Monday, January 20, 2014

College Survival Guide - Organized and Prioratized

Unlike high school, in college you are responsible for everything! There are no teachers to baby you and your parents aren't going to be there to look over your shoulder asking if you got your homework done. So, how do you accomplish everything, you ask?

The answer is, ORGANIZATION!!! Organizing not only helps to keep your things together and where they should be, but also helps keep your life in order and can help you not be quite so overwhelmed. So where do you start? Like a lot of things you can dive into a Google search and spend some time clicking through the thousands of search results. However, since I have done that whole song and dance and plenty of research I will just give you the summary, k?

When it comes to getting organized there are so many ways you can do it that it gets so confusing you want to just turn off your brain. So to make it easy I've broken it down into a couple key points:

1. Write everything down! Calendars are your friend (haha)When you are in college and working or anything really it is important to schedule things out. It really helps put your days into perspective and helps you to manage your time much better. The best way to schedule is by starting with your concrete blocks, the things that you do regularly (ex. classes, church, your work schedule, etc.) This way you have the major blocks carved out and you know where you have open time. Now when you are going in to schedule fun time or anything else you can have everything laid out in time blocks. Here is a picture of my scheduling, it is a screenshot of my iCal during finals week:
I'm not telling you to go this extreme but I'm just trying to show you how scheduling can help. This may look like a disorganized crazy blob but it really helped me with studying by knowing exactly what I needed to be doing and when.

2. Color code and label. When it comes to putting school stuff in my schedule I usually do a basic color code with yellow, green and pink highlighters (kind of like a stop light system). Green is for simple homework due dates, a "work on paper" session, basically simple stuff that your whole schedule doesn't have to stop for. Yellow is for papers and quizzes because you have to slow down for them but you don't completely stop. Finally, red is for exams! This is just a basic system and you can find what works best for you but the important thing is to use it! It helps so much so find what works best.

3. Prioritize: The Three File system. This system was introduced to me last semester by a councilor at Concordia and now, I swear by it! It is a lot simpler than other systems with a whole bunch of steps and processes and labeling. In this system there are only two labels: FIRE and To Do, and you only need three things: a large In-Box, and a tray for fire and to do.

4. Backwards Planning. Backwards planning sounds like a strange being however, it is really simple and useful. Take your syllabus (I can't stress how important it is to read your syllabus thoroughly! It has pretty much everything you need to know) and write down all your due dates in your calendar/schedule. I know you are probably thinking "that is the most basic thing ever and just regular scheduling" but, here is where the backwards part comes in: Say you have a project due on a friday, backwards planning is setting a your own personal due date for that project on say that Tuesday. Make sense? By doing this you are forcing yourself to get your work done in a timely way so that you don't fall behind.

5. A place for everything, and everything in its place. Nothing ruins your organization more than loose papers and crud all over your work space, your room and in your backpack. The goal of this process is to find where everything belongs and create a place where you know where everything is and it is neat and clean. For example, you could have a binder for each class with a new tab for homework, notes, handouts, etc. OR you could have one big binder with the same tabs and just something to separate each class OR you could have just a spiral notebook for each. The possibilities are endless but the goal is to find a system that works for you.

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