Time Management, College edition

10 Tips to help you stay organized and stress less

By Karringtan Bell, Class of 2020 grad & current NAU grad student

College is not easy, especially when it comes to staying organized and implementing time management.

I used to be (and still sometimes am) a disorganized person.

My backpack was a mash of old tests, crumpled papers, and broken pens, for the majority of my first semester in college. It didn’t hurt my academic performance, but it certainly hurt my sanity.

After that first semester, I was done with the messiness. I’m here to share my ten tips to get organized and manage your time better.

1) HAVE A PLANNER (and use it daily)

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Having a planner allows you to schedule events, homework assignments, appointments, errands, and more. This will help you know what’s coming up for the week and you won’t run out of time and have to rush.

This will help you stay on track, and have more time for yourself.

The best lesson I’ve learned — don’t just write out what’s happening or due for the coming week. Put in ALL your assignments, quizzes and tests. Then schedule in some relaxation time after you completed all the hard stuff.

2) COLOR CODE YOUR NOTES

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Find information more efficiently when you are studying. Using bright colors helps catch your attention and is incredibly stimulating for visual learners.

“Colors are more than just eye-catching: The significance you give to each hue serves as a form of mental shorthand” (Baumgartner, 2019).

All about color coding? Here’s more tips.

3) KEEP TRACK OF YOUR SYLLABUS

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The syllabus lays out your professor’s expectations for the quality of work you should be submitting. It also includes how students should prepare for upcoming classes. Read it twice and plan the amount of time you should spend on each assignment.

Lumberjack Tip: Reading your syllabus will help prevent some pretty harsh looks from your professor and the infamous words IT’S IN THE SYLLABUS!!!

4) KEEP YOUR CLASS SCHEDULE VISIBLE

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Print out your class schedule or keep a picture of it on your phone. Having your class schedule will help you not miss a class. It may be tempting to miss a class or two, but it’s not the best move if you want to get the best grades in your courses. You are also paying to go to college, so don’t waste your time or money skipping class!

5) ORGANIZE YOUR STUFF

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Being organized makes everything else easier. Having notebooks and/or folders for all your classes can help you retrieve work faster since you already know where it is.

If you start stuffing loose papers in your bag or grabbing different notebooks for the same class, it’s time to stop and reorganize!

  • Empty your backpack on the regular.
  • Decide where to keep returned assignments and things you want to hold on to.
  • Throw away things you no longer need to carry to class with you.

6) DO HOMEWORK AHEAD OF TIME

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Trust me, it’s good for you, and here’s why —

If you’re juggling any part-time or full-time work in addition to your studies, finishing your assignments a few days or weeks earlier will help eliminate growing stress.

Another upside to completing or turning in work early — if something goes wrong (your printer runes out if ink, your flash drive dies, or your dog eats your homework) you’ll have an added buffer.

7) DON’T PROCRASTINATE

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Don’t wait until you’re “in a homework mood.” There is never a perfect time, so you might as well dive right in.

Assignments can be overwhelming but here’s a tip — Break it down and take it one part at a time. Suddenly a 10 page paper doesn’t seem as overwhelming if you plan ahead and work on a page or two each day.

When you want to throw in the towel, remember you CAN do this! You’ve done it before, and you can do it again.

8) SCHEDULE STUDY TIMES

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It’s hard to stay focused and motivated when you have several long studying days. Schedule time for nonacademic activities, such as exercise, hobbies, and downtime time with family and friends.

By creating a balanced study schedule, you will be more determined to learn the information during that time.

9) AVOID DISTRACTIONS AND TIME-WASTERS

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Distractions and disorganization can significantly undermine your time management skills.

An hour of study time is not nearly as effective if you spend thirty minutes checking your email, responding to texts, or browsing social media.

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For all the pointless sites and meaningless apps that distract us, a select few exist purely to solve their disruption. Here’s four anti-distraction apps that help return your focus and get into that deep work mode.

Lumberjack Tip: About to dive deep in paper writing? Try WriteRoom — a little Mac app that runs in full screen mode and blocks out all other distractions on the computer.

10) REWARD YOURSELF!

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After all that hard work, you deserve a treat! There are so many ways you can reward yourself during your study sessions.

My favorite of all time is napping.

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This can help improve alertness and who doesn’t like a few ZZZ’s now and then.

My second favorite Netflixing. What better way to end a long study session than with a good movie.

Last but not least, jamming out to my favorite tunes. Listening to music you love can always brighten the mood.

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It’s always a great day to be a Lumberjack! Join the conversation and share your #NAU story.

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