Seriously, if you only take one of these tips, make it this one. Evernote is probably the easiest way to be more organized than you thought possible by a mere human like you. You will never lose your notes. Crash your computer? Whatever. Want to remember that diagram the professor just put on the board? Take a picture with your phone (discreetly, I guess). Find yourself needing notes on the library computer? There’s a web-app for that. Need to search through a whole semester’s worth of notes? It’s not even hard. Seriously. Evernote is the greatest.
Write shit down.
Last semester I had to pull an all-nighter because I didn’t know the due date of a paper until I had approximately 24 hours to get the whole thing done. Maybe you are rolling your eyes because this is an incredibly basic tenant of organization, but it still escaped me after twenty years of life, so it is worth reiterating. Put your due dates up where you can see them (bonus points if you get to cross them off, because it’s such a good feeling.)
Get your inbox organized.
Too many emails means you might ignore one that’s actually important (for example, an email that contains a due date). Find an inbox system that works for you. I use Unroll.me to sort out my subscriptions and the like, and various Gmail filters for things like family email and schoolwork.
Is it bigger than a breadbox?
I first saw this rule on Pinterest. Essentially, if something is smaller than a breadbox, it shouldn’t live on your desk. Pens can go in a drawer. Papers can at least go in a box that is bigger than a breadbox. I’m currently breaking this rule in all kinds of ways, but it’s a really nice theory and sometimes I adhere to it and feel so organized. It’s not even hard. I have a big bin under my desk with some shoes and my hairdryer and some command hooks and because they’re all in a bin, it’s organization, see?
Before you go to the library, decide exactly what you’re going to get done there, and bring everything you need for that task. Otherwise you’ll just be carrying a ton of books around for no reason and that doesn’t help anyone and might give you a back injury or something. Also, the library (or your chosen workspace) should be a focused space, so make your epic spotify study playlist before you get there. Really, take it from me.
“A place for everything, and everything in its place”
This was the mantra of my profoundly-disorganized, key-losing, often-panicked mother when I was growing up. Essentially, it’s much easier to lose things when you don’t know where they’re supposed to be in the first place. Invest in a key-hook, a set of folders for loose papers related to your classes (or, if you’re an underachiever, one folder for all your papers – it’s a start), and maybe a mason jar for your loose laundry-coins (bonus: you will look like a mega-hipster). You can’t have everything in its place until you have established a place for everything. Was that redundant? Perhaps.
A lot of the time, everything won’t be in its place, and sometimes that will feel like the first priority when really it’s not. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opted to clean my room, or make a big list of all upcoming obligations, or throw all of my desk-objects into a breadbox instead of writing a paper. Productive procrastination is great, but sometimes you actually have to write the paper, you know? So you can chill about the breadbox. I promise.