This post has been in my drafts for a long, long time. I kept meaning to come back and add how things have lasted over time, but just didn’t have the motivation. So now, when I should be revising for my exams next week, I’m doing it. Perfect procrastination!
I’m going to concentrate here on the organisation of the learning part of being a student – how I take lecture notes, work independently, stay on track of things and all little bits like that. What I’m not going to take about is the format of my notes, and how I revise. I think that’s something that is very individual to the subject being studied, and I’m not sure many of you will want to read all about how I learn maths – maybe that’s a post for another day!
Organisation is something very important to me – many will call me obsessively organised, and yes, if something is out of place, it will stress me out. One of my key priorities is to have subjects/tasks/stuff differentiated and separated into sections.
The way I do this within my university work is through (lots of) folders and (even more) dividers. For my first year, I have gone with a colour scheme of pink and green – this goes for my whole room (and I was very happy to arrive at university and find I’d been allocated a green room, completely by fluke). So I have pink folders, and green folders. All of these I actually saved after condensing my notes down at the end of sixth form, but if any of you are interested they are all from WHSmiths. Cheap(ish) and readily available. They get based quite easily, but mine generally stay in my room so I’m not too worried about that.
Pink and green folders. Because of the way my course is split, I do Pure Maths modules, and Applied Maths modules (the interesting ones!). Because of this, I’ve split my folders up – pink for the applied, green for the pure. Some of my folders are not ringbinders, but lever arch, and these bigger ones hold bigger modules, ie the 30 credit ones.
I then use dividers to split modules into topics. Usually this is quite easy, in that at the start lecturers told us what topics were coming up. Its not so easy when they just present you with a stream of knowledge, and I’m expected to organise it myself. Potential lecturers/teachers, take note of that! Because I put a lot of things into plastic wallets, normal dividers don’t come out wide enough. You can buy extra-wide ones, but they are expensive. Instead I cut slots in plastic wallets, and put dividers in those. Works just as well.
So, that’s my main folders discussed.
I then have another ringbinder – a more expensive plastic one this time, again with my widened dividers in. I carry this around with me, with each division devoted to a module. I aim to keep at least one spare plastic wallet per module in there at all times, and some extra paper. This keeps my ‘current’ lecture notes organised, and allows me to slot new things in whenever.
I usually file the stuff in this folder away into the main folders either at the end of each topic, or when it is getting very full and heavy. I confess I usually leave it too late, so it tends to take much longer than it should!
I also keep in this folder two of an item that has become incredibly useful over this last year. It’s going to be difficult for me to explain these, without sounding like a total idiot, so have a look here. I find them invaluable for throwing in things I will need quickly (I don’t need to take the folder out of my bag to retrieve things from these), and for keeping things in when I inevitably run out of plastic pockets. I actually bought mine from the university’s stationary shop, and paid considerably more than on Amazon, I know I’ll be ordering from there next time!
I then carry around the usual pens, pencils, rulers, rubbers, calculator etc. I actually use a make-up bag as I couldn’t find a pencil case I liked in September, however I do now I have a smaller case from Wilkinsons for days my bag is really heavy. Such is my obsessiveness about being organised, I also have an exam pencil case – an extra large clear plastic one, in which a spare calculator lives, and some never used before pencils. Sad I know!
A quick notes about the pens I use. I have been using Pilot Frixion erasable pens since the start of university, and I really do love them. They erase reasonably well (not perfectly, particularly on low quality paper), are quick drying (a huge necessity for a leftie!) and last a while considering a write a lot! A box of 12 pens lasts me just over a 12 week term, at £17 a box. So they are pricey, but for me they are worth it.
For paper, I buy refill packs from Rymans – they’re cheaper (with student discount) than WHSmiths, a better quality paper and they always seem to have narrow-ruled in stock. I have to use narrow ruled!
That is my absolutely essentials, for carrying around a normal day at university. Now if only I could find a bag that would comfortably fit those (and lunch and a textbook) in I’d be happy!
For keeping track of timings of lectures, deadlines, exams, and all other activities, I use a combination of things that work for me. Everyone is different, so don’t assume this works for you!
I obviously make use of my smartphone, a Samsung. In my case, my university timetable has synced to my calendar, with all information about lectures. I keep an alarm on set for an hour before the beginning of each to give me enough warning. I also put exams and deadlines on here. I try to keep my work schedule on here too, particularly as I work flexible and so difficult-to-remember hours.
I then have an A3 wall planner. I bought mine from Rymans, as it was the only A3 one I could fine – other sizes were just too big! I record on here term dates, exams and deadlines, visits to/from my boyfriend, and important financial dates such as payday and rent day. I cross of days with a big black marker – this helps me easily see when I need to do what, and how long it is before I get hugs!
The most important part of my organisation is, however, something any older readers may recognise from the eighties. Yes, I have a beloved Filofax. This was not bought on a student budget (although some models are more easily affordable) and was in fact a treat for my A-level results. I chose a Vintage Pink Personal Malden, which retailed at around £75. I paid £41 for it on Amazon, and got a bargain, especially as second hand versions of this model are currently selling still for it’s retail price. My Filofax contains everything about my life – important medical information, diary (which EVERYTHING goes into, including minor to-do’s such as exercises from lectures), shopping lists, timetables, careers notes, finance recording, cards (credit, store, etc) that I don’t use too often, spare money (I advise to always keep a spare £10 somewhere!), university passwords, shopping vouchers, year planner. Literally everything. It’s currently stuffed to the brim and in need of a sort out. I’m definitely glad I paid a little bit extra for a leather filofax, it lies flat (a problem I have heard about affecting some of the cheaper brands), is lovely and soft, smells wonderful, and will last a long, long time! I am also still in love with the colour. It’s a lovely, romantic, dusky pink – girly, but professional too. Definitely something that will last in terms of style.
(I’ve recently noticed that Filofax have been producing a new range, called the original, which is produced by the Leather Satchel Company, who I talked about in a previous post. I could get a bag matching a (new) Filofax! Ah, if money were no object…)
At some point in the near future I plan to publish (another half-written) article fully reviewing my Filofax, or at least a more in depth discussion of how I use it. Until then, look at Philofaxy for inspiration about how others use them!
I believe that I have discussed the main points about my organisation, for now at least. I aim to blog more (i.e. procrastinate more) over the next few months, particularly as those a year younger than me will be preparing to head to university and I want to help them as much as possible. Bye for now!