How to actually get your life organized this school year


School is *so* in sesh—you're stocked up on the cutest highlighters, you've color-coded your classes (you can't tell me math isn't red. It's totally red.) and your stash of succulent erasers is, frankly, unmatched. Your social calendar is COVID-19 safe and jam-packed. And hey, you still want some Self-Care Sundays thrown in the mix.

But now comes the hard part: Actually staying organized.

And listen, maybe staying organized is your secret special skill. Power to you girlfriend. It certainly wasn't for me. Not that I didn't want to be organized. I bought all the planners, pastel folders and aesthetic paper clips I could get my hands on. But truthfully? I couldn't stay motivated as time went on. That planner never seemed to stay in use past November.

Sound like you? Fear not—I finally figured out how to cultivate the organizational style that works for me, and I've so got you covered (beyond the classically overrated "keep a planner and color-coordinate!" advice). Because these unexpected org tips might be just what you need to hear to make this your best school year yet.

Tip #1: Make a list of goals (but start slow!)

The best way to start a journey to a more organized you? Sit down and intentionally write a list of goals you want to begin persuing. I get that this part isn't particularly unexpected or surprising, but hear me out: You have to make sure this list of goals is manageable. Like, actually manageable.

Yes, have a list of your longterm goals and dreams, no matter how big they may seem, and let be your inspiration. But for this list, I'm talking about basic, achievable action items. (Hint: the following tips might be a good place to start...just saying).

Tip #2: Make sure you're taking care of your body

Happy body = happy mind. Listen to your body. It's not supposed to be separate from your mind; they feed each other. 

So make sure you're prioritizing your physical health—are you getting enough sleep? Do you eat three meals a day? Sometimes, those things can seem tricky to manage along with your classes and your social life, so consider how those things can all play into each other. Having a dinner date with friends is a great example of a crossover that benefits your body and helps you organize time to let your social life shine.

Tip #3: You don't need to be Study Queen

You know those study TikToks that feature those perfectly-crafted notes pages with the neatest handwriting you've ever seen and on-point color coordination? It's literally so calming to watch, and maybe that's a note-taking style that works for you. Pros: Writing things down (especially if you're rewriting to make it fancy) has been proven to help you remember things more easily. Cons: It literally takes so long. And like, what if you don't space out the letters enough and it's not centered, you know?

OK, so maybe that's not for you. Spoiler alert! As long as you are taking notes, and they cover everything your teacher is teaching, you're getting the job done and prepping study materials for later. Find the note-taking style that works for you—don't put pressure on yourself to make it "perfect" if it's only going to add stress. Same advice applies to the "That Girl" trend.

Tip #4: Set a schedule that actually works for you

OK, so obvi you can't adjust your class sched or when you have volleyball practice, but you can still make microchanges that are better for you. You know your mind and body best!

Maybe that means getting all your homework done right after school or later in the evening. Maybe you love getting up early and catching up on assignments before they're due. Maybe you like having weeknights more laid back and weekends for coffee shop study hour with the girls. All that matters is that you're getting the work done on time and you're keeping your life free from last-minute stress.

Tip #5: Your reminders app is your new BFF

I'm not kidding. I cannot tell you how many times my reminders app has come to my rescue. Worried you might forget about that American history test scheduled two months from now? If you're not one to faithfully keep a planner, a reminder on your phone two weeks before will do the trick.

A non-definitive list of other ~amaze~ uses of the reminders app include: medication reminders, family birthdays, plant watering schedules, housesitting schedules for your neighbors and sushi night with the besties. 

Tip #6: Make sure your space is clean

OK, I know the classic "I-can't-study-until-my-whole-room-is-clean-and-also-while-we're-at-it-might-as-well-rearrange-like-what-if-my-bed-was-over-in-that-opposite-corner?" type of procrastination but hot take—the concept isn't half bad.

Because that Clean Room Feeling carries over to a lot of different organization-reliant parts of your life. If you're feeling stuck in a rut, adding a simple task like cleaning your room or helping Dad with the dishes reminds you how easy it can be to take little steps that make you feel productive and ready to go.

Tip #7: Never underestimate the power of taking a walk around the block

Remember that thing about taking care of your body? If you're feeling overwhelmed with your schedule, either socially or academically, take a 20-minute walk.

Give yourself a moment of space away from whatever task you're working on or event you're trying to schedule and come back to it with a fresh outlook. You'll be so glad you did.

Tip #8: Break down each task into easy-to-schedule to-do list

Scheduling becomes sooo much easier when you aren't looking at a daunting list of large-scale to-do's. And putting off a whole project until the night before its deadline? So last year.

If you stop looking at big projects as something you have to finish in one sitting, you can organize your schedule around finishing little parts of each leading up to the deadline in a more paced process. So take the time to break down your tasks into actionable pieces. Have a big surprise party to throw? Plan the invites first, then the cake and decorations and finally the big moment. Remember: You've always got time when you schedule it right.

Tip #9: Schedule in time for a break

"Work hard, play hard" is def a great motto for life, but I would argue in favor of adding "rest hard" to the equation. the best way to stay on-track and organized? Make sure you aren't burning out.

You don't have to be doing something All. The. Time. There isn't anything wrong with sleeping in on the weekends or watching some TV on the weeknights. Don't beat yourself up for not being organized and productive 24/7.

Tip #10: It's OK to not be perfect

Obvi. The most Important step you can take on your journey to ~organization~? Being OK with not getting it totally right. Maybe you try all of these steps...and some weeknights you don't follow the schedule you set or you skip the reminder before actually studying for the test. 

That's fine! Give yourself permission to slip up. Don't beat yourself up about it, just try again next week. Every day is a new day, and you're learning and growing through successes and  failures. Don't worry, bb! You're going to rock this year.

What's your tried-and-true organization tip? Let us know on Twitter @girlslifemag!


by Erin Sargent | 9/21/2021