.

Monday through Friday, my alarm goes off at 6:30am. I have my alarm placed so that in order to turn it off, I have to get up out of bed, which definitely helps with not pressing the snooze button over and over again. Having a certain time that I want to get up every day and actually following through with it, allows me to have the consistency of a schedule and routine. While yes, I will be exhausted if I’m up late studying for my accounting exam, eventually my body gets into a rhythm of when I need to get to bed so that I can get proper rest. Or at least as proper as you can get as a college student.

  • Have a routine for every day.

While your routine won’t be as well planned as the one you had in high school, develop a routine for each day. For me, no day of my week is the same. But I do know what I want to get done during certain times of each day of the week. It takes a couple of weeks to get into the swing of things and know when you have times to get stuff done, but once you have it figured out you are good to go.

  • Know your priorities of what you want to have scheduled and do.

Have it written down that you are going to go to math tutoring but then your friends invite you to go get ice cream? While yes, it is never a good feeling to miss out on things, in some instances school has to be a priority and the ice cream date with friends can wait until another time. While you don’t always need to be focusing on school, make sure that you still get the proper help and time in for your studying and homework each day. I promise, there are plenty of fun things that you can do with friends another time. Maybe a coffee date can make up for the missed ice cream.

  • Actually get some sleep.

You cannot properly function if you are running on 3-4 hours of sleep every night. And even though 3 cups of coffee makes you feel a little better, caffeine shouldn’t be what you lean on to fuel your body. While we all have those weeks with 4 tests, 2 papers, 5 homework assignments, and a project, every week shouldn’t be as sleepless as that one. Just make sure that you give your body a “catch-up” time after a long week. I enjoy setting aside Saturday or Sunday to sleep in later than usual so that I can get more sleep.

Productivity

  • Set out your clothes, pack your snack, and prep you backpack and gym bag the night before.

For some reason, what takes 10 minutes the night before takes 20 minutes the day of. The night before, take the time to prepare for the next day. Check the weather and set out your clothes, pack your lunch and a snack, and prep your backpack and gym bag for the next day. Once I have this done, I will put my lunch box in the frig along with my water bottle and place my backpack, gym bag, and keys by the door. That way, when its 7:19 and I have to be to the bus stop at 7:20, I can quickly grab my stuff and be out the door.

  • Know what times of the day you are most productive.

Knowing what times of the day you are most productive gives you a leg up in setting aside those times to sit down and get stuff done. For me personally, I know that I want to get school done as early as possible and leave the afternoon and early evening for my school work. Which for me means that I enjoy having my first class at 8 or 9am. Being done with school by the afternoon gives me time to do my studying and homework for the day in the afternoon so that in the evenings I can work, go to club meetings, work out, hang out with friends or work out.

  • Use a timer.

Starting to use a timer this summer was the best thing that I have done for myself. I sit down and set the timer for an hour and get all of the work done that I can in that time, then take a break. Afterwards, I will set another timer for an hour or two and get more work done during that time. This helps me especially when I have large periods of free time in the afternoon. If I feel like I have a lot of time, I’m not as efficient in getting stuff done, but if I know that I have a set time to get stuff done, then I am much more on top of things.

  • Take productive breaks.

The second best thing that I did for myself was starting to take productive breaks. I’ve definitely been guilty of claiming that I will take a 30 minute break to watch some Netflix or YouTube and then 3 hours later realized that I never did get back to my homework. Now that I’ve started to take productive breaks, that isn’t happening as much anymore. I love taking a break to work out, take pictures or write for the blog, do laundry, clean up my apartment, or to catch up on my e-mails for the week. For me, it’s completely a mental thing. If I just watch Netflix, I haven’t really gotten anything done, which will make me continue to procrastinate and watch Netflix. If I took and break and took a class at the gym, then I’ve accomplished something else on my to-do list and want to tackle more.

Cleaning

  • Schedule days to do laundry, clean the bathroom, vacuum your floors.

Having days set aside for laundry and general cleaning helps a lot. When I was in the dorms freshman year, I always took the time on Tuesday afternoon to go down to the laundry room to get my laundry done. Why Tuesday afternoons? It wasn’t busy and allowed me to have all of my clothes in the washer and drier at the same time. I also love to study with white noise, so the sound of the washer and driers were definitely a bonus for me. Please tell me I’m not the only one with that loves studying to the washer and drier going.

  • Have a tidy desk.

Studies actually show that when you have a tidy desk, you get more done. When the space that you are trying to work in is cluttered, you spend your time focused on the clutter and cleaning it off rather than studying. While I’ve made it a habit to always keep my desk tidy, it doesn’t always stay tidy while you are doing your school work. To keep my work area neat, I actually keep a basket under my desk so that when I am finished with one text book and ready for the next, I put the textbook I am finished with in the basket along with anything else I had out for that subject, and then I have a clear space to start working on the next subject.

  • Make your bed every morning.

Having a made bed makes a huge difference in how clean your space looks, especially when you are in the dorms or in a more open concept apartment like I am. On top of that, who doesn’t love the feeling of getting into a made bed after a long day?

  • Clean up every evening before bed.

We all know that a crazy day typically leads to an equally crazy dorm room or apartment. At the end of your day, take the time to clean up after yourself. Put the dishes in the dish washer, put away your shoes and dirty clothes, hang up the towel from your shower, clean off your desk, and whatever else might be out. Starting a hectic day in a clean space is always refreshing, even if your space ends up looking just as crazy as your day.

So now I’m curious, do you utilize any of these tips? Are there any tips that you would add to this list? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And as a side note, it would absolutely make my day if you would check out and follow my social media accounts. They are linked in the side bar.

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  • I’m so glad that you liked this post! It takes some motivation to actually do it and some time to actually get your systems in place, but the time and effort are definitely worth it.

    Thanks again for your sweet comments today! They made my day!

  • Dri Bla

    That was great! Thank you. Makes my brain motivated… now I just have to convince my whole body to do so. 🙂

  • My planner is my life. I’m completely honest when I say I don’t understand how people do it without one! The list of professors office hours and tutoring is the best idea I’ve had in a while! Thank you so much for your kind words!

  • This is a very comprehensive list! I totally agree that having a planner and keeping it up to date is one of the best ways to stay organized. That’s also a great idea to write down all of your professor’s office hours and keep a list! I will have to do that, I always mean to go to office hours, but I’m not always sure when they are.

    Colleen | Buckeye Bliss