How to Stay Organized in College

It’s tough to stay organized at college when that fabulous freedom you now have means you get to decide when and how you’ll manage your schedule. Need to clean your room but would rather watch Netflix? Sure! Why not push off the tidying until next weekend? Your friends are going out for half-price appetizers, but you need to finish a paper. Well, what’s one more super late night?

The variety and intensity of college life can sometimes make you feel like your scheduling and organization skills are in shambles. Between juggling classes and homework, managing extracurricular activities, and keeping some sort of a social life, it’s tough to keep up with seemingly small things like organization. Without some helpful habits in place, it’s easy to spiral downwards and lose track of what you need to do and when you need to do it.

If you want to maximize your time in school and eliminate the confusing mixups that come from disorganization, here are a few helpful tips to assist you in staying on task and getting what needs to get done crossed off your list.

1. Keep a planner or use a planner app

The beautiful thing about this digital day and age is that you have a whole host of organizational tools right at your fingertips on your mobile device. Whether it’s planner apps, calendar apps, or to-do lists, the list is rather endless! That to say, there’s something nice about holding a physical planner in your hands and using an old-fashioned pen to write down your commitments and to-do’s.

Whichever method you use, get in the habit of keeping all your plans, homework assignments, and must-complete tasks in your planner, and refer to each morning. Soon, double booking yourself and missing deadlines will become a thing of the past, as visual reminders like planners can be a huge help for staying organized and on top of things.

2. Prioritize your to-do’s 

Not all to-do’s are created equal. While organizing your closet this weekend may be on your list, your term paper due on Monday will probably trump that task. Order your tasks from most important to least important, and start from the top. If you fail to complete a task that’s lower on the totem pole, the consequences will be far less than if you failed to study for a test or forgot to pay a bill.

3. Schedule in travel time and margin time

Got back-to-back appointments? A mere ten minutes in between two classes? Probably not a good idea to schedule a quick coffee date with a friend in between. It’s easy to forget about the time it takes to travel between engagements, but that margin is essential. If you find that you’re chronically late between appointments, do a self check and make sure you’re planning in enough travel time to get from place to place.

4. Plan your week ahead on Sunday night

Getting a bird’s eye view of your week can be really helpful as you approach the tasks you must get done and the places you’ll need to be. Whip out that planner, and make sure you’ve got everything on it for the week, as well as time for margin and travel scheduled in as well. Not only that, but if you have a good overview of the week ahead, you’ll be able to field requests to do additional things because you’ll know if you have enough time to squeeze something else in.

5. Calendarize cleaning 

Doing the dishes and taking the trash out can feel like low priorities compared to all the other things going on at college. However, I can bet that your roommates don’t feel that way. Make sure you’re pulling your weight and cleaning on a regular basis—or at least as agreed by all of you. While it seems like cleaning the bathroom would be an easy task to accomplish, bathrooms don’t get clean by magic, and you’ll probably have to set aside some specific time in your planner in order to get the job done right. Don’t wing it—plan it. And then you can cross that dirty shower right off your to-do list and move on with your life.

Your beautiful, organized life

While you don’t have to get crazy about planning every single second of your life, it will bode well for you to at least have a basic plan in place. Functioning maturely as an adult means getting a little organized, and you’ll see quickly that it will pay off in spades, and you’ll soon have more time to enjoy the things you’re involved in instead of worrying about missed deadlines or what unknown activity is up next.