How to stay organized (for real) this year

The start of the new year is the most exciting time of the year: A new start seems to suggest that people everywhere will turn into God(dess)-like versions of themselves, which often includes spontaneously developing flawless organizational skills. The arrival of the New Year is often especially important for students. By January and the second part of the school year, notebooks are filled with doodles, pencils are dull and lost and empty of led, and brains are saturated with both facts and assignments. This combination would be enough to make Martha Stewart disorganized.

You’ve made it through the first semester — maybe not as smoothly as you hoped, but 2016 can be different. 2016 will be different. Whether you choose to make New Year’s resolutions or not, the New Year represents a time for renewed intention and an opportunity for growth.  Here are some tips to keep organized this year:

Store odds and ends in mint tins

Not to go all Pinterest on you, but mint tins are great storage options for things like stamps, paper clips, and hair ties. They’ll reduce the clutter and make your mind feel more at ease.

Keep a pencil jar with sharp + ready pencils

Because there is nothing worse than a dull pencil, which stalls the whole working process. You can also keep pens, highlighters and any other pencil-jar ready office supplies here for easy access.

Get a potted plant

Potted plants can improve indoor air quality, and add a little life to your desk to give you a little boost. This means a happy, homey workspace and some much-needed fresh air to keep you on task and organized. 

Go for a walk during breaks

A little fresh air and connection to nature are the perfect combination for a mood boost to keep your sanity during times of stress. It’s hard to stay organized and productive when your mind becomes cluttered.

Open a window

Gazing at the outdoors — even very briefly every few minutes — can not only improve mood, but also boost concentration, another key to a productive, organized new year. 

Make a to-do list

Checkboxes are important! A to-do list will help you organize your thoughts and tasks, track when they’re finished, and give you a feeling of pride and accomplishment when you complete something.

Tip: If you prefer a digital version, Momentum is a great app to keep you on task.

Keep a water bottle, snack, and chapstick at your desk

It might sound like this is adding to the clutter and making it harder to stay organized, but really these items just meet some basic needs and take away excuses for you to get up and get distracted. Hair ties are also a good idea.

Eliminate distractions on the computer

Keep your browser clear of excessive tabs, and use citrus if you find yourself wandering to distracting sites.

Schedule in a fun activity every day (it can be small or big!)

Scheduling times for activities you enjoy can make work time more productive, which is the best excuse to do fun things ever.

Make your bed

Even if you don’t work in your room, making your bed can be a good way to prepare your brain for a productive, orderly day.

Get comfortable when working — but not too comfortable

Make sure you’re the right temperature, and stay away from clothes that are too constrictive or otherwise uncomfortable. Also, make sure not to trick your brain into thinking it’s bedtime by getting too comfy, like in PJs. 

Put your phone in a drawer away from you…with the sound off

Don’t try to resist the temptation — eliminate it!

Clean your backpack

Empty your backpack, and air it out. Maybe even give it a little wash if it needs it. Instant refresh!

Use a timer to maximize efficiency

Some people swear by the Pomodoro technique (working for 20 minutes, then taking a 5 minute break). Others love working for 45 minutes and then taking a 15 minute break. Test out which works for you.

Tip: If time-based focus doesn’t work, try to break up your tasks into manageable pieces and aim to finish one at a time with a break in between.

Use folders

I make two folders for every subject: One for old projects and assignments (that you might need to refer to later), and one for current projects. This goes for digital work, too!

Keep your long term goals in mind

Goals like getting a 4.0, or getting into a certain college, or any other aim that is propelling you to do what you do. Post them in a place you see every day (like a mirror or the wall you face while sitting at your desk). And to remind yourself that you can reach these goals. Because, really: You got this.

(Featured image via Shutterstock.)

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