By contributor Brynn Joyce

Some people claim they work best at 3 a.m., pumped full of caffeine, writing a paper on a book they just bought that same morning—but that is something I avoid at all costs. So I’ve created a system to keep myself from falling apart (at least until exams start).

The following lists five tips to become a more organized and less stressed student. This system works for me; let’s hope it works for you too.

1. Write everything down 

Face it—your memory is garbage. You can’t even remember what your professor lectured on two hours ago. Don’t let your brain trick you into thinking it can remember something, because it won’t. Write it down. I don’t care where you do it—it can be in your agenda, your notebook, or your phone—but get it down.

2. Weekly reading list

We have all walked into class only to discover that there was definitely reading to do, and you definitely didn’t do it, and that the in-class discussion is going to be a real pain to bullshit your way through. I have a chalkboard in my room that I’ve divided into five sections—one for each course. Every week I write down what reading needs to be done in each class and the date it needs to be done; it gives me a visual of everything I need to read at a glance.

3. Weekly project list

This is basically an addition to my previous point. Set a goal for how much progress you want to make in a project by the end of the week. Write down your goals on your chalkboard from tip number two if you have space. If not, you could try writing it on a sticky note and sticking it to your computer screen—anything you can come up with to keep it visual. Believe it or not, spreading your project out will most likely achieve a better end result than pulling an all-nighter.

4. Month-at-a-glance calendar

On top of my chalkboard, I also have a month-at-a-glance calendar on a whiteboard mounted on my wall where I write down all major events occurring this month—you just need to schedule your life. You might be thinking, “but Brynn, I don’t have the space for a big wall calendar”—it’s just as easy to put events into your phone’s calendar.

5. The due date spreadsheet

This is by far the most useful tool I have, and I am eternally grateful to my friend for sharing it with me. The due date spreadsheet is designed to make sure due dates don’t sneak up on you. It does takes a lot of work to set up, but it has been a life-saver. Open Excel and make five headings: “Due Date,” “Class,” “Assignment,” “Handed-In,” and “Per cent of Grade.” Now grab all your syllabi and start entering the information for each project into your spreadsheet, in chronological order. You can even colour-code each course if you want. Print it out, pin it to the wall above your computer, and voilà—you’re all set.