As most of you know, I recently started taking online college classes with Herkimer County College. I’ve gotten a lot better at staying organized over the past month, and never miss a deadline. I decided to share some advice with those of you who need help managing your time, and making sure that you get your projects and/or assignments done when they’re due.

Remember, these tips are for anyone and everyone, not just college students. If you have any projects that you need to finish, or even want to finish, you can use this advice to improve your organizational skills.

I will begin by giving you a quick tour of my bedroom. When you step inside, there are a few key objects that you should notice. Ahead of you, past my bookshelf that is overflowing with things I’ll probably never even read, is my bed. It has a smoothed out grey comforter with an assortment of pillows placed neatly at the head of my bed.

Why am I directing your attention here? Easy. I have found that making my bed every morning right when I get up, even when I’m exhausted and don’t want to, helps motivate me to complete other tasks throughout the day.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Seal William H. McCraven, who wrote the book ‘Make Your Bed: Little Things Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World,’ said this: “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

In conclusion, even a small thing like making your bed every morning can be beneficial to your daily routine.

Now, take a look at the little table beside my bed. Upon it sits my nightly reading book, ‘The Red Queen’ by Philippa Gregory, the remote to my ‘moon lamp’, and an alarm clock.

Being an online college student with the ability to create my own schedule, I don’t have to wake up at a specific time every morning. Honestly, I could sleep in until ten if I wanted to.

But that doesn’t set me up for a very productive day, does it?

I like to set my alarm to 6:15 every morning, make my bed, and then work on my current novel until 7:30 AM. I’ve found that getting up early every day actually makes me feel less tired. Not only this, but it gives me extra time to work on the hobby I’m most passionate about: Writing!

After this, I shower. I recommend showering every morning at a specific time, like I do after I finish typing. By the time I come downstairs and grab some breakfast, the day has only just really begun.

Now, let’s return to my room. You must now turn your attention around the corner to the small space where I’ve set up my desk. On the left corner of the desk’s surface I have binders for each of my six classes: Sociology, First Year Student Seminar, Contemporary Math, College Writing, Graphics & Design, and Wellness. In each binder I have my course schedule on the left side, any reading material or notes on the right side, and lined paper beneath them.

I also have a little organizer against the wall with separate compartments for pencils, pens, highlighters, scissors, erasers and thumbtacks. Just above this is the next item I will be referencing, and possibly the most important.

This is my corkboard/calender. It’s a big whiteboard with a calender layout and a strip of corkboard along the right side. On the corkboard, I’ve pinned up notes for myself. These include unit conversions, MLA formatting notes, and other things I can look back on if I need to remember something while doing work.

I also pin up little pieces of paper with the title of each class. These are checklists of all of my assignments that I change out every month.

The deadlines are on the calender itself. I write down the dates when assignments open for each class, and also when they’re due. For the former, I draw a black circle beside the assignment that means ‘do.’ If it has a red circle, it means ‘due.’ If I’ve finished an assignment, I put a pink checkmark over it and check it off of the checklist.

Every morning, I cross out the previous day so I never confuse myself about what the date is, and therefore how soon my assignments are due.

The way that I decide which assignment to work on isn’t always depending on how soon it’s due. It also depends on how much time I’ll need to dedicate to said assignment, how loud my house is (my siblings are all still homeschooled, remember), and how confident I am about the material. If I feel like I need to study more, I might put an upcoming assignment off until I properly understand the material.

That being said, I never wait until the last minute to get something done. I am not one to procrastinate (well… in this area of my life. Writing is a different story…), so I like getting things done ASAP.

For days that I don’t really have any upcoming assignments and it’s mostly reading, I use my daily checklist. It hangs on the left corner of the whiteboard- which is magnetic, by the way.

This is what the daily checklist says, though it is an older version of my schedule:

  • 6:15 AM: Wake up and type.
  • 8:00 AM: Breakfast
  • 8:30 AM: Shower & dressed, brush teeth & hair (basically hygiene)
  • 9:30 AM: College discussions (this can take varying amounts of time, so there’s no end time. It can sometimes take an hour or two, depending on what class discussions are open)
  • Sociology
  • 11:00 AM- 11:30: Yoga (I used to do yoga in the mornings, but decided to change it to the middle of the day)
  • 11:30 AM- 12:30 PM: First year student seminar
  • 12:30 PM: Lunch (I let myself take a break from working at lunch, and usually watch YouTube videos or check PotterZone. Side note: If you play PotterZone, add me! My username is @CarynnBohley. Ravenclaw forever!)
  • 12:45 PM-1:45 PM: Graphics & Design
  • 1:45 PM- 2:30 PM: Math
  • 2:30 PM- 3:30 PM: College Writing
  • 3:30 PM- 4:30 PM: Wellness

Like I said, this is an older version of my schedule and I’ve made a few changes since then. Also, most of my classes don’t take that long, because I’m ahead in most of them and sometimes I don’t have work that I actually can do.

Another thing I have on my calender is a list of chores I’ve given myself to make sure I get smaller things done. For example, I tidy up my room every Friday, clean my guinea pigs’ cage every Monday, and clip my guinea pigs’ nails once a month and bathe them.

There’s one more thing that helps me to stay organized and motivated. I keep a grade chart hanging up on the magnetic calender as well, with a space beside every class name. This is where I stick cutout circles with grades on them, which I must change whenever my grades change.

Currently, this is my grade chart (I’m still waiting on some things to be graded, so they’ll probably be changed soon):

  • Sociology: A+
  • Math: A
  • 1st Year Student Seminar: A+
  • Wellness: A-
  • College Writing: A+
  • Graphics & Design: A

This is currently extremely motivating to me, because as you can see I have all A’s! This keeps my parents happy, and obviously it keeps me happy- and very motivated.

There are a lot of other tips I could probably give you, but I think that this is a good start. For those of you who don’t like having ‘written plans’ and ‘schedules,’ I recommend that you give it a try. I don’t mean for a day, or even a week. Make a plan to set a schedule for yourself and try it for a month. I know that it sounds like a big undertaking, but it has truly improved my lifestyle SO MUCH.

Let me know if any of these methods work well for you, and if you have advice to share about having an organized life, then please do! I’d love to hear from you.

~ Carynn





4 thoughts on “How to Organize Your Life: Tips From an Online College Student

  1. This was super helpful! I’m also taking a college class online, and it drives me crazy! I have no idea how you can handle 6 online classes and be so organized, when I’m such a mess with just one. It really helped me what you said about keeping track of due dates, because I’m not too good at that with my online class.

    Liked by 1 person

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