3 Things I Learned In College That Have Kept Me Organized Beyond

Getting organized is hard, especially when you have a lot on your plate and not enough time to get to it all. For me, college was a nonstop scheduling nightmare. I went from completing class assignments to extracurricular club meetings to social obligations with no time to breathe between each commitment. Those four years were a total juggling act, and I couldn't afford to drop the ball.

Early on, I had to learn how to best manage my time, and after much trial and error, I finally crafted my own foolproof method of organization. So, without further ado, I present to you my three major tips for getting organized and staying on track:

1. Block out time at the start of the week to set personal deadlines

This was the key to unlocking my ultimate organizational power. Life can be so fast-moving that it's easy to forget to set time aside to actually get organized. In college, I would write out my objectives for each day of the upcoming week every Sunday. It's a practice that I still rely on today, two years after graduation. Essentially, I learned that setting my own deadlines on assignments and projects helps me get ahead of the game. This became an excellent way for me to take back control of my schedule, instead of letting it take control of me. Following this tip, I allow myself plenty of time to get things done, even on days I have back-to-back-to-back commitments. Believe it or not, I never pulled an all-nighter in college, largely because of this planning style. Plus, meeting each day's smaller goals gets me a little bit closer to tackling the bigger goals that I have.

2. Sketch your own calendar

On Sundays, I also make time to zoom out and look at the month as a whole. At the suggestion of a highly organized friend in college, I started to draw out my own calendar at the beginning of every month, creating little boxes for each date and all. Physically drawing out the month on paper, complete with notes on scheduled upcoming events and musings on more general ambitions, continues to encourage me to actually visualize the big picture. Using this system in college, I always knew when I needed to get my course work done early in order to make time for the happenings on my social calendar. With this practice today, I know when I'm on track to getting to where I want to be and when I need to work a little harder to get there. Bonus: I can get creative with color-coding projects, important dates, and special occasions. Bonus-bonus: drawing is extremely soothing.

3. When in doubt, outline it out

Every freshman at my university was required to take a writing class, which taught best practices for conducting research and writing essays. One thing this course stressed was the value of outlining before writing an essay. This was a foreign concept for me; I had always been the type of person to dive head first into writing, sans plan. But the older I got, the more applicable this custom of outlining became to other facets of my life, outside of writing. I now make loose outlines when planning a project at work, detailing the steps in numbered format leading to the desired outcome. Instead of sketching out the intro, body, and concluding paragraphs needed for writing a paper, I type out the expected beginning, middle, and end of an undertaking to ensure that I stay on course. Writing up my own version of an outline is a great technique for being as efficient as possible. I know exactly where I'm going and exactly how to get there.