New semester organization is how I ensure I keep my shit together for as long as possible.
I say ‘as long as possible’ because there will inevitably be a time about a month before finals that everything feels like it’s falling apart because I was too overwhelmed to keep up with all my organization. But by building an organized foundation, I set myself up not to scramble too much, to feel like I have more time in the day, and to have most of my resources in place at the end of the semester.
Here’s my process.
Add all my classes to iCal
Ok, I know most college students who are trying to stay organized use Google Calendar, but I always found it way too overwhelming. I’ve kept up with iCal on my Apple devices all this time and it works great for me. Honestly, this step is pretty straightforward and your choice of calendar doesn’t make a difference.
I like to be able to quickly reference when my classes are, and then use that to build around other regular commitments like work and exercise. Having a visual aid that blocks out my time commitments allows me to see how much time I actually have in the day.
- Classroom or Zoom link
Write all of my assignments in my planner
Yes, I use both a digital calendar and a physical planner. I like to use my physical planner to write down assignments and to-dos. As soon as I have all of my syllabuses (syllabi? hmm..) I write down every assignment for the entire semester.
Doing it all at once is time consuming, I will admit, but it’s worth it to have everything down in one place. It’s also helpful to look at it at the beginning of each week and see a general picture of how busy you’ll be.
- Color code by class
- For big assignments:
- Include in both monthly and weekly view
- Highlight high-priority assignments like projects or tests
- Underline medium-priority assignments like quizzes
- Include in both monthly and weekly view
- For regular/minor assignments:
- Weekly view only
- Include enough detail that you don’t need to reference anything else i.e. page numbers, practice problems, etc.
- Cross out assignments as you complete them
- I start to forget to do this around Month 3 but it’s satisfying if you remember
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Create folders for each class
I like to have a folder for each of my classes on my computer desktop ready to go. That way, when I have access to my syllabus, it already has a home.
I also make folders in my school email for each class, so that I can put emails from professors in their respective places. Utilizing this system from the start makes it way easier to keep up with. It also means that if I need to go back looking for something, I know exactly where to go.
Optional depending on the class:
- Make subfolders
- Class notes
- Week 1…Week 2…etc.
- Writing assignments
Organize my school supplies
This is pretty self explanatory, but I like to make sure I have all the random school supplies I need. I hate being two weeks into class and realizing all of my pens are out of ink.
It’s not the end of the world, but it is annoying.
My bare minimum:
- An up-to-date planner
- A fresh notebook for each class
- New pens
- Sticky notes
Do a deep clean
This isn’t directly related to school, but doing a deep clean of my living space before classes begin is an essential part of my preparation. There’s something satisfying about starting out with a clean slate, and personally, I get my best work done in a clean environment. This also lays the groundwork for your cleaning throughout the semester.
Once things start getting busy, it’s much harder to set aside a couple of hours to clean everything. Instead, since everything started out clean, you’re more likely to keep up with smaller cleaning endeavours.
Random things I won’t do during the semester:
- Dust my cabinets…actually dusting in general
- Take everything out of the fridge and wiping down the inside
- Clean my laptop
The final, most important step, is to mentally prepare. The ultimate goal of all the other steps is to create and execute my vision for how the semester will go. “Mentally preparing” sounds dramatic, but when you have a busy schedule and want to maintain your sanity and health, it makes sense.
I’ll leave you with some small things I like to consider:
- How much time do I have between each class?
- When will I have time to eat? When will I have time to prepare food?
- When will I workout?
- How much time can I dedicate to my social life?
- How much time can I dedicate to pure downtime?
- What’s most essential to keeping myself balanced and sane for the majority of the semester?
Good luck this semester!