This resource will provide an overview of how to stay organised and some tips for organisation as a student at university.
What is organisation?
Being organised is the state of ‘being on top of everything’ – when you are organised, you are prepared, you know what you need to do and how you are going to do it, and you ensure that you achieve what you set out to accomplish.
Why is staying organised important?
Staying organised while you study at university will likely be a major contributor to your success as a student. Developing your organisational skills will help you to:
- Make the most of your time.
- Maximise your learning.
- Reduce the stress of completing assignments and exams.
- Ensure you don’t miss important meetings or deadlines.
In addition, strong organisational skills are required in most, if not all career occupations, so by taking steps now to become more organised, you can contribute to your professional development which is likely to benefit you greatly in the future.
What should I organise?
While there are many aspects of your life that you can organise, this resource will provide some key tips relating to four relevant areas of student life: your tasks, time, data and learning.
Organise your tasks
Organising your tasks involves being aware and having a record of everything that you need to complete, and ensuring that you put plans in place to successfully complete your tasks.
Create effective task lists
Ensure you have a place where you can record your tasks. This can be in a notebook, a smartphone application or even on your computer. Find a system that works for you.
Create separate task lists for different things. For example, for your different subjects, curricular and co-curricular activities, short-term and long-term tasks etc.
Create sub-tasks required to complete large tasks. For example, sub-tasks for writing an essay might include analysing the assignment question, choosing an essay topic, researching the topic, creating an outline for the essay, and finally, writing the essay. This action breaks down large tasks into small, actionable items, which helps overcome the initial resistance often felt when tackling a large task and gets you started on your work.
Prioritise your tasks
- Within your task list, distinguish items that have the highest priority. We all have limited time and resources, so we need to choose to complete the tasks that are most important, rather than those that are easiest or most enjoyable. When deciding which tasks have priority, consider their due dates and how much time you need to complete them.
- Every day, highlight or list 2 – 3 tasks on your list that have the highest priority. Work on those exclusively before moving on to lower priority tasks.
Organise your time
Organising your time involves knowing what you have on to be where you need to be, such as at lectures, tutorials or exams, and setting aside adequate time to study and work on assessment tasks.
Manage your time
- Time management is the ability to plan out and utilise your time to optimise your productivity and ensure successful completion of tasks. For tips on improving how you manage your time, have a look at our resource on time management.
- Focus on one-task at a time. When studying, most of us are tempted to multi-task, rapidly switching from task to task, as it feels as though we are getting more done. However, research often shows that multi-tasking tends to decrease our productivity, meaning we actually end up achieving less. Avoid the temptation to check emails or social media, or move on to other tasks, until you complete the task at hand.
Organise your data
Organising your data involves having systems in place to store and manage all of your important documents to ensure that your data is easily accessible to you whenever you need it.
Organise your physical files
Choose a system for organising your paper, handouts, worksheets and notes. You can use separate folders, sleeves or notebooks for each subject, or use separate sections of one folder for your different subjects, so that you know where everything is.
Scan important physical files to create digital copies. Store these safely on your computer or online for future access.
Organise your digital files
- Practise good computer habits. Store your files in a sensible folder system rather than saving everything to the desktop, and name files clearly instead of nonsensically e.g. ‘Document wodnfheik’. Good habits now will make your life easier later on – saving you time and stress when, for example, during exam preparation, you spend precious study time struggling to find that one file you need amidst a sea of improperly named files on your desktop!
- To set up a folder system for your university files, you could create a folder called ‘University’. Within this folder, create a sub-folder called ‘Autumn 2018’, and within this folder, a subfolder for each subject e.g. ‘SUBJ101’. Within each subject folder, you can create multiple folders e.g. ‘Lecture Notes’, ‘Tutorial Materials’ and ‘Assignments’, so that you will know where all of your files are when you need them
Backup your digital data
- Use an external hard drive, or a cloud-based storage service, such as OneDrive, Dropbox, or Google Drive, to make regular backups of your digital data. This ensures that if your personal computer fails, or is lost or stolen, the disruption to your study will be minimised as you will have copies of all your notes, assignments and course materials.
Organise your learning
Organising your learning is about developing good habits and approaches towards your study, to ensure that you are able to smoothly and successfully complete assignments and exams.
- Ensure you understand the course content as you go, rather than cramming at the end of semester. A common mistake students make is to spend the university session attending lectures and tutorials, and completing assignments as they are due, but failing to do any sort of revision throughout the session until exam time. If there’s something that you don’t completely understand, make sure you seek help sooner rather than later.
Identify your learning style
- Identify how you tend to learn best and use this to your advantage when studying. Using approaches that work best for you, such as writing out notes, creating mind-maps, using flash cards or reciting out loud, can assist with the effectiveness of your revision. Read more on finding your learning style.
- Identify techniques to help you overcome procrastination, so that you can get more done. Some of the tips mentioned in this resource, such as breaking down large tasks into sub-tasks, and mono-tasking rather than multi-tasking, can help change your study habits to reduce procrastination.
- Be realistic about how much you can take on at once. Remember that in addition to being a student, you may also need to balance this with part-time or casual work, spending time with friends and family, and having a bit of time to yourself to relax and do the things you enjoy.
- Take steps to manage stress. Being a student is a stressful time for most people. While experiencing some stress is normal and can even be helpful in motivating us to get things done, too much stress is likely to take a toll on your overall health in the long-term. Check out the counselling website for tips on managing stress.