Thursday, October 29, 2015

4 Ways to Organize Yourself In Grad School

Choosing to pursue a graduate degree can be a fun and nerve-wracking time. Going back to college is super exciting (Geaux Tigers!), but trying to balance full/part-time graduate level classes with a full-time job can cause a great deal of anxiety. I should know. I'm teaching full time and a full time masters student. Balancing work and school has been hard, but I have learned a few things along the way.
  1. You start before the semester starts. In the first few weeks of school, you will find that you have more work than time. Lucky for you, we live in the age of technology. Hop on your favorite search engine and find your professor. Most have websites with class notes and homework assignments. Start reading and working before class even starts. This will buy you some personal time or can free you up to work on those random research assignments that crop up.
  2. Create a System. When class starts, you won't have time to waste brain cells on silly things like binder tabs and sticky notes, so it's best to create an organizational system now. I take 2-3 classes at one time and I like to use a binder for each semester of grad school. Here is how I organize my binder for each semester. 
    1. Each binder has a cover page with the semester. I put a hole puncher, ruler, and this fresh assortment of stickies in the front pocket.
    2. I'm a Post-It addict.
    3. I'm big on tabbed sections to keep everything straight. The first section is reserved for anything that needs to be turned in and is completed. Each class has it's own section for notes and hole-punched handouts. The last sections are for different types of paper. I'm in a STEM field, so I have a sections for college-rule loose leaf, graph paper, and engineering paper. 
    4. Writing implements are so personal and I tend to use a lot of pencil, but I am a big fan of the Sharpie pen and I carry the multicolor set with me everywhere I go. I also like the 5 pack of Sharpie highlighters. The point is you never know if you're going to be taking notes on ratio or annotating Galileo and having the right tool is essential to getting the work done correctly the first time. 
  3. Write Everything Down. I've realized that an online calendar just does not activate the same parts of my brain that writing does.  I find that having an agenda or planner helps tremendously with organizing my time. The one I use is pictured below. It has monthly calendars where I can put everything going on in my life, weekly's where I can put important reminders, and a yearly calendar where I can organize long-term projects. 
    Agenda found at
  4. Move everything once. It saves you a considerable amount of time to put things away in their assigned space the first time. It can be annoying to punch holes and put things under the correct tab, but it saves you from rifling through the stack of papers in a folder or even losing them if they slipped out of a binder. Also, be sure to write important things in your agenda immediately so that you don't forget. It's easy to forget a work or school deadline when your mind is inundated with both. 

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