10 Steps to Organization at College

Organization: Putting First Things First

Time pressure is a major source of stress for many people. Organization doesn't make more hours in the day, but it can reduce time pressure by making it easier to get done what needs done and freeing up time for other things. In addition, chances are good you'll feel better as you accomplish things and increase your sense of personal control. Listed below are some tips to improve your organizational skills:

  1. Start by uncluttering your work area. Clear your work surface of files, books, and loose papers since they can distract you from what needs to be done. Staying tidy takes a fraction of the time you will waste if distracted.
  2. Allow enough desk space to work comfortably on one assignment or project at a time without distractions.
  3. Use one calendar to track all important reminders, notes, tasks, tests, assignments and even social events. An effective tracking system can help reduce the stress of trying not to forget, and also the stress of dealing with the consequences of not getting something done.
  4. Create a master list on paper or computer that prioritizes and updates every pending assignment or project; use whatever method holds your attention.
  5. Avoid interruptions that can rob you of time and momentum. When a project or assignment requires special attention, escape to a quiet area to work more effectively.
  6. Delegate tasks when you can, since trying to do everything can be overwhelming.
  7. Think before you keep a piece of paper since most of what you keep for later use won't be needed again. The "OHIO Rule" reduces clutter and makes organization easier. "Only Handle It Once"
  8. Stop collecting so much stuff - the more you have, the more time you need to manage it. If it hasn't been used in a reasonable period of time, get rid of it.
  9. Know your personal limits and say no when you need to.
  10. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to clear your work area and plan for the next day. Planning what really must get done - and how and when to do it - can help you know how to spend your time and energy, as well as minimize anxiety about deadlines.

Keep in Mind...

  • Review your schedule at the start of each week to make sure you have allocated enough time to do what needs done that week.
  • List what you need to do each day, balancing work and fun.
  • Allocate time for each subject. Cramming is stressful and usually produces poorer performance and results.
  • Break large tasks into small steps, scheduling each step into your planner. This strategy makes those difficult tasks less overwhelming.
  • Prioritize your tasks by what is most important to do. Rank tasks from "necessary to do" to "can wait for later."
  • Schedule in breaks so you don't burn out or work inefficiently because you are too fatigued to do your best.
  • Use time between classes to study so your evenings will be free for fun.
  • Spread your work out, doing a little each day. You'll get more accomplished as well as avoiding last minute crunches.
  • Avoid time wasters during your work time. (You know what yours are -we all have them.)
  • Procrastination usually takes more energy in the long run than just doing the task.
  • Recognize your limits. There are only 24 hours in a day and we cannot do everything, so pick what matters most and spend your time doing it.
  • Remember your life goals. They can provide motivation and can help prioritize.
  • Reward yourself for accomplishments (buy yourself something, catch a movie, tell a friend who will pat you on your back).

Overcoming Procrastination

  • Don’t wait until you are “in the mood”. There is no perfect time, so stop waiting for it.
  • Be realistic and don’t aim for perfection. Write down the basic information needed for the task. Plan to revise and fine tune it later.
  • Schedule regular down time for recreation, exercise, and socializing with friends.
  • Keep reminding yourself that you CAN do it! You’ve done it before successfully and you can again. Think of strategies that worked before when you were successful and use them now.
  • Eat healthy foods and get enough sleep. Most adults function best on 7-8 hours of sleep nightly. Getting less than 6.5 hours nightly impairs your memory and ability to concentrate.
  • If an assignment doesn’t seem relevant to you, remember your life goals. They can provide motivation and help us to prioritize.

Pay continual attention to your balance of work and fun, doing so will pay off substantially in the long run.

Recommended Reading

Time Efficiency Makeover: Own Your Time and Your Life by Conquering Procrastination
by Dorothy Breiwinger and Debbie Ticks


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