The winter-term has started or is starting soon and you’re starting your bachelor or master? Maybe you are already studying and still have problems staying organized or reaching your goals? Doesn’t matter, here are 20 ways to stay organized in uni.
Well, since you’re reading this, I guess you want to start studying or are already doing so. Some of these tips might be trivial for you. However, I still see many people struggle with the same issues. Keep in mind: You’re an adult and responsible for your own stuff. No one is going to do it for you! And now, enjoy! 🙂
Uni Life, Studying, and Exams
1. Make yourself familiar with the classes & create a schedule
Ideally you should do this before the classes actually start. Don’t be the person asking ‘What, we have to draw in zoology and botany? I thought drawing was done when I graduated from school’. Yes, there are still people in master’s not having a clue what’s going on in the classes, eventhough they chose and applied for this master program (wtf?). So read the module description or talk to people from higher semesters so you know what’s coming up. Many module descriptions also offer a list of textbooks the lectures are based on, so maybe you can already look through them and buy the essential ones (for buying 2nd hand books I can recomming either amazon or rebuy).
2. Set goals at the beginning of each term
What do you want to archeive this term and when? Try dividing your goals into smaller chuncks. Make your goals feasible. You want to archeive at least a 2.0 (B) in maths? Think: Where am I (math-pro or math-nono)? What do I need to do to fullfill this goal? Do you have to revise the basics? If you want, set a monthly or weekly ‘sub-goal’. This helped me a lot to get good grades, especially in subjects I didn’t enjoy or weren’t good in.
3. Purchase a planner
Honestly, in school really wasn’t the person keeping a neat planner and writing down all of my homework. I was already proud when I managed to write down assignments. This continued until my third term of undergrad, when I finally started to take things seriously. You should definetely keep track of all your important dates and information (schedule, talks, exams, meetings, sports, friends, trips, grades, …). To keep everything tidy in one book, I personally prefer the planners from personal planner. There, you can customize it exactly how you need it. I had three planners from them so far and I plan (lol) on buying my fourth one this year. If you want more freedom in design and layout, you might want to consider bulletjournalling. I did it for a short time, too, but found it to be too time consuming. However, some people really feel it and also find it relaxing to set everything up.
Whatever you decide for, update your planner regularily and take it with you! The more you have written down on the paper, the less you have to keep in mind!
4. Read your e-mails! Check your university portal regularily!
This one is quite obvious, but some people are still not able to read their mails eventhough they are already doing their master’s (HOOOWW??). Yes, you often get an university e-mail account and you have to log in on another page for that. However, you can simply automatically forward e-mails sent to your uni-mail to your private mail if you like. Or you just put all your e-mail accounts in one e-mail service like outlook or thunderbird. BOOM! You see your inboxes all at once!
In addition, don’t forget to check the university portal for newly uploaded lectures or exercises.
5. Fill your backpack with everything you need
If you have pens, paper, planner, notebooks, and snacks with you, you won already half the battle!
6. Organize your computer folders
Is your desktop sometimes completely messed up or everything just ends in the download folder? Well, there are times I need to look up something from a previous semester. Sometimes even from years ago. Keeping your folders organized is a BIG help! So structure your folders beforehand. Don’t let your files get lost and backup regularly! (Yes, there are actually people that lost their thesis and results because they didn’t back up. Not myself, but it happens more often then you would like it to)
7. Rewrite your notes or create study sheets as soon as you can, the day isn’t over just because classes are
A normal workday lasts approximately 8 hours. If your classes don’t make up to that, use the remaining time for studying and preparing your tasks! I try to do everything under the week to have the weekends off. If there’s still more to do, I do it on sunday.
8. Have a filing system for studysheets (and a system for creating them!)
Create study sheets the same way for each subject and put them in the place where they belong. Some people like folders, others like shelves. Figure out what’s working best for you. That way, if you need to reconsider something, you know exactly where to look.
9. Create an EXTRA exam planner!
I personally like to create an extra exam planner, which I hang up on my whiteboard (useful thing btw!). Then I have all assignments at a glance. I just put together a table of all the days of the month and some space to write in word. Following, I write in the exams and assign the days and weeks before the exams with a colour-coded study-plan. Its sooo satisfying to finally cross out the exams when done and actually SEEING that you’re coming closer to the end. Plus it’s very helpful with time management.
