How to Become More Organised and Productive as A Student | 5 Tips That Will Make Your Life Easier
I would definitely describe myself as an organised person. In fact, I’m maybe too organised. I am by no means a tidy person or an ‘on time’ person so I’m definitely not organised in every sense of the word but when it comes to work, which in my case is university work, I like to have everything organised down to a tee. This is a good thing in many ways, as it usually means I’m on top of my work, which prevents a lot of stress. But it also means that I become ridiculously stressed if I do fall behind my own schedule, which doesn’t even generally mean falling behind my university work, just my own made-up schedule.
So, personally I’m actually working on being more laid-back and I’m trying to go with the flow a little bit more. But I know a lot of people do struggle with getting organised when it comes to work, and specifically university work. And because I have really perfect all my ways of being organised over the years, I thought I should share them for those of you who are looking to become more organised and, at the end of the day, make your life easier.
Although putting all of these things into place will take a little bit of time, once you have done so, I can guarantee your life will be easier. They’ll make you less stressed by ensuring you don’t leave anything to the night before and, hey, they might even make you enjoy studying a little bit more, god forbid! Hopefully they will also ensure you spend less time procrastinating so you have more time do whatever you want with!
Get Prepared and Invest in All The Stationery
I’m hoping this tip will be music to some of your ears! I’m giving you free reign to spend lots of your money on stationary! But if this doesn’t sound particularly exciting to you, stay with me, there is method in my (stationery obsessed) madness. You couldn’t run a marathon without a good pair of trainers (clearly, I couldn’t run one with them, but you get my point) and you can’t get organised without all the materials you need to do so. You don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money on the stationery you need either. Head to WHSmith if you’re happy for that do the job! However, I personally find that investing in nice stationery that is also practical makes me excited to get organised. For example, since investing in a new desk planner, I love planning my week and don’t feel overwhelmed by it at all, because of the all the different sections to it which allow me to see my week in a balanced way. But like I said, whatever floats your boat is fine. This tip is more about making sure you’ve got the supplies you need to get organised.
Here’s a list of the things you need to up your organisation game as well as some shoppable links to the stationary I own or recommend, whether you’re after something a lil bit fancy or want to keep it simple…
A Diary/Planner for important dates, to-do lists and so you generally know what day of the week it is.
A Desk Planner so you can plan your days and weeks in advance and feel less overwhelmed by everything you need to do. I’m more of a weekly planner person but some people prefer daily planners or both.
Flash cards because they are essential for exam revision and having them on hand means you don’t have to run round the shops a few days before your exam, wasting valuable revision time.
Highlighters and coloured pens because colour coordination will change your life!
A notepad and/or desk pad so you always have somewhere to jot down random and important notes and thoughts plus a place to make to-do lists.
Post it notes because they always come in useful especially for revision and for making notes in books, very useful for an English student.
2. Plan, Plan, Plan and Write Everything Down
Obviously, a key part of being organised is planning but I’d also recommend that, in your planning processes you write everything down. Personally, as soon as I am given all my deadlines (whether they’re for essays, exams or just week-to-week reading deadlines) at the beginning of the semester, I write them all down in my diary on the dates when they are due, right up until the end of the semester. I also write any other plans I have down, such as trips away, nights out etc. (FYI: I tend to use an online Google Calendar and other online resources for blog organisation and any extra-curriculars as these things tend to change around a lot more than my university work does, so it’s just easier to do it online. Let me know if you’d like a blog post on how I balance/organise all the different things I do that aren’t directly related to my degree!)
It takes about half an hour to write all of this down but it will make your life so much easier because every time you want to check when you need to read a certain book by, or when an essay is due, rather than logging in to your student account, you can just flick through your diary and see when it is. This also gives you more of a feel as to how long you have left to complete your tasks i.e. 5 flicks (assuming your diary has a week on a 2 page spread) don’t worry about it, 3 flicks maybe start thinking about it, 1 or 2 flicks… you really need to get started!
