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Use these study tools to stay organized this semester

Organizational tools Notion and Google Sheets can be a busy student's best friend during the semester. – Photo by Marten Bjork / Unsplash

Using the right organizational tools can define a college student's success. Long gone are the days when simply completing homework assignments was enough. Add in responsibilities for extracurricular activities or leadership positions, and the concept of organization alone can be overwhelming. 

As someone who enjoys planning and color-coordinating a Google Calendar, I've compiled a list of the resources and apps that are extremely helpful for college students.

Google Sheets

Regarding organizing assignments, I live by Google Sheets (or Microsoft Excel). I use this method that has gone viral on TikTok. It's simple because only three columns are needed: course, assignment and due date.

The sort feature is also quick and efficient since you can enter assignments from all your classes, and with one click, they're in chronological order. Another major bonus is that Google Sheets is free, unlike other productivity tools. 

To optimize my organization, I dedicated a new spreadsheet for my to-do list. This sheet is home to miscellaneous items that are easy to forget, such as signing up for an event or emailing a professor. Including tasks for clubs or leadership roles on this list is a great way to keep everything in one place.

I find that keeping a digital to-do list is helpful because I know I'll always have my laptop or phone with me, but I may not always have a piece of paper that is easy to lose or forget.

Planner websites and apps

Other resources that can be helpful for organizing your tasks are apps and websites like Notion, Notability, Evernote and myHomework Student Planner.

Notion can help you similarly to Sheets in terms of organizing your assignments and keeping track of due dates. The app also has a variety of templates that help you with anything from calculating your grade to tracking financial expenses.

Notability and Evernote are great for taking notes in classes if you find that Google Docs is a bit too chaotic for you. Lastly, myHomework Student Planner is the organized student's dream as it keeps track of all your classes and important due dates.

Ultimately, the apps you choose to help with your academic life come down to your personal preferences, devices and needs. But there's no harm in trying out a few and seeing which fits best for you!

Using a calendar

As I mentioned before, an incredibly helpful tool for me has been Google Calendar — my student life would be impossible without it. Of course, any kind of calendar will do, and buying a physical one may be a worthy investment based on your organizational needs.

Keeping my assignments, events and other obligations in separate folders or sections has also been vital in limiting my stress. My recommendation is to put class time, club meetings and personal time together in one space, whether it be on an app, a physical planner or Google Calendar.

I then categorize and color-coordinate my calendar by "personal," "class," "club meetings," "events" and "work." This makes it easy to visualize how much time I spend on each and how I can manage my work-life balance. 

Study Methods

Now that you've organized your assignments and responsibilities, it's time to think about the most challenging part: getting started on work. 

I return to the same method whenever I feel unmotivated because it's highly effective: Pomodoro. To use this strategy, pick an item off your list and then set a timer for 25 minutes (if this seems too long, you can choose to set one for 5 or 10 minutes). The goal is to work on your task until the time ends.

Once the time is up, take a 5-minute break to stretch, grab a snack or scroll on TikTok. Typically, you would repeat this cycle of 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off, three more times. Then, you would take a longer 15- to 30-minute break the further you've gone. Of course, you can adjust the time intervals to your particular needs and attention span. 

Although you could easily use a timer on your device, I enjoy using the Session - Pomodoro Focus Timer app. It lets you customize the timer style and background image, play relaxing music and choose your working and break intervals. The app holds me accountable and motivates me more than my phone's timer due to its design and intentionality. Many apps, not just this one, have similar functions and are available on various devices and operating systems. 

Ultimately, figuring out your organizational style may take some trial and error. Remember to give yourself the freedom and grace to try new things. College has much to offer — don't let a lack of organization get in your way of experiencing it all.

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