Closer Look

Tips to Get – And Stay – Organized So You Don’t Stress Out

The semester is in full swing, and it’s flying by. October is creeping up on us, and that means Halloween and — even scarier than Halloween — midterm exams.

While it’s important to keep organized, it’s easy to let things get lost in the wind this time of year. Midterms and final exams stress out college students — even graduating seniors — like nothing else. Staying organized will help keep students on top of their “A” game (and hopefully get A’s on exams, too).

Between school, internships, jobs, extracurriculars, socializing, eating and sleeping, students consistently juggle a million tasks at once. Each semester comes with new challenges, and it’s good to stay open to new ways of getting and staying organized.

Make a calendar of events. Whether it’s a digital calendar on your computer or phone or having a handwritten calendar in a planner, being able to reference due dates, assignments and social events throughout the semester will help keep you organized. When using a smartphone, events can be synced across devices and there are several apps available to help with organization, such as Google Calendar and Cozi.

Make a to-do list. An article from Business Insider stated that simple to-do lists are powerful and more realistic when trying to stay organized. Prioritize tasks and get them done throughout the day. By physically writing down goals or sharing them with friends, people maintain accountability for those goals, and an average of 33 percent of those people are more likely to achieve their goals, according to a study at Dominican University of California.

Forget multitasking. It actually slows down performance because the human brain is only capable of focusing on one task at a time, according to a study at Stanford University. Take it easy and don’t try to do everything at once. Don’t be afraid to turn off electronic devices to cut down on the temptation to text, tweet or reblog.

Create a study schedule and develop good habits. Designate an area that is comfortable and go there to study. Planning ahead, dividing tasks and being persistent are some habits to develop to be a better student, according to Washington College. Also try to avoid procrastination as much as possible. Waiting until the last minute to complete assignments can result in unnecessary stress and reflect poorly on final grades.

Plan for the week ahead. According to Forbes, planning in advance is a good way to increase productivity. Another way to stay organized is to plan and prepare meals for the week on Sunday. This might not apply to underclassmen since they have meal plans, but making meals beforehand will save time otherwise spent cooking and washing dishes each day. Having a planned menu will also help students save time and money in the grocery store. College Recipes offers several recipe ideas for college students, including some favorites such as macaroni and cheese, tacos and tasty desserts.

Prepare for midterm and final exams. This may seem obvious, but some students seem to forget how important these exams actually are. Unless you’re lucky, midterm and final exams are usually a huge percentage of final grades for a course. Study actively and don’t wait until the last minute to review the course material.

Spreading out the material allows students to focus on topics they need to review instead of cramming everything in at the last minute.

Studying like this is time consuming, but it’s always better to be over-prepared than underprepared, especially for your first exam. Once you’ve completed that first test, you can gauge the professor’s exam style and adjust study habits accordingly.

Take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. Exams and disorganization can be stressful for students. Being mindful of your body and state of mind is incredibly important. Loyola offers several resources to keep students happy and healthy throughout the year.

Regular exercise reduces stress and anxiety, and helps fight depression, according to a publication from Harvard Medical School. Loyola has two centers, Halas on Lake Shore Campus and the WTC Fitness Studio, that offer group fitness classes, personal training, aquatic lessons and intramural and club sports.

Many students suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD), which can make dealing with stress even more difficult. If stress becomes overwhelming and you feel you may have undiagnosed ADD, feel ill or are going through a tough time, Loyola’s Wellness Center is a resource to take advantage of. The Wellness Center offers counseling, medical advice and services, dietary advice and Loyola’s own campus pet (therapy dog), Tivo. These services and more are available on both campuses, online, by phone and by appointment.

Practicing breathing exercises, meditation and even prayer can also help keep stress levels down.

Don’t forget to treat yo’ self. Staying happy and healthy makes staying on task and maintaining organization much easier. Eat some bananas or avocado because these foods help reduce stress, according to Food Network. Spend some time reflecting and regrouping after a long week by treating yourself to a coffee, cupcake or night out (after you’ve completed your to-do list for the week).

Photo courtesy of Noah Matthews

Noah Matthews, sophomore, international studies major, 19, Carmel, Indiana:

“I use a planner to write down any and everything for the semester in advance, like tests dates or important events. Every once in a while, I’ll look a couple weeks ahead so I’ll know how I need to manage my time. I also try to keep spaces like my desk and email clean by getting rid of things that don’t contribute to my productivity, because the less junk I have cluttering things up, the less distracted I am. [These things help] reduce stress because I don’t have to worry about things like forgetting a due date or losing something in clutter.”

Krista Watson// The Phoenix

Luis Vargas, junior, political science major, 21, Chicago:

“This year, I’ve been using a to-do list on my iPhone. I’ve been putting down classes and what I have to do for them on my digital calendar. I also use Siri a lot to set reminders. When I write things down I don’t always have my agenda with me, but I always have my phone so I always know what to do. [Being organized] helps get you in the right mindset of what you have to do and when you have to do it. It’s great because it holds you accountable.”

Krista Watson// The Phoenix

Aleena Syed, junior, advertising major, 20, Chicago:

“I make a lot of to-do lists. I plan out what I’m going to do throughout the week, especially if I have the day free. I want to make sure I’m on top of things. I always write my homework assignments in my planner so there’s nothing I forget to do. Staying organized helps me stay on top of things. I don’t like messy things and not knowing what to do, so I always have my planner with me.”

Photo courtesy of Emma Westfall
Photo courtesy of Emma Westfall

Veronica Krysa, senior, marketing and management double major, 21, Bolingbrook, Illinois:

“To stay on track, I use a daily planner to enter important dates such as project due dates and exam dates. I also make sure to make lists of things I’m responsible for at work and what assignments and work I need to do each night. I always write things down, which is a great reminder of things that need to get done. As a student, these tips help me stay on track because I never lose track of what is due or what responsibilities or meetings I have during the week.”

Krista Watson// The Phoenix
Krista Watson// The Phoenix

Nick Marotta, sophomore, biochemistry major, 19, Westchester, Illinois:

“Make sure that [assignments] actually end up getting done. Staying organized is a constant battle that needs attention. You can always lock yourself in a quiet place and power through a tough assignment or reading. To stay organized, I make a set of daily goals or an agenda to complete for that day, and adjust the goal to the next day if something needs more time.”

Photo courtesy of Jena Snelling
Photo courtesy of Jena Snelling

Erica Wieczorek, sophomore, ad/PR major, 19, Chicago:

“Being overwhelmed with the transition from high school to college really took a toll on my organizational habits last year. Now that I have a better understanding of how things work, I knew to get an assignment planner, [how to] better schedule my classes to fit my sleep schedule and the shuttle rush times and how to manage my time more wisely.”

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