I’d also recommend colour coding everything, using your lovely pens and highlighters you’ve just bought! I’ve taken three modules this semester so I use a different coloured pen for each module and write all the reading, deadlines and whatever else I need to complete for that module using that colour. Again, when looking through your diary, this just makes it easier to see what’s going on that week and the module you might need to focus on a little bit more. See below for an example of a week’s spread in my diary:
3. Do Everything A Week Ahead
This one is a biggie for me in terms of how I keep up to date with my university work. After planning out all your deadlines in your planner, you can easily see when work is due, so you don’t really have any excuses to do things last minute! With this, it’s best to get everything done a week ahead. My rule is, generally, everything for the following week must be done by the Sunday of this week. So if I have two books to read and an essay to write, for example, for the week starting Monday the 11th February, I would have ideally got started on all of them on Monday 4th February, or the weekend of the 2nd February, if my workload for that week is really heavy.
I know this sounds overwhelming but if most of your work is set in advance, like mine is, it just makes life so much easier to get it done in advance and it means you never get that overwhelming feeling of ‘I have so much work to do for tomorrow and the seminar tutor is going to ask me a question on the book I haven’t read’ because even if you do fall behind your schedule by a few days, you’ll still be on top of the current week!
4. Find Out How & Where You Like To Work
This one is essential in order to actually enjoy (as much as is possible) the time you spend working and, also, in order to get the most work done. Do you prefer working in the library or at home? I’m more of a working at home typa gal but a couple of hours spent in the library can sometimes be super productive for me, depending on my mood. Do you work better during a ‘normal’ 9-5 working day or would you rather have your morning to yourself and do more of an 11-7 day? Personally, I think I work best during the hours of 10-6, so I tend to stick to that. Do you work really well by turning your phone off for 3 hours and smashing out work, followed by a long break, or are you better with short bursts of productivity with short breaks (e.g. the Pomodoro Method?) I’m somewhere in the middle but I’ve learnt that putting a timer on anything makes me hate what I’m doing, so I just leave my phone in the other room and work for as long as possible till I feel like I need a break; sometimes I can go for a couple of hours, sometimes I can’t even manage a couple of minutes!
What I’m trying to say is that to be organised and to get your work done in time, you need to be working in a way that suits you. Because if you’re not, firstly, you won’t enjoy it at all and, secondly, you won’t get half as much done as you could. So trial and error all of these different things and find a way of working that is perfect for you. Also, don’t just do things because they work for other people! Sure some people are really productive when they do an all-nighter in the library but personally, I know my brain wouldn’t function at all in that environment. So really make it personal and don’t worry about other people’s judgements.
5. Allocate Time Off
And finally, a tip that seems kind of counter-productive right? How is taking time off going to make you more organised? Well, let me tell you! This is one that I’ve only started doing recently as I mentioned in my New Years Resolutions styled blog post. But taking time off has made the time I do spend doing work so much more bearable and has actually helped me reach my goals, because rather than just putting it off till tomorrow, I know that if I don't do it today, my day off will be spent feeling stressed.
So I personally take a day off every Sunday. When I say off, I mean off university work. I still work on my blog and all of my other extracurriculars but I do not allow myself to do university work, no matter what. It’s currently Sunday whilst I’m writing this post and I don’t feel stressed at all, as yesterday I pushed myself to finish the work I needed to for the week so I could enjoy today. That was my only motivation to get the work done though and before giving myself an official day off, I would always feel hopeless about my workload and view it as never-ending, because it essentially did feel like it could go on forever.
And here’s the thing, if you don’t give yourself time off, your work will go on forever! Not because you have so much work that you can’t fit into 5 or 6 days of the week but because you’re probably not using your time efficiently enough, maybe because you haven’t planned everything out, maybe because you’re not working in a way that’s optimised for you or maybe it’s just because you know you can always finish it tomorrow. But if you don’t give yourself that final option, or any of the others, you’ll stop procrastinating as much, which means you can spend more time doing things you really enjoy, providing more motivation to get your work done; it’s a bit of a productivity cycle really! It’s revolutionised my productivity levels and made me feel more happy generally.
I’m very aware that this blog post is extremely long (who knew I had so much to say about organisation hey?) but I really wanted to provide comprehensive instructions on how to get organised as a student, and I hope I have! Let me know if you find this type of post useful and if you’d like to see more content on getting organised on my blog!