How to be more organised in 9 easy steps
Juggling deadlines and commitments at university can be tricky. Getting yourself organised will save you a whole lot of time, stress and money!
With a million and one things going on at once – everything from lectures, course assignments and extracurricular activities, to coffee and beer appointments – it's easy to lose track of what's going on, what you need to do and when.
How many times have you tried to tell yourself "it's fine to leave it all to the last minute, I work well under pressure", only for it to all end in disaster?
Being organised is easy to master once you put a few small things in place, and it will save you a whole lot of stress, time and cash (time is money in the uni game) if you keep on top of it all.
How to be organised at university
Save yourself some stress with these easy organisation tips for students:
Keep a diary
This might sound a bit old school (and just to be clear, we're not talking a Bridget-Jones-style diary), but carrying a paper diary is a really useful tool to keep you organised.
Go for a relatively small one so you won't hate carrying it around in your bag, but big enough that you can write a to-do list if needs be. There are loads of diaries that give you space to plan for each day – this is our top pick.
Using a diary helps you to keep track of all the deadlines you have ahead of you and you can even put warning messages to yourself in the days approaching a deadline (e.g. 'Sociology paper due one week from now') so you don't get any nasty surprises and you can scare yourself into being uber prepared.
Learning how to use a diary properly will reduce your stress levels massively. Once you're in the habit of checking your diary daily and whipping it out to make a note every time you have a new commitment, nothing is going to catch you out and make you panic.
Sometimes unis even provide free calendars and diaries at the start of the year. And if the idea of using a paper diary makes you shudder, you can always use your phone instead.
Write to-do lists
We are massive fans of lists (as this article probably demonstrates).
The best thing about a 'to-do' list is the sense of achievement you feel as you score things off. Even a day in bed using your laptop can make you feel like you've had the most productive day ever if you manage to strike off everything you needed to do.
If you feel you've got a lot of work piling up, break it all down into smaller tasks and split them across a few days' lists (your diary will come in handy here).
This way, you can seek comfort in the knowledge that if you manage even just a little bit of what you need to do each day, you're still on track to have it all done on time if you follow your daily lists.
If you don't manage to complete everything on your list for the day, transfer any unfinished tasks onto the next day (but try to avoid this if possible, otherwise you'll end up with a list that keeps growing and growing).
Get enough sleep
You're never going to feel like you're on top of things when you've only managed a few hours of sleep. It's recommended that you get about eight hours of sleep a night and you'll be surprised by how much more in control you'll feel when you're well-rested and alert.
If you're exhausted, the chances of you missing appointments or classes are much higher and you'll lack the motivation to tackle any of your to-do lists.
Store paperwork in labelled folders and get more storage
Folders will become your new best friend on your road to becoming organised. They're perfect for storing lecture notes, seminar work or anything else that'll be useful to your studies – including important documents like utility bills or any material sent to you from the uni.
You'll save yourself a hell of a lot of time searching for relevant material by already storing things in the right place so they're quick to locate.
We'd suggest stocking up on some super cheap folders near the start of term which you can add to as the year progresses.
Invest in a key tray
Always late because you're constantly forgetting where you put your keys/phone/wallet? Investing in a key tray may seem like a teeny tiny thing, but trust us when we say it'll change your life.
Buy something big enough that you can dump all your essentials on and stick it next to your bed. It doesn't have to be anything fancy and can be as simple as this one from Amazon.
You'll have to reset your brain and remind yourself at the beginning that this is where your keys now live, but once you do, you'll save yourself hours of pointless searching and your friends will love you for it.
Know how much you can take on and learn how to say no
British people are notoriously bad at saying 'no', but not having the guts to turn something down if you don't have the time or headspace for it could really affect your studies and your stress levels more generally.
If you have a deadline coming up that you're struggling with, and a classmate asks you for help, it's ok to say you can't do it. Don't feel obliged – that's what tutors are there for, anyway.
Similarly, if you're balancing work and uni and your boss asks you to fit in some extra hours, just say no!
Make back-ups of everything on a hard drive
Make doubles of everything.
Stock a backup of all your essays, photos, music, films and files onto a hard drive or on a cloud storage site like Dropbox.
That way, if your computer suddenly crashes and all your files are wiped, you haven't lost all your beloved memories from your last summer holiday. Or, even worse, that 10,000-word essay that you just spent three weeks writing.
The same goes for important documents like your passport, birth certificate and driving licence. Make a photocopy of them and scan them onto your computer.
Prepare meals in advance
Batch cooking meals and preparing all of your food in advance is a great way to save time and money on deciding what you're going to eat.
Not having to think about what you're going to eat every day will save you the stress of searching for the cheapest options (which, surprise, surprise, is making your food yourself) and you'll be able to dedicate more time to the important tasks you need to get done.
On a similar note, don't leave your weekly shop to chance (and hunger pangs) – write out your shopping lists before you go to the supermarket.
Look up a few easy recipes you can quickly make and stick to your list. This will not only save you a load of money but will also reduce the stress of navigating packed supermarkets. You can even avoid this entirely by doing your food shop online.
Take one thing at a time and don't panic
Last but not least – remember that getting into a flap about having too much on won't solve anything.
Don't panic! Take a few deep breaths and start tackling one thing at a time... go back to the top of this list and work your way through. You'll get back on track in a jiffy.
Being super organised will set you up perfectly for a great degree result. But just how ambitious are you? Check out our guide to getting a first at university for some extra motivation.