For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.

Study Tips

How to be more organised in 9 easy steps

To support our site, we may use links which earn us a commission at no extra cost to you.

Juggling deadlines and commitments at university can be tricky. Getting yourself organised will save you a whole lot of time, stress and money.

alarm clock, notebook, cup of coffee and a pen

Credit: Olya Detry, HAKINMHAN – Shutterstock

When balancing university essays, lectures and extracurricular activities with a social life, it's easy to lose track of what's going on, what you need to do and when.

How many times have you told yourself: "It's fine to leave it all until the last minute, I work well under pressure"... only for it all to end in disaster?

Being organised is easy to master once you develop some good habits. And, over time, it will save you a whole lot of stress, time and cash (time is money).

Being more organised should mean you work more productively too.

How to be organised at university

Here are the best ways to improve your organisational skills:

  1. Keep a diary

    This might sound a bit old school (and just to be clear, we're not talking about a Bridget-Jones-style diary), but carrying a paper diary is a 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.

    We've tried the productivity method planner by Grace Beverley and have been really impressed. It helps you plan on a yearly, monthly and daily basis and break down tasks into manageable chunks.

    Another perk of using a diary is that it makes it easier to keep track of upcoming deadlines. You can even add reminders for yourself on the days approaching a deadline (e.g. 'Sociology paper due one week from now') to make sure everything's done on time.

    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, it will be easier to manage the workload.

    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.

  2. Write to-do lists

    list of things to do

    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 with your laptop can make you feel like you've had the most productive day ever if you manage to strike off everything you need to do.

    If you have a lot of work to do, break it all down into smaller tasks and split them across a few days' lists. Your diary will come in handy here.

    If you don't manage to complete everything on your list for the day, transfer any unfinished tasks to the next day. However, try to avoid this if possible, or you'll end up with a list that keeps growing and growing.

  3. 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 seven to nine hours of sleep a night. You'll likely feel much more in control of your studies when you're well-rested and alert.

    If you're exhausted, the chances of you missing appointments or classes are much higher and you might lack the motivation to tackle your to-do list.

    We have some tips on how to fall asleep fast if you're struggling.

  4. 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. This includes important documents like utility bills or any material sent to you from the uni.

    You'll save yourself a lot of time searching for relevant material by already storing things in the right place. That way, 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.

  5. 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 very small 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.

    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.

  6. Know how much you can take on and learn 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 could affect your studies and stress levels.

    If you have a deadline coming up that you're struggling with, and a classmate asks you for help with their work, it's ok to say you can't do it. Don't feel obliged – that's what tutors are there for.

    Similarly, if you're balancing work and uni and your boss asks you to fit in some extra hours, just say no!

  7. Make back-ups of everything

    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 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.

  8. Prepare meals in advance

    Batch-cooking meals and preparing all of your food in advance is a great way to save time and money.

    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 is usually making food from scratch). You'll also 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). Instead, 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.

    We have a monthly student meal plan, including recipes and shopping lists that you can download for free. It covers breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and it works out at under £3.50 per day.

  9. Take one thing at a time and don't panic

    Last but not least – remember that stressing 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 no time.

    And if you're looking for ways to unwind between uni tasks, try some cheap self-care activities like reading a book or going for a walk.

Check out our guide to getting a first at university for some extra motivation.

Jake Butler

WRITTEN BY Jake Butler

Jake joined Save the Student in 2010 and is the COO. As an expert across student finance, Jake has appeared on The BBC, The Guardian, Which?, ITV, Channel 5 and many other outlets. He particularly enjoys sharing tips on saving money and making extra money with opportunities like paid surveys and part-time jobs.
Read more


Tweet / Instagram DM / Facebook DM / Email