Are there goals you’d like to achieve this year – perhaps in your studies, extracurriculars, or social life? Lucky for you, our resident GIE blogger Bella has some seriously useful organisational tools to help you keep your eye on the prize (whatever that may be!) whilst keeping some balance in your life.

“Organising isn’t about being ‘tidy’ or throwing stuff away. It’s about creating systems that provide access to the things we need to achieve our goals”.

- Julie Morgenstern

This quote resonates with me because whilst I’d count myself as relatively organised, I am definitely NOT tidy (you don’t even want to imagine my room!). Being organised is really about allowing yourself sufficient time to do the things you need to do (e.g.: homework, work, music practise) so that you can do all the things you want to do (e.g.: build a robot, sports training, learning additional subject content). Here are some of my favourite tools to keep you on track!

1. Calendar

Calendars are a great ‘bird’s eye view’ of the big and important events in your life like birthdays, exams or sports finals. I love paper calendars, mainly for the aesthetic and because I’m a stationary fiend. BUT...if you prefer online resources, then Google calendar is a great website which links in with other apps and devices. Your laptop and phone probably also have an app which you can use. The benefit of an online calendar is that it has a lot of space so you can also use it as a daily diary. Plus, there are some great sharing features so you can link in with your family.

2. Diary

Your school probably gives you a diary and, if you’re anything like me, you would have chucked it out promptly after receiving it. Well...this year I challenge you actually use your school diary (or get a pretty one from a stationary shop). Unlike a calendar, a diary has enough room for you to write down every event, due date or social plan you have. Whether it’s a GIE coding workshop or a weekend soccer skills program, keeping your diary up to date is super important and will be a habit which serves you for life. Online calendars can also work as a diary as you can add as many events as you want! Your school might have an online software like Google classroom which has an inbuilt calendar/diary function.

Here is what a week in my diary would look like:

3. Weekly planner

Unlike a diary, my weekly planner includes the things I do weekly like lecture times, group meetings and exercise. It’s good to have an easily accessible visual which you can check each day to make sure you remember to pack your trumpet and soccer boots for school the next day. In high school, I made one at the start of each term and pinned it up in my room and kitchen to make sure I remembered everything (and that my parents didn’t forget to pick me up!)

I also like to include my designated study times in my weekly planner. Before each week, I think of all the textbook questions, pre-labs and tutorial preparation I have to do and schedule time to do all of them. I find this helpful as it can be overwhelming when you sit down and have a seemingly endless mountain of study to do.

There are lots of cute stationary versions available from most stores or you can easily make an online template in Word or Excel and print it out. If you prefer online resources and are happy to update it each week, then I’d recommend My Study Life.

4. To-Do list

If you use only one thing on this list, make it a to-do list! To-do lists are the easiest way to keep track of urgent tasks. I write a to-do list every week and divide it into sections: “Uni” (where I note the assignments and tutorial questions I have to do), “Life” (for things like booking a dentist’s appointment) and “Co-Curricular” ( weekly tasks for the clubs, societies and work I am involved in). Design your list in whatever format works best for you. There are lots of online websites or apps, or you can use a humble notebook. The benefit of online services, such as Todoist, isthat you can colour code and prioritise tasks according to dates.

5. Document for future ideas

This is more of a long-term strategy to ensure you do things which are important to you but might not have time for at the moment. Rather than clogging up your actual to-do list, I’d advise having a separate notebook or word document where you write down things you want to do in the future. For example, mine looks a bit like this at the moment:

  • Do a pottery class
  • Cull uni photos
  • Grow moss on a wall? (= green wall!)
  • Make a plan for studying abroad

You'll notice it’s a mix of practical things which I want to do when I have time, and weird ideas. I think it’s very important to have a list like this so that you don’t forget your quirky ideas or future goals, whatever they may be!

Combining the tools

As you can probably see, most of these organisational methods don’t work in isolation, and how you combine them is entirely up to you. You might despise keeping a weekly planner and prefer to keep everything on one to-do list. I would suggest starting with 1-2 organisational techniques and figure out what works for you. Before you know it, you’ll be ticking off those goals you made at the start of the year!