“Be more organized.” “Don’t procrastinate.” Have you made any New School Semester resolutions? Staying organized from the get-go helps with so many areas in school, such as writing research papers and being well-prepared for exams.

Planners, calendars, folders—whatever it takes. Try these tips for getting and staying organized.

Plan

We’ve learned from our community that instructors who have seen thousands of students come in and out of their classrooms over the years believe a planner is a vital tool for staying organized and getting ahead.

Author Linda Wong explains in her book, Essential Study Skills, Eighth Edition, that sometimes it’s important to include each and every task on your calendar. This may seem daunting if you’re not typically a big planner, but it will save you unneeded stress in the future. Wong suggests including the following on your planner or calendar:

1. Important deadlines for special projects, reports, and writing or lab assignments that appear on your course syllabi
2. Scheduled tests, midterms, and final exams
3. Special events, meetings, workshops, or conferences
4. Holidays
5. Scheduled times for tutors, study groups, or other support services
6. Personal appointments on or off campus
(Wong, 80)

If you’re the type that has a jam-packed schedule year-round, this can be a life-saver. Also make sure there’s space in your calendar to eat three times a day, sleep well, and stay active too! Canceling out just one of those things will make school even rougher.

Prioritize

You may choose to use an electronic planner like Google Calendar that you can easily plug your schedule into and move around as you need.

Cengage Learning’s MindTap has been shown to improve learning outcomes by making it easy for students to stay organized and on top of their lessons. Digital classroom tools like this allow your to be more in-tune with the course material and better prepared for class: win-win.

Digital planners and calendars make it easy for you to set reminders for yourself, but also to prioritize. Bump your plans around without deleting them. It helps to see every activity blocked out in your day to determine what is realistic for you to achieve.

Our blog post, “Tips for Students: Advice from Instructors for Setting Priorities” lists ten suggestions from instructors themselves, such as:

  1. Create a schedule of work and study and learn how to say no to low-priority items.
  2. Plan to study at least a little bit for all of your classes every day.
  3. Calculate how much time you need to devote to your activities, prioritize what you have time for, make a weekly schedule that reflects your commitments, and stick with it.
  4. Set specific, not vague goals.

Organize

Aside from schedule, it’s vital to keep your work organized as well. There are many of online tools that you can access on your computer or any mobile device to help you stay organized. Here are just a few useful tools to help you:

  1. Questia: The Internet’s largest online library offers its members research tutorials and tools to help organize information for papers and projects.
  2. Brainify: You can collect and share your favorite academic websites, view collections created by the community of members, and utilize online tutorials, research articles and online course materials from instructors across the country.
  3. inClass: Free iPhone app let you record audio or video, take text notes, record images of handouts and share on Facebook or iTunes.

Now is the perfect opportunity to begin getting yourself organized and ready to take on spring semester.

Reference: Wong, Linda. 2015. Essential Study Skills, 8th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

What have you found keeps you organized the very most? Share your ideas with us below.