6 Little Ways to Stay More On Top of Things

Organizational tips for this semester and life in general.

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How to stay on top of things

In college, it can seem like your to-do list will never end. Between class, homework, clubs, commitments to family and friends at school and at home, and figuring out internship and future plans, your brain shifts gears a hundred times a day. And then, some other random to-dos will inevitably pop up.

But, as many of you have learned by now, managing it is actually possible. You are way more capable than you give yourself credit for, insert Pinterest-worthy inspirational quote here, yadda yadda yadda. But somehow you still find yourself looking ahead to each new week and thinking, “yikes.”

That’s why I’ve put together six of my most helpful strategies for managing, well, life. Whether you’re just starting college or are an upperclassman who is starting to feel overwhelmed by this semester (join the club), I bet some of these tips will work for you, too.

1. Know how to use little pockets of time.

Most college students are familiar with what my BFF and I refer to as “awkward amounts of time.” You know, those 15-40 minute windows between finishing a reading and going to dinner, between class and a meeting, between the gym and brunch. Those amounts of time that seem a little too short to start an assignment but a little too long to waste.  

These windows can be annoying, but they can also be really useful. When confronted with one, think about what you have already done and what you have left to do that day. If you’d like to do a little more work, can you squeeze in a few pages of reading, send a couple of emails, or double-check your assignments for next week? If you’re feeling disorganized, can you pull together the books you’ll need for tomorrow or take out the trash?  

And finally, if you’ve been going all day, checking Instagram or catching up on New Girl are also perfectly productive uses of that time, if you ask me.

2. Use a planner—and write down EVERYTHING.

A couple weeks back I gushed about my reliance on my planner, and recommended a few cute ones. Everyone’s organizational style is different, but I find that having all the things I need and want to do written down, even if they’re paired with a question mark, is super necessary for decluttering my brain.

If there’s something you should do in the next few weeks, write it down in the margins of a few different weeks or days. If there’s a new show or movie coming out that’s a must-see for you, put it in there too, so your planner feels like a guide to your life as a whole, including fun stuff, not just work.  

It’s also a great way to make sure you get to things that aren’t academic in nature. Pencil in a couple possible days to call your grandma, and make sure all your besties’ birthdays are in there.

3. Respond to texts, emails, etc. Also, check your spam.

There is no better way to show that you are not only organized, but polite, than responding to texts, calls, and emails promptly. Of course, being glued to your phone isn’t the best either, but try to strike a balance.

Check your phone (including email) right after class, when you settle in to your spot in the library, when you need a break from a reading, and before you turn in for the night. Notice the “and”—this means being in touch several times a day! Professors, friends, family, and potential employers alike will appreciate that you got back to them in a timely fashion.

Even when the communications you’re receiving aren’t about school or work, try to make them a priority. Your family and friends will be important to your life long after you’ve forgotten about your midterm, so taking a break to respond to an excited Snapchat from your faraway friend or a question from your mom is not only not a waste of time, it’s common courtesy.

My point about spam is a little less obvious. Every night, when I check my email for the last time, I also check my spam, and my trash, to make sure I haven’t accidentally deleted anything important. Usually, it’s me being overly cautious, but every once in a while it proves super useful. At my internship last summer, some emails from my boss went directly to spam, so my habit pretty much saved my butt. Of course, don’t actually open any of the emails that are clearly junk.

4. Be prepared.

It’s no fun to have to run back to your room in the middle of the day to grab something you didn’t know you’d need. Check the weather the night before and throw your umbrella in your bag if there’s chance you’ll need it, and in general, have a be-prepared mentality.

Your future self will thank you for having a snack, some tissues, and a few band-aids stuffed in your bag.

5. Lay out your outfit the night before.

As a CF reader, you already know that having a great outfit can totally make your day—that’s what makes fashion worthwhile, even (or especially) in college.

But if you want to sleep in an extra 10 minutes or not have to accessorize in a jiffy, take a minute each evening to lay out (or at least mentally select) your look for the next day. You’ll be able to put the thought you want into styling a cute look and not be scrambling to make it to breakfast.

6. Know when to say no.

Finally, and most importantly, know yourself and know how to prioritize your physical and mental needs. Be comfortable telling friends that you need a chill night alone. Accept that you can’t take on every responsibility, be it an extra-credit assignment or joining a new club.

College is about friends and academics, but it’s also bout learning who you are and how you want to live your life—so make balance your goal.

What do you think?

What are your college survival tips, hacks, and strategies? How do you get stuff done while still making time for yourself? Did you find any of these tips helpful? Let me know in the comments!  

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