Organize Your Study Space
Lauren Joffe - The Real College Guide
Organize Your Study Space
If your desk and computer are overcome with clutter, chances are your brain will feel cluttered when it’s time to study.
“I’m least stressed if I feel organized,” says Nina Bernard, a junior at Amherst College.
Instead of moving into the library to de-stress and study up, apply these desk-organizing strategies to make your own study space more conducive to actual studying:
Clear Your Desk
Begin by separating desk and drawer clutter into three piles, in the same mindset you have when you clean out your closet:
Toss old paper drafts, sticky notes, etc., straight into the recycling pile. Trash dried-up pens and highlighters.
Store things you want to hang onto but don’t readily need -- such as notebooks from previous courses -- in plastic bins or large shoe boxes you can stash somewhere.
Keep everything you need to have at your fingertips for current courses. Then, focus on getting that stuff in some semblance of order!
Organize Your Stuff
Categorize work by course.
If color-coding notebooks and folders to match a course helps, go for it! Or buy black notebooks and label them with stickers.
Think you’re already too far into the semester to begin a new note-taking system? Tons of students swear that rewriting condensed class notes is the best exam-prep strategy. Skip the doodles and the minute details you know you won’t be tested on, and you’ll be left with an outline you can use as a study guide.
Use trays to contain clutter.
Office supply stores sell cheap letter trays for stacking and filing papers. Not only does this technique conserve space, but it makes your papers easily accessible and top of mind. Categorize trays by class or use the trays to bring order to other random paperwork, such as campus fliers, bills, bank statements, catalogs and coupons.
When it comes to pens, rulers and paper clips, a sectioned desk tray from a discount store keeps everything separated and in place (no more crazy junk drawer!). At the very least, use a cup or mug to keep writing utensils at arm’s reach.
Organize Your Computer Files
If most of your schoolwork is on your computer, create a clutter-free digital desktop in three simple steps:
Step 1: Name documents using a consistent system. Document names should include course abbreviation, assignment name and date (e.g., WRT205_FinalPaper_03.01.2010.doc). Rename new assignment drafts with the revision date to track changes.
Step 2: Create folders for each semester. In these folders, create one folder for each course.
Step 3: File old documents (with new names) into appropriate course folders. Repeat for every document on your desktop.
Take it to the next level with tip from Bernard, who swears by the Mac digital datebook, iCalendar: “My iCal has its own color for everything, and it’s synced with my BlackBerry, so I get alerts constantly. I have different sections for each of my classes; my hobbies, like orchestra and dance company; birthday calendar, etc. It's a great tool, and I honestly couldn't live without it.”
And Finally … Ditch the Distractions!
Regardless of how organized you are, if AIM, Skype, iChat or Facebook is open while you’re studying, it’s obviously going to cut into your efficiency. In fact, a few years back, a British study commissioned by Hewlett-Packard found that people who are frequently distracted by email, phone calls and text messages become lethargic, aren’t as productive, and can ultimately lose up to 10 IQ points!
Along the same lines, if your TV or music is on, you’re going to be moving at a slower pace and doing a less-than-stellar job. It won’t kill you to put your phone on silent. Return calls and texts later.
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