If you’re anything like me (a 20-something year old college student), life has become pretty overwhelming in the last couple of years, and even if you’re nothing like me, life is just overwhelming in general. Fortunately I’ve found ways to cope with this thing called “adulting,” by adopting certain strategies that make the chaos of adulthood just a little bit bearable. Keep reading for my personal favorite organizational life hacks for adulting.
I’ve split this into two sections: general adulting and academic adulting. Since the majority of my readers are college students, I wanted to include some school organization hacks that I use regularly as well. As you read, you’ll also find that I’ve included links to some of my favorite products that keep me organized as an “adult” (I still don’t believe I’m an adult). Let me know what your favorite products are by tweeting me @MiaReneeCole.
For adulting in general:
1. Stick to a routine.
This is pretty basic, but also pretty essential. Sticking to a routine in the mornings, evenings, and even throughout the day keeps you automatically organized. Among many things, routines help provide stability and security in your life while promoting your overall health. They lower stress levels, allow for regular rest and exercise, and keep you from acting on self-destructive behaviors (i.e. staying up late into the night when you have to get up early in the morning. Routines are overall highly influential in a less stressful adulting experience.
2. Use your evenings to get organized.
Evening routines are especially important which is why I use my evenings to get everything organized. For some people, mornings may work better, but I’ve always found that integrating organization into my nighttime routine works so much better for me. Every evening I make sure to do the following: clean up my room and put everything back where it belongs, look at my calendar and make a list of things to do the next day, and lay out/decide on my outfit for the next day. This routine doesn’t include my showering and bedtime routine. I do all of this simply to make sure I know what to expect for when I wake up in the morning. It makes waking up much less daunting!
3. Have a central way to access your calendar.
Having a central calendar that you use and take everywhere with you is crucial in staying organized. I like to use Google Calendar because it’s streamlined and easy to read, and I can have it on all of my electronics. It allows you to color-code your events, set reminders, and schedule regular events/reminders (i.e. rent and bills), among many other things. It’s a simple, free way to keep everything organized. If your heart is more promised to paper, though, here is my favorite monthly calendar and here is its matching weekly calendar.
4. Set reminders and alarms.
Keep a regular to-do list outside of your normal calendar so you can track tasks. I find it the most helpful to use apps for this since you’re able to set reminders and alarms for your to-do’s, making sure you don’t forget a task! I don’t really like the apps that come with iPhone (I’ve found that the notifications for reminders are unreliable) so I use Wunderlist which you can find in the App Store.
5. Check your to-do’s in your free time.
This is another hack that I’ve found particularly useful during the week. In my spare moments of free time (during lunch, before classes, on the toilet), I like to check my to-do list to keep track of what I still need to get done throughout the day. This is the main way that I stay on top of my tasks and assignments; when I forget to regularly check my to-do list, I usually forget very crucial tasks or manage my time poorly.
For the adulting college student:
1. Have an organization system for classes and materials.
When keeping track of assignments, homework, projects, classes, and in-lecture doodles, an organization system for all of your stuff is incredibly important in keeping up with your things. The semesters that I’ve slacked on having a system for my assignments, I’ve consistently lost papers that I needed to turn in or review for an exam. My favorite organization system is a simple accordion folder. Assigning each section of the folder to a class, I file the class syllabus, rubrics, past assignments and handouts for future reference. I usually keep this file folder in my room since it gets pretty heavy as the semester progresses. I then keep an extra folder to put any current handouts or readings that I’m given during the day. Either every evening or once a week I take the time to file everything back into my accordion folder.
2. Keep personal plans and school plans separate… but also together.
One thing that I’ve found to be helpful during the school year is keeping my school plans and personal plans separated to a certain extent. I like to use two separate planners (linked above): the monthly planner where I track my personal plans and side hustle plans, and my smaller, weekly planner (that still has monthly views) where I track all of my school plans like due dates and exams. This way, I’m able to view my school plans separately from any other plans so I’m prepared to know how busy I’ll be academically each month. Then, in my larger monthly calendar, I will add occasional school plans like important exams or tests so I can make sure I plan my personal life around those important things. Ultimately, I keep my personal plans separate from my academic, but I will integrate them slightly so I can make sure I don’t override important tests or due dates with personal plans.
3. Write down all due dates at the beginning of the semester.
This is something that you absolutely should not skip. One of the first things I do at the beginning of a new semester is write down all of the due dates off of my class syllabi. Taking a few hours to do this is what keeps me on track for an entire semester. I like to use this free printable (though you can also download it onto your iPad) to write down assignments for each week, color coding according to my classes. Not only does this allow me to see what is due, but it also allows me to evaluate how busy I’ll be during a certain week. By writing down all of my assignments in advance, I can judge which weeks will be my “hell weeks” early on in the semester too.
And there you have it. Though these may not be “hacks” that we think of in the traditional sense, these are still useful strategies that I’ve found have made the #adultlife just a little bit easier for myself. Let me know what you thought in the comments below and include any other suggestions that you might have as well.
Until next time,
Photo Courtesy of: Pexels