9 Tips to Keep You Organized

Written by Breana Noble

It’s that time of the year: when midterms, essays, and projects hit, and when the extracurricular activities seem to steal away all of your time. If you’re not organized, now’s the time to reassess your system and ensure it’s working for you. Academic counselor Christy Maier says, “If you aren’t organized, it’s hard to use your time and your resources efficiently. Time is the most valuable resource any college student has.”

Ms. Maier provides some tips to survive the semester’s peak time.

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  1. Know yourself.
    What works for your roommate or best friend won’t necessarily be efficient for you. Whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet with a master plan of your week or checkboxes with the day’s objectives, experiment with different systems until you find one you are comfortable using.
  2. Set achievable goals.
    The point of creating goals is to meet them. Have a deadline for long- or short-term goals and make sure your goals are measurable. For daily tasks, Ms. Maier recommends each should not take longer than an hour and a half. “‘Write a paper’ is too big of an item,” she says. “Maybe ‘outline a paper’ would be a first step, then ‘write sub-point one of the paper’ would be another.”
  3. Review your accomplishments.
    When you’re rushing from task to class and meeting to reading, there’s not much time to meditate on the things you have accomplished. Take the time to check off what you completed at the end of the day to boost your spirit and to keep a record of what your accomplishments. “For many people, the feeling of efficacy and accomplishment motivates further productivity,” Ms. Maier says.
  4. Prioritize.
    List what you need to complete today and what you need to complete this week. It’ll help you to know where to start instead of become overwhelmed with the amount of work. You’ll have direction but also the liberty to schedule things the way that works for you. “Once I’m done with the smaller tasks, I feel freedom to move onto the other things,” Ms. Maier says. “It gives me a sense of accomplishment without a sense of constriction.”
  5. Know what’s next.
    Don’t get caught off guard by the term paper due date or next test. Note the next upcoming challenge: write it in your planner, plug it into a calendar app, or stick a note to your wall.
  6. Don’t multi-task.
    Watching Netflix while skimming the Western Heritage reader is tempting, but it might not be the most effective use of your time. “When you multi-task, your normal IQ level takes a ten-point hit,” Ms. Maier says. “An hour of focused time at full IQ capacity is worth a lot more than an hour and a half with a diminished IQ capacity. You actually create time for yourself to socialize and be a part of things.”
  7. Manage distractions.
    Use your time to its maximum. Close the laptop and silence the cell phone to create an environment in which it is easy to focus. “If I were to recommend an app, I’d like one that silences all notifications while you’re in the middle of a task,” Ms. Maier says.
  8. Use a timer.
    It’s not good to overwork yourself either, and sometimes it can be difficult to know when it’s a good time to take a study break. People actually have a certain length of time during which they are able to focus. “Most people can focus successfully somewhere between thirty minutes to an hour and thirty minutes, not allowing any distractions during that time,” Ms. Maier says. Set a timer to devote a sufficient amount of time to finish a task or more while also providing the opportunity to have some time to rest and relax.
  9. Visit the academic counselor.
    The list above is by no means exhaustive. If you’re struggling with organization and would like some extra help, go see Ms. Maier in the Writing Center located in the basement of the Knorr Student Center. This is what three-quarters of her time at work is spent doing, she says. “Academic counseling is helping people talk through the various options available to them and self-assess what their strengths and weaknesses are and what might be a solution for them,” Ms. Maier says.

Breana NobleBreana Noble, ’18, is a student from Michigan studying American studies and journalism. She is a member of the Dow Journalism Program; is an assistant news editor for Hillsdale’s school newspaper, the Collegian, and has interned at Newsmax Media in Washington, D.C. through the National Journalism Center.