Savvy Senior: Five Organization Tips That Will Make This Year a Breeze

Don’t you wish every week could be like the first week of school? Teachers fill the class period by handing out a syllabus, discussing general class policies, and doling out an easy homework load. Quizzes, finals, and AP exams are a million miles away. You still have a tan leftover from summer break. It’s the best…but it never lasts, does it?

By now you’re probably already feeling a little crunched for time. Which is why I’m dedicating today’s post to helping you de-clutter your life and free up the mental space needed to knock out college applications, test preparations, and more. Ready? Here we go:


1. Create an old fashioned to-do list

Pen and paper works best for this, just because it’s so rewarding (and by rewarding, I mean powerful-feeling) to physically mark through tasks that have already been accomplished. But you can also keep a running list of to-dos in the “notes” section of your phone if you’d prefer to go digital. Want to get SUPER efficient in your day-to-day? Guess-timate how much time each task will take you and schedule accordingly. If soccer practice is two hours long and you expect homework to take five, you’ll know to save going to the movies for the weekend.

2. Lay out your clothes at night

Are we regressing back to kindergarten status here? Kind of…except this time your mom doesn’t need to help you get dressed in the morning (unless, you know, you’re wearing something super complicated). If you’re anything like me, your brain is SO not feeling the whole “decision making” thing at six o’clock in the morning. So get back to the basics. Make your fashion selections at night, enjoy a few extra minutes of sleep, and say goodbye to the last minute this-top-looks-hideous scramble that makes you late to first period. Every. Single. Time. (PS: This practice works well for early morning college lectures, too.)

3. Start using Google calendar

I just emphasized the importance of an “old-fashioned” pen and paper to-do list. But Google calendar has its place in the organizational scheme of things, too. Plug in your most important events—group study sessions, that upcoming Psych exam, graduation—and set alerts in your phone to keep yourself on track and make sure you’re not double-booking. Limit your entries to after-school and social events to avoid an alert going off during class (and/or having your phone taken up).

4. Set up a designated work space

If you can snag space outside of your bedroom, do it. Whether you buy into the concept of “zen” or not (any yogis out there?), studies have shown that you’ll get a better night’s sleep when you separate your homework area from your resting zone. Once you’ve found a location, invest a little time in making your desk space look like you. Bins, files, letter trays, sticky notes, and corkboards can be lifesavers when it comes to staying organized. You’ll be using all of these items and more in college. Why not get your collection started now?

5. Create color-coded study guides

Color-coded study guides are not just for Type A personalities. They’re for everyone! But especially for visual learners who want to walk into every single test with enhanced recall ability. If you’ve never created your own study guide before, I recommend starting now—the practice will come in handy in college like you wouldn’t believe. Begin by thinking about the kinds of questions you would ask if you were a teacher. Write them down, then brainstorm two and three steps further. Yes, you know that “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.” But who else was sailing the seas alongside him? How did the Age of Exploration get started? Who were the prominent world leaders of the day? Think big, break your questions into categories, assign each grouping a unique color, and wait for the A+ grades to start rolling in.IMG_13_WEB

What other organizational tools work for you? Any other study tips you’d recommend?

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