Staying Organised in 2021
It’s a new year, and by now we’re all used to studying and working online, but what about being organised about it?
If you’re the type of person who normally finds keeping yourself organised with your schoolwork easy, both physically and time-wise, you might have no problem with the online thing. Or you might find it harder. And you may be the type who struggles to stay organised regardless.
Either way, here are my top tips and things that I do to help me stay organised in my daily and school life.
Life Organisation – Time
My To-do list Notebook
This is a key thing that helps me stay on track of what I want to do in a day, as well as what I need to get done in general. Every night, before I go to sleep I write out my plan for the next day. Not only does this help me stay off my phone at night (so I sleep better), but it also helps me stay super organised with my thoughts as I follow my checklist the next day.
I am a do it myself kinda person, because I’ve never been able to find a pre-made planner with the right format for me. So, I bought a blank nottebook, and made it my planner. Every month I make a monthly calendar, and then on the next page start my plans. Here is the layout, for anyone looking for inspiration:
When planning your day, remember o keep it realistic. It may be tempting to write out ten tasks ha you’re sure you could get done tomorrow, but I can tell you from experience, those ten tasks will leave you overworked. You’ll get lost and ultimately do less productive work that you’d hoped.
I recommend giving yourself 3 or 4 tasks maximum. If you have an assignment due, prioritise that, then maybe make lecture notes for 2 lectures, and add in internship research as your third thing. It may not look like a lot, but when you’re sitting down, and doing the work, you won’t feel as pressured when you look at your plan, because 3 tasks is much easier to look at than 10.
Maintaining a (relatively) Constant Routine
I find that one of the biggest benefits to living on my own at uni is being completely in control of my own time. I plan and make my own food, I leave the house when and as I need, I wake up and go to sleep at times tha suit me. This isn’t the type of lifestyle that exists in my family home, so there is always some adapting to try and keep a routine, but back to the solo life.
If you got anything from the above images, my daily routines are relatively constant. Wake up at a relatively early time in the morning, breakfast, go to campus, study and work, have lunch, more work, gym (when they were open), go home, shower, dinner and prep for sleep.
Having a regular daily cycle like this makes it super easy for me to keep up with the work I need to do, and it also lets me make room for spontaneous fun, like seeing friends, or having a fancyish dinner, or watching a movie with my flatmates.
Keeping the majority of my days constant helps me stay organised because my day to day activities become so habitual, I can spend less time focused on planning what to do next, and more time focussed on the work I have to do.
Habits go hand in hand with maintaining a routine. Obviously, they take time to build, but when you set yourself a goal every day, to do a certain thing, you gradually get into the habit of doing that. These habits can be both super productive ones, like waking up by 7 am every day. They can also be more laidback, but enjoyable habits, like watching 2 episodes of New Girl at the end of every day.
It’s important to have a balance of what I like to call “smart” and “fun” habits. Smart habits are the ones that you know are good for you, you know you should get into them, like waking up early, drinking 2 litres of water every day, going to the gym, etc. Fun habits are small things that aren’t bad for you, but keeping them in moderation adds a bit of chill to a super productive lifestyle o help keep you in a good state of mind, and just overall sane! These include watching something for 30-40 minutes at the end of the day, doing something artistic, writing in a journal, etc.
Like I mentioned before, we’re all getting used to everything being online, and generally, even normal times involve a lot of computer work, whether you’re taking notes online, writing essays and lab reports, or doing research.
An easy way to stay on top of your previous, current and future work is to physically organise your computer’s desktop. I like to keep my most relevant folders and files in the desktop for easy access whenever. That being said, I don’t like having hundreds of files scattered around the desktop, making it absolutely impossible to find anything.
Folders are a good start. Start with small folders, for example, one for each module you take. Put all the relevant presentations, notes, assignments etc into the appropriate files. Now you’ve gone from 30+ files to 6-12 folders. Already it’s more manageable. Now, make a folder for tutorial or non-module specific work – voila, even fewer files!
Next make year files. Say you’re a third year, it makes sense to keep your work and notes from first and second year, but it doesn’t make sense to have all those folders crowding space. If you make a folder labelled Year 1, it can contain all your modules and work from the first year. The same for Year 2, and bam, you have 2 year folders, plus the active modules of your third year on your desktop, leaving you with a very clean and easy to navigate workspace.
With everything on your desktop neatly organised into files, it only helps if everything you’ve got is clearly labelled. For example, if you download power points for lectures, often different lecturers use different tittle formats for the documents. This can be confusing, especially if you have similar lectures. I recommend renaming them however you see fit as soon as you’ve downloaded them.
For example, Lecture 1 of my Microbial Cell Biology lecture would be renamed from “LF206 MCB Lecture 1 Moodle Slides 2020.pptx” to“MCB1.pptx”All subsequent lectures are MCB2, 3 etc.
This helps to find certain files become much easier. And the same system can apply to things like essays and reports. Using the title of the assignment as the document title helps you find what you’re looking for fast.
Other Things to Consider
If you do decide to take up any of the tips I’ve suggested, you may find you spend less time scrolling on your phone, you’re tired more early, so you sleep earlier, you subsequently wake up earlier, you feel better, and you’re able to complete more work in a more productive manner.
It’s also important to understand that If you aren’t used to doing even half of the things I mentioned above, It takes time to build habits and get used to a certain way of life. You might find it hard to give up certain things, like late nights with your flat, or binge watching tv shows. When you first start these types of lifestyle changes, you will stumble. There will be bad days, days when you don’t manage to get anything done. Even when it is your normal life, you still have days that don’t go as planned. Life is full of spontaneous moments, and it’s good o remember that taking part in something you hadn’t originally planned is also okay!
These tips are to help you lead a generally more organised and more productive student life. If you make them habits, you’ll find yourself more confident and comfortable with your workload. You also find that you’re more easygoing, because you know you’ve got this, so you can give yourself a day off, you can accept that invitation, or watch that movie you’ve been eyeing. You can take a me day because you are so on top of everything and you’re life is so organised that you deserve it.
The most important thing to remember in order to stay organised in your thoughts and actions, but also to stay happy and mentally healthy is this: Stay true to your promises to yourself, but don’t forget to promise yourself some time to relax and have fun as well 🙂