My 5 Top Tips for First Year Organisation
First Year is the perfect opportunity for some trial and error, whether that be in which societies to join, which clubs are worth your time, or which Pot Noodle is superior. For the sake of this particular blog post, however, I want to talk about organisation. It wasn’t something I personally afforded much thought to until I arrived at uni, but I was suddenly confronted with a new way of learning which was unfamiliar and hence required a different way of organising my life. As a quick disclaimer: organisation is a very subjective and individual subject. The way one person organises their uni life won’t work for another, and vice versa, so obviously take my tips with a pinch of salt. This post is intended merely as a starting point for you to try some of my methods and see if they help you to find your feet.
- Whiteboard to do list
I bought a mini-whiteboard for about £2.50 from a supermarket, and stuck it to my wall by my desk (quick PSA: I would recommend investing in some quality removable wall adhesives – BluTack led to being woken in the middle of the night on several occasions when the whiteboard fell off the wall and crashed onto my desk). At the beginning of every week, I would look at the reading I needed to do on the module websites and write the names of all the articles onto the whiteboard. As a visual learner, seeing everything I needed to do several times a day really helped me to stay on top of work. I was always aware of how much work I had to do, and got the satisfaction of crossing tasks off as I did them.
2. Academic planner
I always had an academic planner at school, so had relied on one for a very long time. I chose one for uni which would also work as a social planner, so essentially I could stay on top of everything in one book. I’m a bit of a stationery lover, so I colour-coordinated each module and the lectures and seminars I had to attend, along with society and sports commitments, and anything social I had going on. This way, I got a bird’s-eye view of everything for every day. I credit this massively for helping me to stay organised, and would absolutely recommend one of these to every student. I’m going to try a bullet journal for this year, which works in a similar way but is very bespoke to the way you like to stay on top of things.
I only discovered Notion literally last week, but I am absolutely obsessed. I’m sure it will be great for uni organisation, so even though I didn’t use it in First Year, I’m going to chuck it into this list anyway. It’s essentially an organisation platform site, which offers free use to students (use your uni email address when signing up). You create the pages yourself, a bit like a web designer, so your Notion looks exactly the way you want it to. It’s especially great for long term thinking – I track any jobs I’ve applied for, grades I’ve received, books I’ve read, podcasts I’ve listened to, and have an Eisenhower Matrix-style to do list for more long-term tasks. Watch a few YouTube videos to see it used properly, and I assure you you’ll be as obsessed as I am.
4. Sort your files out
This is a bit of an obvious one, but so important. First, virtual: clean up your desktop before you start uni, because it becomes so much more difficult the longer you leave it. I made a folder for each module, and saved all my notes into the right folder for the whole year – that’s it! You will make life so much easier for your future self if you do this two second task every time you make a document. Similarly, if you use something like Google Drive for your work, just make sure it’s organised enough for you to be able to easily find all your work. The same applies if you use paper and physical files. I like to have hard copies of my notes so I can highlight them and make connections between topics. I would do my best to print everything out and file every week or fortnight, because if I left it too long it became difficult to remember where every sheet needed to go. A little tedious, but a lifesaver when you need to revise or write an essay.
5. Keep it simple
Generally speaking, the more simple and straight-forward your organisation techniques, the more likely they are to be effective. I tried some complicated and long-winded methods in first term which I just couldn’t sustain. The aforementioned methods are what I personally found to work over long periods, and I ascribe that to their being quick and easy to do. The most important thing is that your methods meet two criteria: they keep you organised and in control of your tasks; and you can maintain them for the whole year. A to do list is the perfect place to start.
I hope this post has given you a little bit of inspiration for getting organised for the new academic year. If you give any of my tips a try and they work for you, feel free to leave a comment below to let me know!