How I Survive School: Staying Organized

Today is the first day of fall quarter this year at Cal Poly. Being back in San Luis Obispo brings me a sense of comfort now that the town is familiar and is considered my second home away from San Diego, where I am originally from. But it’s always difficult to get back into the routine of school after coming back from a long break. What has helped me ease the transition back to school is being organized.

Anyone that knows me personally is familiar with how crazy I am about organization. From my daily to-do lists and calendars to my colorful Google calendar, I like to have my priorities written down on multiple mediums to ensure I do not forget what I need to complete on any given day.

But being this detailed doesn’t work for everyone. I like the idea of having a structured schedule for each day. Organization can definitely be a little intimidating; it’s all about finding what works best for you in terms of staying on top of your responsibilities. However, I truly believe that implementing a couple of different habits in your daily routine can set you up for success in all academic, social, and personal aspects of your life. Take what you find valuable from this post and give each idea a try. It takes a bit of trial and error but you’ll find what works for you.


Every morning, I write down my schedule and to-do list. What’s important about this is that it holds me accountable for everything I want to accomplish on any given day. It keeps me on top of classes I have to attend, appointments I need to go to, and any tasks I should be working on. At the end of each day, I try to have each box next to the items in my to-do list checked off. If not, I mark it so I remember to add it to my list the following day.

I used to write it on my computer, but I have found that I prefer to carry around a physical notebook because I can add to it throughout the day if I prefer not to carry my computer around. Pictured below is how it looks in my notebook and how that would also look in the Notes app on my Macbook.


I never utilized Google calendar until I came to college, but since then it has become a lifesaver. I use it for academic, social, and personal events, but I use a different calendar for each one and assign them their own colors, as seen below.

To the left I have attached an image that shows each of the calendars and their corresponding colors. To the right, it shows what two days look like in my schedule this week. All my classes are in the lime green color, which is shown by the two that I have to attend today. My personal events are in pink and it shows that I am planning to go to the gym after class. My work events are in purple; I know that on Friday I have work from 12-2PM.

I like doing it this way because I can isolate certain events. For example, if I only want to look at my classes schedule then I’ll hide every single calendar except for “Classes,” which is shown in the lime green. What’s nice about Google calendar is that it can be as simple or as detailed as you wish.


In my opinion, the first two items are the most essential. They are the most cost-effective and the easiest to start. I would implement those as these next two are things I like to have, but that are probably unnecessary.

I also carry around a daily planner specifically for my school assignments. I usually pick up a cheap one from Target. It’s a similar idea to my daily to-do list and schedule (#1), but I use bulletpoints for any school assignments I need to complete that day and then asterisks for any school assignments or projects that I should be thinking about but aren’t due immediately.

I find this helpful because it keeps my school obligations separate from everything else. I am a student first, so this helps me prioritize my assignments and stay on top of my grades.



The last item that I use is a dry-erase calendar that hangs on the wall in my dorm. I usually don’t update this very often; it only has important dates on it. I would use this to keep track of exam days, birthdays, and bigger events. On a day-to-day basis, I usually take a quick glance at it to see what’s coming up during the month.

I like it because it’s a constant reminder of important dates that I want to keep track of during the year.

Those are the four methods that I use to stay organized during the school year. Usually during the summers or long breaks I don’t use any of this, but it is helpful to me during school because my schedule can get very busy.

Again, only take from this what you feel is helpful to you. Keeping track of my schedule and my to-do list lets me take a better look at how I’m balancing different aspects of my life and is a great reference if I need to look in the past and see when certain events took place. It has helped me be successful in my daily life and is the best way for me to hold myself accountable for my responsibilities, and it can be that way for you too if you take small steps to become more organized.



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