A College Girl’s 16 Tips for Getting (and Staying) Organized

Charley the minihorse sleeping

Me when it comes to organizing. My daughter is much better at this! **Disclosure – Verizon Sponsored post.

“New Year, new me!”—the collective proclamation heard in pizzerias around the world on December 31st! Raise your hand if you’ve wanted to make one of your resolutions “keep all my New Year’s resolutions.” Anyone? Just me?

Whether your goal is to drop a couple dress sizes or just make it to your meetings on time, the ultimate resolution killer is a lack of organization. Just for shoots and giggles I looked up organization in the dictionary; organization is defined as an efficient and orderly approach to tasks.

Efficiency and orderliness doesn’t just make our lives easier and prettier and more Pinterest-worthy, though. Did you know it can even affect your physical and mental health? Shape.com has a great article about the different aspects of your health that being organized impacts. Everything from your relationships, to how you eat, to your productivity feels the weight of a disorganized and cluttered life or schedule.

Who knew that not having your stuff together is bad for you?

So, I talked to the supreme expert in my life about how to get your life together – my oldest daughter. She’s a junior in college, and by this point in her college career, she’s seen the messiest of times and the cleanest of times. She’ll be the first to tell you she doesn’t have it all together, but she’s figured out a few things that have really transformed her personal life, her relationships, and even her GPA.

Here are her 16 ways to get healthy just by getting and staying organized!

1. Prioritize.
First things first, right? Before you even open your shiny new planner (see below), decide what’s most important to you. Pick a few things in your life that, should you have to choose, will always win out in the battle for your time. So, for instance, if you’re dead-set on dropping a few pounds, bringing up your GPA, and making more time for your significant other, the first three things on your list should be working out, school, and date nights. These will be what you schedule first, and they’ll be virtually set in stone. Prioritizing seems so simple, but it’ll help you stay focused on what means the most to you and help you say no to things that just want to steal your time and your joy.

2. Invest in a fabulous planner.
I cannot stress enough how creating a structured routine will take you from zero to hero in a heartbeat. I used to pride myself in my spontaneity and dislike for routines, until one semester when I spontaneously joined way too many organizations and put more on my plate than I could stomach. It killed my GPA, my relationships, my work life . . . I even gained weight. Map out everything – from class to lunch to alone time.
This is my favorite planner of all time AND IT’S CURRENTLY HALF OFF. It’s full of healthy recipes, motivational quotes and tips, a section for your budget, and even pages for you to write down goals for the year and month. Get the Lorna Jane MNB Diary 2016 here!

3. Have a calendar in more than one place.
I have my beautiful planner, a dry-erase board on my wall, the calendar app on my phone, and not one but TWO Excel spreadsheets – one for my consistent weekly obligations and another for my consistent weekly free time – which I keep in a drive account so I can access it anywhere.

4. Schedule time to clean, shower, eat, and do nothing.
After you make your schedule, make another one that represents your free time so you can fill those spaces with coffee dates, workouts, movie nights, or just alone time throughout the week. It’s a lot easier than trying to process in your ever-spinning brain if you really do have time to grab lunch between classes on a given Monday.

5. Budget.
This one seems obvious. But especially during your broke days, budgeting (even if all you’ve got to work with is $5 here and $10 there) helps you control your money, and keeps your money from controlling you. Never again will those awful internal battles between your brain and your bank account ruin your trip to the mall! My most valuable piece of advice is to budget conservatively – always assume you’ll make less and spend more than you think. Then you’ll have a few extra bucks left over, so you can buy coffee for the person in line behind you, or go pick up a new pair of jeans!

6. Keep to-do lists concise and infrequent.
Being organized is great. Being not organized is not great. Being TOO organized is also not great. I don’t know about you, but my quick little to-do lists often turn into wall-length scrolls that even Santa wouldn’t have time to check twice. Lists are great reminders, but take it easy. Focus on what needs to get done in a single, short frame of time, like a day or even an afternoon. If you do make a to-do list for the week, only list big things (e.g., go grocery shopping, pay rent, start studying for exam, etc.).

7. Make time for quiet time.
Quiet time looks different for everyone. It could include anything from meditation and prayer, to daydreaming and journaling, to just being still and silent. No music. No phone. This is time to recharge, reflect, and renew. And it’s so necessary. Schedule it accordingly.

8. Also make time for people.
This is a tough one for my introverts. If you’re an extrovert like me, you get energy from being around others. That makes this expectation easy to meet. But for many of us, meeting new people, or having to go hang out with and be interested in XYZ person, sounds pretty dreadful. That’s totally okay! But, there’s life in community. Stop for a second and think of someone in your life that you admire, or want to invest in. Now text them and really hang out with them. Getting to know people and loving other people well is what being a human’s all about.

9. Keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up time.
If you have to be to work at 8 every morning, set that alarm for 6:30. Now do the math – give yourself a good 8 hours of sleep. That means bedtime’s at 10:30. That might mean saying no to karaoke on Wednesdays, but your Thursday-morning body and mind will love you for it.

10. Plan your meals (kind of).
I still struggle with this one, especially since I don’t stop moving for long during the day. Even if your meal plan isn’t down to the ingredient, you can get a general sense of what you’ll eat that day based on what you’ve got going on. I may know on any given day that I’ll have an hour for lunch at the dining hall, and then later I’ll go to dinner with friends. I can commit to a salad for lunch and lean meat with salad for dinner, and water throughout the day. Mapping out exact meals and having them premade isn’t really my style, but feel free to plan down to the details if it’ll keep you from headaches later!

11. Color code because your life will transform.
My excuse for this point would be that I’m a visual person, but here’s a fun fact: we are all visual people. Even if you wouldn’t claim that, your visual senses are incredibly powerful. I’ve color coded everything from my binders to the order of the apps on my phone (do this because it’s beautiful).

12. Say no.
If it’s not on your priority list, and you stomach churns at the thought of having one more thing on your plate, just say no. The world will keep spinning without it, and you’ll get better sleep.

13. Say yes.*
If it lines up with your priorities, fits in nicely with your schedule, do it, but be careful. People tend to present the task as if it’s a lot more casual than it often is. Make sure you know what you’re getting into. A little caution never hurt anybody.

14. Keep your word.
I don’t say yes (or no) to anything until I’ve checked with the all-knowing, ever-seeing Planner. And if it’s not in my planner, it doesn’t happen. And once you commit, stick to it.

15. Separate yourself from your failures.
Organizing your life is an art and a science, and you’re just human. You’ll mess up – you’ll sleep in and miss a meeting every now and then. Learning how to roll with the punches and not beat yourself up for when you don’t measure up is one of the most valuable things you’ll ever learn.

16. Breathe.
Your life is only as stressful and as cluttered as you make it. Take a day off every now and then. (Not that I’m advocating skipping class, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!) You’re a person first. Everything else comes later.


*** This post is sponsored by the awesome people at Verizon. Without them, I’d be hopelessly disorganized!





  1. I love that you included “say no”. We’re often taught, especially as young girls, that we should be giving and helpful. That “pleaser” belief can be so detrimental to us in many ways. This is an awesome list and even for those of us not in college it’s a great reminder to look at how to rebalance things that are not as we would like.

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