Cluttered Locker, Cluttered Mind:
Get Your Life Together!
I realized I had an issue when I begged my friend to let me organize her backpack during some free time during journalism class. She had thrown her overflowing bag on a table and I cringed. There were papers shoved into every pocket, pens and pencils scattered loose, and scribbled class notes were stuck between pages of her textbooks. How could anyone function like that?
On the organizational spectrum, my friend and I were at opposite ends. While her organization– or lack thereof– mostly worked for her, I am firm believer that a tidy backpack and a tidy locker are absolutely crucial to staying on top of your studies. When you know exactly where everything is and when everything is due, you won’t risk missing deadlines or forgetting something that you need for a class. To start your school year off on the right foot, I’ve compiled some of my go-to organizational tips and tricks. And don’t worry– they don’t require buying anything other than your basic school supplies!
Organization Tip #1: Not-So-Basic Binders & The Essential Hole Puncher
I’m a huge fan of having a specific binder with a convenient hole puncher that sits nicely in the front of the binder for each class. Even when the syllabus didn’t ask for it, I always had one. The best part of having a unique binder and built-in hole puncher for each class is that it becomes the catchall for everything related to that course. Whatever schedule, handout, returned paper, or assignment I received (whether it came with or without holes!) immediately went neatly into that binder, and I never had to wonder where something was. The generic, thin white binders are about $5 a pop, and you can find the hole punchers at Walmart for less than $4. I promise they’re worth every penny.
My favorite part of the binder system is, of course, the DIY aspect. I assigned each course a specific color, and made creative binder covers and spine labels. It would be a headache to sort through a bunch of identical white binders every period just to find the one you need. Simplify your life by using different colors to identify each subject. Not creative? You can find printable binder covers online, like the ones here, or just pop in a sheet of colored construction paper. Voila!
Organization Tip #2: Highlighter Hysteria
Have you ever gotten to the bottom of a page in a book and realized you didn’t absorb a thing you read? I have… often. At first, I thought the solution was to bring out my highlighter and start from the top, but soon my book looked like a neon, yellow sign. It’s not helpful to highlight entire pages, but what can you do if everything seems important?
Instead of buying a pack of yellow highlighters, grab a pack of multi-colored ones. Then, label each highlighter with a different type of information– things like key figures, places, important dates, vocab terms– and highlight accordingly. When you’re studying, you can go over certain colors at a time! For example, you can quickly re-read everything highlighted in light green to refresh your memory about important people, everything in blue to go over key dates, and so on. Have you noticed how much I love color-coding things? Since you’re switching between highlighters, it may take you a bit longer when you’re reading… but it’ll save you time when you’re studying for the exam later!
Organization Tip #3: Stuck on Sticky Notes
I’m a huge fan of calendars, timelines, and goal setting. The best way to stay on top of your to-do list and your weekly goals is to post them somewhere you can’t miss them, like your locker, above your desk at home, or anywhere else you see daily. Because this list is constantly changing, some people use dry erase boards. I personally love making a permanent goal board or to-do list, and simply swapping out sticky notes. That way, I can carry a pad of sticky notes around with me to jot things down wherever I am, and stick it on the board later.
You can make a general list of objectives, like the one pictured below, or you can make a weekly calendar. Find a method that works for you! It’s an easy way to stay focused and motivated (and to make sure nothing slips your mind!)
Organization Tip #4: When in Doubt, Plan it Out
Alright y’all, I saved the most important back-to-school tip for last. There is absolutely no way I could’ve survived high school OR college without my trusty, durable planner*. I once cried openly after leaving it in the library and thinking it was gone forever. My planner was my holy grail school supply, and it contained every single thing I had to do. Unsure about a due date? Let me check my planner. Can’t remember what time my cross country meet starts? It’s definitely in my planner. If I was expected to be anywhere or turn anything in, my planner told me.
I know this isn’t a revolutionary little tidbit, but I’ve included it for a reason. The to-do list apps on your iPhone are great. And yes, the notes feature has saved my life a few times. However, there is something to be said about writing down your responsibilities with a pen, on paper, old-school style. My iPhone has died before, but my faithful planner never has.
*OK, I may have survived, but my GPA would’ve suffered.
Whether or not all you use every single one of these pointers, I hope you find a system of organization (and some color-coding!) that works for you. A little bit of extra effort throughout the semester will pay off big time when finals roll around.