How to get organised as a student – 10 productivity tips

Parties, procrastination and... planning. The third has somewhat less of a ring to it and more of a boring boom. But knowing how to get your studies shipshape is a life lesson that will set you students in good stead – trust us, we’re planning pros. With our ten top tips on how to get organised for school (or college or uni for that matter), you’ll sail through those corridors and classrooms. And most importantly, you’ll get a better hold on your time to get through your work quicker. And you know what that means? More time for downtime!

1. Plan everything – in one place

Making a mental note, talking things through and setting a reminder here and a calendar event there are all well and good, but, it’s a bit scattered. There are plenty of fancy apps that you can use to map out your work, but here at Papier, we’re big advocates of writing it all down. For three reasons.

Number one, it means there’s a snazzy addition to your stationery arsenal that will make your desk look all the lovelier and the planning process all the prettier.

Number two, you can keep everything all in one place. Personalised planners come in all shapes and sizes so choose one that doesn’t just look the part, but has all the bits and pieces you need (like important dates, a diary, timetable, a note-taking section and so on) to quickly flick back to as and when you need.

And number three, the process of writing it all down really helps your schedule to sink in, so you develop a two-pronged planning system!

2. Plan your whole year at a glance

Get yourself a coffee, earmark a comfy spot, and knuckle down to fill out all of the important academic dates going on for the next 12 months – or longer if you know them and your planner goes far enough. Think exam periods (urgh), holidays (yay), essay deadlines (snore), revision classes (can’t wait) and post-exam celebrations (hallelujah).

By dedicating a chunk of time to process all of the VIDs – very important dates – you can rest assured that they’re stowed safely, ready to remind you closer to the time. Plus, when it comes to sorting out your study schedule, you can work backwards and figure out what makes sense to start when.

3. Stick your class timetable to the inside cover

We always suggest printing off your timetable for the term or semester (if you’re feeling creative, design one on your computer that’s a bit nicer than the bog standard one you’ll be given) and attaching it to the inside cover. This way, you get all of the nice vibes of your front cover to tempt you in, but then as soon as you open it, you see the timetable and… bam, you’re focused and mean business.

With your lesson, lecture or workshop schedule always to hand, planning your time day by day, week by week becomes simplified. You can expect what homework’s going to land on which day and which nights you want to free up, be it for an after-school club or an after-seminar pub.

4. Write tasks and information down as your receive it

Banish the thought of ‘I’ll do it later’. Later often means never. Or, it means you might forget some of the detail and you end up with a partial record of what you’re meant to be doing. As soon as you’re given a scrap of information that you need to remember, write it down.

It’s part of ‘how to be organised as a student’ 101. Less Post-its floating around the bottom of your bag (only to be found terms later) and assumptions that you won’t forget (an elephant supposedly never forgets, but us humans do), and more pen-grabbing and page-filling there and then.

5. Create a study schedule and stick to it

Some plans shift about a bit, but others are best when they’re set in stone. Like your study schedule. These two words might feel like a looming black cloud, but exams happen, so take them by the horns and get prepping calmly. If your timetable allows, why not block yourself out straight after a lesson to do any homework straight away while all the information is as fresh as a daisy?

Or if that’s not doable and you need more time, like with essay writing, give yourself two deadlines – one to have the first draft done, and the other as your final, final deadline when all editing, proofing and referencing is complete. A double deadline means that you give yourself focus but also a bit of breathing room in case it takes longer than expected and you run over the first. Stress free is the name of the game!

6. Take notes by hand to better remember them

Yes, all those lecture and seminar materials can be found online but that’s not something to rely on when you decide to have a little snooze at the back of the class. Do you know if you write something down by hand you’ll remember it better? So if you make notes of the headline points your lecturer or teacher is making then when it comes to exam time, your revision is going to go a whole lot smoother. Better fill up that pencil case.

7. Colour code

Any excuse for a coloured pen (or a scented one if they still exist). By pairing each subject with a different shade, not only will your notebooks and planners put a spring in your step, but they make processing the information inside them easier. Looking for French-related notes or homework tasks, block out the other colours and just focus on blue. Wondering what’s going on next week in macroeconomics? Let your eyes dart for anything in green. It’s the paper-based (and far more fun) version of the filter function on a spreadsheet (snooze fest).

8. Have a "done" pile

Similar to binning any of your notes that you know in your heart of hearts you won’t ever refer back to, having a ‘to do’ and ‘done’ system is a top organisation process to get into the swing of. Apply it to settling down to start your homework where you have a pile of what you need to do on one side and then when it’s done and dusted, switch it over to your proud-as-punch ‘done’ section. Written checklists achieve the same sort of thing. They’re about setting out what you want to do, in which order and then marking them off as you go. Check, check and air punch!

9. Take strategic breaks

Planning in pauses to give your brain a break generally makes people more efficient. And it’s the planning that makes the difference, because when you get to your allocated tea break, it’s because you’ve got to a point where you wanted to, so there’s a real sense of achievement to bask in during your well-earned study stop. You’ll still feel a brain benefit if you stop beforehand, but it’s the idea of reaching a goal that helps breaks to be more beneficial.

Give your downtime structure too though to remain in the zone rather than idly scrolling through Instagram. Just like in a job, you wouldn’t sit at your desk for half an hour doing nothing, but a quick five-minute breather here and there is perfectly reasonable. Then game face on and get back on it!

10. Location, location, location

Some people are library bods, who need to be surrounded by books, away from the temptations of home, and in a silent environment to crack on. Others are the total opposite; home comforts like laptop on sofa and slippers on feet bring out their brainiest side. There are no rules here other than to work out what your rhythm is. Maybe you need a bit of both and a location switcheroo keeps your mind ticking along nicely. Find out where your groove really gets going, go there, and study on down!