10. Create a priority list and eat the frog first
Make a priority list, at least in your head, but better write it down! You can’t do everything at once and maybe you also have to leave something behind. That’s ok! Everyone needs to deal with this. Prioritize and say no to things you can’t add to your current to-do! Not only in the topics of your exams, but also in your dates and deadlines. What is the most important thing to get done?
Sometimes eating the frog first can help you getting into the workflow, because the worst or hardest task is already gone. It can only get better! Also, try to break your assignments into smaller chunks and set your own due date if two dates collide.
11. Remind yourself why you’re doing it – Stay motivated!
Especially exam phases can be totally exhausting. And I feel like nearly everyone is getting at least a minor identity crisis during them. This is exactly the time you should remind yourself WHY you are studying your subject. What are your goals in the long run? Pursuing a PhD? Doing scicomm? Education? PostDoc? Professor? A house and a puppy? Whatever floats your boat! Imagine yourself REACHING that goal! Doesn’t that feel nice? Realize what you have to do to reach it. Wait for the motivation kicking in!
12. If you have a question, don’t be scared to reach out
Let it be a question, something you didn’t understand. I really had to learn this one myself! I think it was until the 3rd year of my undergrad when I noticed that asking or e-mailing your profs doesn’t hurt. I was always scared that they would think I’m stupid. This is total bullshit! It is normal that you don’t know everything and no one expects you to understand something when you’ve heard it for the first time. Don’t be scared and make sure you understand everything. Just don’t wait until it’s too late!
13. Keep a lab notebook
That way you have all the steps of all the laboratory techniques together and you can look them up even years later (pro tipp: also write down the steps you used in programs. Right now they might seem logical, but some time later they might not).
14. If you like, create studygram… or follow them!
I know, I know, there are a lot of them on instagram already. And I started my account with this, too. But I find it super helpful for staying on track and motivating to actually start studying, cause then you can post a nice picture :-P. Of course you can also just follow the endless studygrams there are. Look at these aesthetics (and it’s a brain, lol)!
15. Create a study group
…and maybe a whatsapp or facebook-group with them! You don’t need to meet up often, but it definetely helps to update eachother and ask or answer questions.
Being fit and awake for your tasks AND free-time
16. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time
I know this is a total bummer but at the beginning of my undergrad I slept in whenever I could. However, I wasn’t awake enough for the early classes and even though I went to them, my brain was wandering somewhere else instead of focusing. If I don’t sleep enough, I’m not useful at all. I’m a person that needs A TON of sleep, so if I have to get up at 6, I go to bed between 9 and 10. And I take this time for myself! It doesn’t make sense to run on your last percent of battery. It took me some time until my #1 priority became my health. I only have this one body. Everything else comes after this!
17. Eat healthy, kind of at least
Pizza is love, Pizza is life. And Hamburgers. And Chips. Don’t forget chocolate! Every now and then it is perfectly fine to reward yourself, but also make sure to get all the fresh vitamins and good carbohydrates. Your brain needs fuel!
18. Care for your mental health
It doesn’t help you to put yourself under pressure, doing everything perfectly. If you can’t fullfil your to-do list – okay! The schedule you planned for this week doesn’t work at all? Alright! You need to take a break? Do it!
If you are facing mental health problems, don’t hesitate and go to the psychological guidance on campus. They are happy to help you!
19. ‘To-do: free-time’
Don’t only plan your assignments, but also the time you want to spend with your friends. Don’t forget to add some ‘me-time’.
20. The golden 15 minutes
Needless to say, that the tidyness of your room or flat is eventually approaching zero during taking exams. That’s why I introduced the ‘Golden 15 Minutes‘ a while ago. They describe the 15 minutes between 8 and 8.15pm (TV-watchers know), where I start to put everything where it belongs. At least that! Sometimes it is enough to trigger my inner cleaning woman and I continue doing it for even longer than 15 minutes. That way at least stuff is not piling up where it doesn’t belong. I have to admit that it doesn’t always work though! 😉
That’s it! I hope you found something helpful in this list! Just a quick reminder: I can’t do everything of this perfectly myself. THIS IS NORMAL and totally fine! I just like to use these tips as a guidance. Don’t be too hard on yourself! ❤ If you use some of these tips, feel free to tag me on instagram!
See you soon,