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For College Students and Professionals: A Survival Guide for the Scatterbrained

If you’re in college, you probably have a hard time trying to organize your suddenly busy schedule around your newfound freedom. This isn’t just a problem for college freshman, but even upperclassmen have difficulty managing their time, which can often lead to difficulties managing a professional career after college.

It doesn’t have to be this way. By following three simple rules, any scatterbrained college student can go from an organizational mess to a successful manager. These skills will also help you find time to study, work, improve grades, and still find time for a social life. In addition, life managing will aid in your ability to organize your professional life.

Rule #1: Buy a personal calendar or planner. This is often one aspect of managing that often goes unrecognized. In many cases, parents will buy a planner for their children for it to merely gather dust in the dorm room. But a planner is great for many reasons other than the obvious benefit of having a to-do list written out in front of you. For college students, it’s an easy way of tracking when assignments are due and professionals can use them to remember important meetings or memos. Even the everyday homeowner can benefit from a planner by keeping track of money and upcoming bills. And writing down these memos instead of typing them, helps your mind to remember important dates whether they’re professional or personal.

My planner was perhaps one of the greatest presents I ever received, but don’t be like me and wait for someone else to buy one for you. For the few dollars it costs to purchase a planner, the help it provides is priceless.

Rule #2: Color-code and label everything. Let’s face it, with everything that we do in our daily lives, it’s no wonder that people struggle to keep everything straight. In many cases involving college students, the consequences of being disorganized are usually forgetting to write that paper or study for that test. Now many people do write themselves notes to accomplish their tasks but oftentimes, people have so many projects going on simultaneously, it’s easy to get the notes mixed up, or forget what you did with the older notes.

Of course the planner will come in handy here, but an equally valuable asset to your organizational skills will come with the habit of labeling and color-coding each of your projects. For college students, I recommend having a separate folder and notebook for each class and that each class has a corresponding color. This way, when you’re in a hurry, it’s easy to locate the folder and notebook you need without having to flip through the content.

Post-It notes are also very helpful to identify important reminders that you might overlook in your planner. Again, these should be color-coded for each project, but they serve a huge purpose for me by sticking them on my laptop or on the bathroom mirror. Stick them in a place where you’ll find them.

And don’t forget to color-code your planner as well. I use different colored pens for different types of reminders. (Black for social events, blue for studying or reading assignments, and green for exams and essay deadlines)

Rule #3: Start early. Finish early. It sounds like a fairly simple concept and yet, procrastination tends to be a problem for us all, even the employed. If you know that a project or important deadline is coming up for which you must prepare, give yourself time to work on it little by little each night as necessary. Set a goal for studying an hour at a time or a goal for writing at least 500 words a night.

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  • Yvonne

    This article has very helpful tips and is written very well. Thank you!