Some people are naturally organized. Their class schedules are color coded, their calendar is up to date, and their workspace has a sense of order.
Then, there are the rest of us - our desks are littered with paper scraps, we rush to make our meetings on time, and think organizing files means piling them on the kitchen table.
Getting organized requires planning, discipline, and the right tools, the good news is it is not impossible to become a more organized person, consider the following basic organizational techniques to get you started.
1. Create a Consistent Schedule:
Schedule regular meetings with your advisor or dissertation chair. This helps to keep you accountable and prevents last-minute scrambling for schedule alignment.
2. Cut down on Clutter:
Store seasonal items outside of your workspace, if you are living in an apartment of dorm room you can ask friends or family members to store your seasonal items in a basement or garage. If you have access to your own basement, designate an area to house unused items. If needed, you can explore renting a storage locker. You don’t need your snowboard and bulky winter coats cluttering up your room in the summer and fall.
If you’re going to be living with someone else, talk with them prior to your move-in date to determine who’s bringing which item. You do not want to arrive at your new apartment to find out you’ve got two televisions and three coffee tables, but no lamps.
3. Organize your Email:
Take time to sort through your inbox. Delete spam and other unnecessary information. Create files for all important emails so you can keep track of them easily.
4. Keep a notebook handy:
Carry a notebook with you throughout the day. When an important thought or new task crosses your mind write it down so you can remember it later.
5. Plan ahead
Set out your clothing, school supplies, and personal items the night before you need them. This way you can avoid wasting time and energy running around trying to find the mate to your shoe, or your notebook for class.
While an organizational strategy is one important element in becoming a more efficient person there are many essential tools that will also help advance your cause.
1. Document Storage System:
You can use a traditional filing cabinet, or store important documents in a three-ring binder, hanging file folders, or a folding file organizer. Periodically purge these folders to prevent clutter.
2. Desk Organizer:
Do you have loose pens, paper clips, and lip balm rolling around your top desk drawer? Getting a desk organizer will help keep things compartmentalized and easily accessible.
3. Space Savers:
Maximize your space using the following items – over the door hooks and towel racks, stackable cubes, storage bins for under the bed, and a bulletin board. Create a specific place for your personal items and return them to their place after use.
Whether you’re a tech geek who loves gadgets or an old-school type who needs paper and pen, a planner is non-negotiable. Experiment with different types and find the one that works for you. Keep your appointments up to date, and take the time to review your calendar on a regular basis to make sure you are prepared for the day ahead.
5. Memory Stick/External Hard Drive:
You will need a system to back up your work. Technology sometimes fails, and if you’ve got no backup, you’re up a creek without a paddle. Do you really want to reconstruct the entire first draft of your thesis because you spilled water on your laptop? We didn’t think so. An external hard drive or flash drive has the potential to save you from a lot of grief.
There is a lot to keep track of in graduate school. Having the right tools and a plan to keep your life organized may help you find greater success.