How I Stay Organized in College

If I wasn’t an organized person naturally I have no idea how I would make it through college. I think I’d probably have a mental breakdown every other day.

No wait, I know I’d have a mental breakdown every other day.

I know this because the first week of classes I was given all my syllabi outlined with their many assignments and told about the ones not on them and I practically died. Not because it was too much, but because I had no where to write everything down and keep it organized.

Well technically I did. I had a planner, but it just didn’t work for me. There wasn’t hourly planning, and I need hourly planning. I needed it so badly that on the second day of classes I broke down and literally ordered a new planner and selected two day express shipping. I have never used express shipping before.

That’s how insane I felt.

How I stay organized in college: 4 tips to keep you sane and on top of things | College with Caitlyn

Now I’m using the Day Designer planner and I love it.

Having a planner is the number one necessity to staying organized.

day designer blue sky planner

There’s a space for me to write down everything I need to remember in here.

I especially love the Today’s Top Three section. It’s like a mini to-do list for the day, but reserved only for my number one priorities. I usually write one thing the night before and then fill in the other two slots the morning of so I know what I need to achieve that day.

I reserve the three slots for things like homework that is due the next day, when I’m in dire need of doing laundry or cleaning and things I need to get done for the blog.

Then of course I use the hourly planning part. The only complaint I have about this planner is the hours are blocked off by hour only, and not half hours. This is kind of annoying because I only have one class that starts right on the hour.

inside day designer blue sky planner

Then there’s the three part sidebar. At the top is a little square for the week’s gratitude which I actually just noticed. (Oops) But now that I know it’s there I will be using it! I really love the idea of writing down things that make me happy, so if I’m ever stressed from looking at everything I have to do I can get some relief by remembering something good that happened that week.

Next is the notes section. I use this in two ways: I either jot down random thoughts that I have while I’m in classes or I put sticky notes here detailing my shopping lists and weekend homework.

I like using sticky notes instead of just writing in the planner itself because then when I go to the store I can just take the note out and stick it to the back of my phone. That way I know exactly what I need, and don’t have to rewrite everything. #lazy

Using sticky notes also helps because then I can cross out the assignments I finish with my black sharpie without it bleeding through the page (because I checked and it does bleed through).

The last section is the Next Week box. I thought this was really original. I’ve never seen another planner with a section like this, and I like it. I use it to write down things I need to remember for the following week, or things I need to prepare for mentally.

monthly view of day designer blue sky planner

The other part of the planner is the monthly layout. You wouldn’t think so, but I actually use this section very sparingly. I use it for presentations, tests and quizzes, school events, birthdays and other really big things I need to make sure I don’t forget. I also like to use the monthly layout to write things I’m interested in doing/attended but haven’t decided whether I want to commit to yet.

My favorite part of the whole planner is how the whole left sidebar is for to-dos. There’s one on the monthly and weekly pages. I didn’t include a photo of the one with the weekly layout because there was sharpie that bleed through the page before so it looked really gross.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m like to-do lists’ number one fan. It’s so convenient that there are two spots to write what you need to get done, because somethings aren’t as time sensitive (like wanting to go hiking again) and fit in the monthly list but not the weekly list. The monthly list is also useful for things you need to remember to do at the end of the month but you know about now. Like I have a friend whose birthday is in the last week of September, and I need to remember to order her gift, so I put it in the monthly to-do list so when that week comes around I know I already have it ordered.

Another thing with using a planner: color coding really helps.

I have 10 different colored pens I use for my planner, and each one has a different meaning. But I honestly don’t follow it very well. The only things I really keep up with is that red is school work, purple is school events, blue is friend/family related and pink is blog related. Having the different colors really helps to see what you should be spending your time on, and what you need to prioritize.

Related: My 2016 Fall Semester Goals

So remember how I said I only use the monthly pages in my planner sparingly? Well here’s why: I have a dry erase monthly calendar on my desk.

dry erase calender

For real though, this was my saving grace last semester.

I use this to write every assignment, reading, and test I have so I would probably fail out of college if I didn’t have it. And I got it from Target’s $3 section! Um, score!

I color code this one much more efficiently than I do my planner. Red marks every assignment, blue marks important events, green marks when I get paid and black is for other things and when I feel like all the colors are getting overwhelming.

I love having this calendar because I’m forced to look at it every day in my room, whereas to see what I have going on in my planner I have to actually get it out and open it. It also serves as motivation while I’m doing homework at my desk, so I don’t somehow end up on YouTube or Forever 21’s site when I’m working on something.

I also just think it’s really fun. I’ve always loved writing on whiteboards, and now I get to write on it every day! Crossing off the days as they pass is just so satisfying. (I don’t have any days crossed off in the photos because I took them in advance.)

organized desk

One last thing I do to stay organized is keeping sticky notes on my desk. (Have you picked up on any themes yet?)

These sticky notes are for things I don’t have a place for anywhere else. I use them to write down outfit ideas I get, when I have more than a three part daily to-do list, notes to myself and just anything else I think of that will help me stay a little bit saner. Plus, they add more color to my desk, which I can never get enough of.

So let’s recap:

  • Use a planner and take advantage of all of its attributes (hourly scheduling, top three and to-do lists, monthly planning)
  • Use a dry-erase calendar for all your school assignments and big events
  • Color code both to keep everything straight and avoid color overwhelm
  • Keep sticky notes handy for to-do lists, grocery lists and random strikes of inspiration

How do you stay organized? What brand planner do you use? Have you ever used a Day Designer planner? Are you big on to-do lists like me? Do you have a dry-erase calendar? Are sticky notes your best friend? Or do you have a totally different system than me? Let me know in the comments below!

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