School is once again approaching, and I am entering my third year in college. I am anticipating this to be my most difficult year because I am taking Mandarin for the first time, and I am terrible with learning new languages — I barely managed to survive Spanish in high school. This is as about as far as I can get from being comfortable.
During this semester, I do not want to be buried in papers, caught unaware of something that needs done, or unable to find a file I need on my computer. Whereas in other years I could afford to be somewhat disorganized, I have very little room for error this year.
There are four different areas of disorganization that a student (and any professional) deals with — paper handouts (syllabi, project descriptions, information sheets, et cetera), email, events and tasks, and actual school work. In preparation for this year, I have created a system of sorts for each area. This will be a two-part article, and I warn you now, will probably bore most of you. These articles are as much for me to think through how I am going to do this as it is for you to read.
I receive much too many handouts from my classes, and it is quite easy to overflow with them. In my first year of college, my organizational method was to stick them all in a desk drawer and go fishing for the right one when I needed it. Not only did I lose many important sheets, but my desk was a mess, and this disorganization creates a feeling that I do not have control of my work, which creates unnecessary stress. My second year I bought a simple, 3-area desk inbox. This helped, until I realized I had no system for how to use it. As it filled with more and more papers, a mess once contained in desk drawers moved itself to my desk top.
While thinking about how I was going to be more organized this semester, I realized handouts break down into two types — syllabi, and class-specific papers, such as project descriptions, paper descriptions, and information sheets. These are the important ones, and the rest are mostly junk.
There are only two physical elements to how I am going to organize my handouts. First is the desk inbox I have, and second is a hanging file frame to put in a desk drawer.
That is it. No complex system to grasp. Just an easy way to review each handout, stay organized, and have easy access whenever I need a handout.
I receive most spam from my school. During the regular school year, I sometimes receive something like twenty to thirty of these emails a day, and they fill up my inbox. Worse, these emails obscure the ones I need to pay attention to — emails from my professors and fellow students.
My goal is to remove these useless messages from my inbox and highlight emails from professors and students.
To:field looks something like
STUDENTS@LISTS.WHITTIER.EDU), so I can filter these out of my inbox quite easily. To do so, I created a local “Whittier Junk Email” folder, and a Mail.app rule which moves any emails sent to that email address into it. This keeps them out of my inbox, so only important (or relatively important) emails are in it. Out of sight, out of mind.