It’s a midterm season now at NYU where, as you know, I’m currently studying media and communications. Many of you asked me on Insta Stories if I can share any tips on how I’m staying productive while in college and today I decided to share my mini-guide on how to be an organized student. By any means, I’m not an expert in organizing—those are just strategies that I’m following myself throughout high school and college.
#1: Have a dedicated college bag
Things could get busy, especially during the exam season, that’s why I have a spacious backpack where I keep all of my essentials. It’s a makeup bag so I don’t have to worry about packing my beauty products when I’m running late. A pencil bag where I keep a few pens and pencils, some staples, highlighters, and a miniature stapler. And a backup charger for my phone in case I’m running out of battery.
When all of those essentials are always in my bag, all I have to worry while getting ready for the class are my textbooks and binders.
While picking your staple college bag, keep in mind the number of classes you have each day and whether you need to bring textbooks to every class you attend. Based on that, you can decide how big or small your bag should be.
In any case, I recommend picking a backpack as carrying heavy things in your tote could cause some shoulder issues in a long run. Luckily, backpacks are super trendy this season so you don’t need to sacrifice your style while keeping all of your college essentials with you.
#2: Color-code everything
It might sound a bit excessive, but at the beginning of the semester, I dedicate a specific color for each of the classes I’m taking and color code all of my college supplies accordingly.
For instance, this semester I’m taking four classes so I have four binders: pink, green, purple, and blue. I have binder dividers in the same colors and use a matching shade of a highlighter while reading for a specific class. (I purchase all of my college supplies on Amazon, which also saves you time as a student as you are getting a free two-day shipping if you are a Prime member).
I started using this technique a few years ago when I read an article by Fast Company claiming that color-coded notes help you to remember things and be more organized in general. A few years into using this technique, I have the proof that that article was right: I definitely found benefits in color-coding my college materials.
I feel that by picking a color theme for your classes you program your brain to start working on a certain mode when you see a document of a certain color. Such an approach certainly makes me a more productive student, not to mention that color-coding makes it so much easier to find the materials for each subject when you are in a hurry.
#3: Schedule everything in advance
In my professional life I’m a Google Calendar kind of girl, but for my college deadlines, I prefer having both paper and online versions of the calendar. I keep all of the notifications about homework or paper due at a dedicated Google Calendar (I named mine “College”) and have my college to-do lists in my student agenda (mine is by ban.do—it’s so cute and helpful!). When it comes to organizing my college to-do lists, I have them all in my student planner.
As you might have guests, I color-code everything on my agenda too. I use a miniature sticker dots that I place in my planner next to each class to-do list. I also use those stickers on a monthly view page of my calendar to indicate any quizzes, deadlines, or the exams I might have.
As you can see in these photos, it makes so much easier to find things related to a specific class if you have a certain color assigned to it. Again, it’s just one of those tricks that condition your brain to separate things in certain categories and thus help planning the work you need to get done.
#4: Utilize Google Drive to organize your files
Until recently I used to keep my college-related documents in a separate folder on my laptop, but this strategy proved to be counter-productive. Since I’m not bringing a laptop to my classes, sometimes I experience situations when I need to take a look at my previously submitted papers and I have to go all the way home to access those files.
Having a Google Drive set up for your college needs allows you to have all of your files available at any time—whether you are checking them out on your phone or at a college library.
Similar to my color-coordinated binders, I have a separate folder for each of my classes. Inside of each folder, I have a few sub-folders that are named according to the date of the class. Each of those sub-folders is divided into two parts: Resources and Homework.
I figured that if I organize my digital folders that way, it allows me to easily access any file that I might need throughout the semester. It might take a few minutes to organize your digital files, but trust me, you’ll thank me when the finals come and you can easily find any of the papers or presentations you created at the beginning of the semester.
#5: Create a studying routine
This tip might be the most subjective from the list, but I feel that it’s important to develop a studying routine. Saying so, I mean that you need to acquire certain habits that put you in a study mode right away. I have a few such routines.
For instance, I always write all of my papers on Monday morning as I usually take Sunday off from writing and wake up at the beginning of the workweek ready to get some college work done.
When it comes to reading, I always set up an alarm with my time blocking cube and use a highlighter of a dedicated color to this particular class. I prefer doing my research at the library where I stop by in between classes on Fridays and I proofread my papers in the morning of the day those are due.
I guess my tip here is to figure out which environmental conditions work the best for a specific studying activity you are working on and stick to it. That way, you also program your brain to start working right away instead of procrastinating before jumping on a specific project.
I hope my tips were helpful and you learned something new today. Please keep your questions going about any other college-related topics and I would be delighted to answer all of your questions in my upcoming posts.