Let me preface this post with a small disclaimer. I'm not a neat freak. I keep my apartment organized because it helps me prevent unnecessary anxiety, but I'm not one to write every detail of everything down. This is just a collection of the ways I stay organized in the hopes of being fairly successful in school.
I have begun using an agenda. This is fairly new for me. In elementary and middle school when they were mandatory, I'd make fun of the corny designs and inspirational quotes, then it would collect dust on my desk at home, unused and sad. In high school I wrote my assignments on my hand and hoped for the best (model student, I know.) If something was really important, I added in the calendar on my phone, but I never remembered to go back and check. In my first years of college I got better at writing down my assignments, but never in an agenda. I usually just made a notation at the bottom of a page of notes, but that was only effective if I remembered to go back and look.
This past summer I bought a nice agenda to keep track of my ever-changing work hours and to keep track of what I was writing for Bruised Knuckles. It was surprisingly effective. Yeah, yeah, I know I should have tried this years ago. I'm not anal about what I write down, but the layout of this Moleskine agenda is extremely helpful for me and meshes with what I find natural. One side has a block for each day of the week and the other is lined for to-do lists or notes.
I like to write down what classes I have that day and if a larger assignment is due. I also write down what's assigned for homework and any tasks I need to accomplish that day. I use transparent and opaque post-its to mark especially important things to draw my eye to them, but there isn't really a color coded system.
I primarily take notes with paper and pen, not on a laptop. I use the binder notebook hybrids by Mead or Five Star so I can clip in handouts, or put them in the folders, and take notes on the lined paper. I separate them by day of the week, so I have one for my Monday/Friday class, then another for my Tuesday/Thursday classes. I then separate each section with the provided poly folders so I don't get any of my classes mixed. I don't use any method of note taking, but I do date each new day of notes for reference later. I'll highlight key terms in yellow, and underline stuff that seems important so it's easier to study later. It's a fairly straightforward method, but it works for me.
I prefer paper textbooks to digital ones and buy mine off Amazon used to find the cheapest price. All the English classes I've taken have conditioned me into annotating as I read, so I do mark up my books. I often make notes in the margins and underline and highlight important parts. This makes skimming for exams much easier, but may not be allowed if you rent your books. Check to make sure before writing in them, or if you don't want to worry, buy them used, then sell them later on.
If there's something I need to remember, I'm likely to write it on a bright Post-it and stick it to my wall, desk, closet door, or TV. They're in places I commonly look so I don't forget, but they're easily removable.
I like to keep the desktop screen of my computer very neat, just for my own sanity. I keep three folders. School, Work, and my hard drive. I have those subdivided into each of my classes and each of my work projects, and every couple of days I take everything that built up on my desktop and sort it into the respective folders. I also take this time to back up all my new files on an external hard drive, Google Drive, and/or the flash drive I keep on my keys (something I'd highly suggest to everyone to try.)
My Android recently completely died on me, so I'm back to the Apple ecosystem. My laptop, iPad, and phone's calendars are all integrated so I get notifications and reminders on whatever device I happen to be using. Android's Google Now launcher is comparable, when used along with the Google Calendar and Inbox apps. I do prefer the Apple ecosystem, though,
I also have a hanging month calendar on my wall, which I use exclusively to X out days. Inefficient, maybe, but it holds an odd sense of satisfaction for me.
Now that classes are starting again, it's back to the usual grind. As my junior year begins, I've been thinking about the past two years, and the next two to come. I'm halfway done, but I've still got a ways to go. I suppose this is a sort of open letter to myself, and everyone else muddling through college.
Eat breakfast more. It's good for you. It provides the energy needed to face an 8 am law an ethics class, Wake up a few minutes earlier and make eggs. Or cereal. Even it it's just a granola bar, just eat something. Lately I've been eating the Belvita breakfast biscuits in brown sugar and cinnamon.
Bring water. Just because you're not thirsty when you leave doesn't mean you won't be 15 minutes from now, or in the middle of the lecture. It's not that hard. Just fill up a water bottle and throw it in your bag.
Leave for class earlier. Stop underestimating how long it takes to get to places, plus, you know you're going to want to stop for coffee.
Remember to back up everything. It's not that hard to upload things to Google Drive, or even easier, just type in Google Docs. It auto saves every few seconds, and you'll never lose a document ever again. And then you can even access all your documents from mobile devices if you download the app.
Stop drinking so much goddamn coffee. You don't need an extra extra venti trenta large. Trust that the caffeine will do the job.
Explore your city. Get the hell off campus. Those brick high rises aren't teaching you all that you need to learn. Embrace the surrounding area too. Just go places.
Wear nice clothes. Looking like you want to look will make you a happier version of yourself. Wear the dark purple lipstick if you want. Maybe don't wear leggings 7 days a week? Maybe that's too drastic a change...
Stop forgetting your headphones. You know once you get outside you're going to want music, and you know that once you get out the door you're not going to go back for them, so just keep them in your backpack.... it's not that hard.....
And other thoughts from friends:
Don't stick to a daily routine. I mean yes, class and sleep and work stuff, but do things that you wouldn't normally do, don't establish a comfort zone that you have to break out of. Embrace spontaneity.
Don't expect things from people because of how they look, what they wear, who they appear to associate with, or what you initially judge them as. Give people a chance to surprise you.
Let other people take on their own issues. I'm not saying be cold and unsympathetic, just don't take on other peoples' burdens as your own. You have enough anxieties and things to worry about, don't take on any more than you have to. You can't ruin yourself over things you can't control. Let go.
Social media isn't everything. You can't live through the tiny screen so put it down sometimes and try to actually live.
Keep your GPA up. Work hard. You're in school to learn so actually try.
Cook more. Stop eating out so much and learn how to use more than the microwave.
Keep your space neat. It's easier to live when you're not living in your own filth. Put clothes away, do laundry, actually clean.
Be less critical of yourself. As Nicki Minaj reminds us all, we don't have to be perfect, we're only human, and that's enough.
Author's note: Thank you to Lauren, Madison, Kara, and Allison for their thoughts on back to school and their personal goals. I couldn't have complied this without your help.