By Meghen Jones
School will soon kick back into full gear, and it won’t be long before you’re faced with pop quizzes, undesirable group projects, and of course, the agony associated with finals week. With so many school-related tasks already piling up, you might be feeling a tad overwhelmed— even though you’re still in the first weeks of the semester.
It may seem cliché, but if you’re hoping for a fresh start this semester, yet haven’t cleared out your junk from last fall, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Don’t materialize the stress you feel inside by keeping a cluttered desk and/or workspace full of old graded papers, half-finished sticky notes, and oh… is that a king-sized Almond Joy wrapper? Yikes!
It’s crucial that you create a functional, productive workspace ensure your success as a college student. After all, the last thing you need is yet another distraction distancing yourself from the stellar semester you deserve. Ready to kick clutter to the curb? Never fear! uCribs is here with the 5 best ways to declutter your workspace for a productive and successful study sesh.
Step 1: Choose a Functional Space
As you prepare the perfect study space, it is important that you choose an area that is comfortable, spacious, and effective for your specific workflow. While your bed offers every ounce of comfort you could possibly ask for, it can also wage war on your eyelids and encourage sleepiness before you completely read over the first page of your organic chemistry notes. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to avoid comfy spaces like couches or futons.
Instead, choose a desk or table with a sturdy chair. No, you’re not imagining things – with the right study setup, you’ll not only conquer your urge to sleep, but you’ll also get the back support your body deserves. Keep in mind that your desk should lie between your chest and rib cage while you are seated. This will allow your elbows to rest on your desktop without pushing your shoulders forward.
Additionally, you will want to ensure that your chair is proportionate to the desk’s height and allows your feet to rest flat on the floor. Everything aligning properly? Great! The more satisfied you are with your initial set-up, the more likely you are to survive those study sessions you’ve been dreading. Even if you don’t use a desk and chair, we strongly advise against getting your study on in any areas that increase sleepiness. Hey, library couches… we’re looking at you!
Step 2: Clear Out Unneeded Materials from Last Semester
Nothing is worse than clutter. Having so much stuff around can make you feel off-track before you even begin. That’s why it’s always important to organize your chosen study space. Begin by clearing out all the empty Red Bull and Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso cans, then take it from there. Old notebooks full of irrelevant notes, junk mail, scraps of unwanted paper…feel free to give them all the boot! The world is your oyster when it comes to purging useless garbage.
If you’re ready to declutter but feel anxious about accidentally throwing away anything important, be sure to choose your method of organization first. Next, it can be helpful to consider your student status. Do you attend a physical university, or do you take online classes? Are you a freshman or senior? Full-time or part-time? Once you determine what type of organizational system you need based on your enrollment situation, you can establish your regimen. Sure, it’s not unusual to keep hard copies of all of your must-have documents, but it’s also become increasingly popular to create digital means of organization. Google Drive, anyone?
Believe it or not, a clean, organized space will improve your ability to focus and overall productivity. And it will be a relief to know that you have seamless access to class and lecture materials versus the alternative: scrambling through everything in your study space when you already have enough pre-exam stress to worry about. Plus, with the right organization in place, we’re positive that you’ll appreciate not having to apologize for your catastrophe of a desk every time you have friends over.
Step 3: Take Stock of Your Current Study Materials
So, now that you have your study space selected and cleaned out, what’s next? Now that your junk from the previous semester is out of the way, you can repopulate your area with the new materials you need to succeed. First, survey any gaps you might have in your school supplies. Do you have enough highlighters, pens, loose leaf paper, and sticky notes to last you until May? If not, an Amazon Prime shipment is in order.
Once you’ve got a good grip on your study materials, you’ll want to organize those items. Invest in a few pencil cups, sticky note holders, and small drawers to have on-hand. Disperse your materials so that everything you need will be within arm’s reach. Trust us – you definitely don’t want to be halfway through that urgent reading for American lit before realizing that you’ve completely misplaced your stock of highlighters.
Next, make sure you have every book required on your syllabi for the semester. It’s always key to purchase your books ahead of time so that after the first lecture comes and goes, you’ll be ready to tackle your new material with book-in-hand. After your textbooks have been received, either through rental or purchase, we find it best to organize them chronologically. That way, you know what has to be read first. As soon as you have all this down pat, you’ll be a mean, green organizing machine to say the least!
Step 4: Commit to a Clean Desktop
Is it just us, or does a computer desktop full of random documents, folders, and the occasional cat video scream “stress?” Like a clean desk, a clean desktop helps expedite workflows and makes it much easier to navigate your files, especially when time is not on your side, and you needed to turn in that reading response, like yesterday.
Take a look at any college student’s desktop and you’ll likely find a smattering of school-related documents as well as personal items in an array of different file formats: .doc, .PDF, and .mp3. Instead of assaulting your eyeballs every time you open your desktop screen, consider organizing your files in distinctly labeled folders. If you’re unsure where to start, create a main folder for the current semester and year, then further organize it by course number and assignment.
After lone documents are categorized, tackle those pesky desktop icons. Be scrutinous when it comes to which ones you should keep in place. I mean, do you even play The Sims 4 anymore? If you bid farewell to SimCity long ago, it may be time to part with the corresponding desktop icon. Be sure to keep all of your hard-hitters on deck, though— like Microsoft Word and your favorite Internet browser.
Step 5: Schedule Weekly Workspace Declutter Sessions
As a student, you’re likely no stranger to setting aside time for yourself. You do it for numerous activities in your life, whether it’d be working out, spending quality time with family, or practicing self-care. It’s all a part of the balancing act known as life—you need time for your academics, as well as your extracurriculars, internships, and part-time jobs. (This won’t stop as your further mature into adulthood, either—so you better get used to it!)
Just like setting aside time for any other important event in your life, you’ll also want to devote time to weekly workspace declutter sessions. Whether you have to calendar it on your phone or enlist your roommate to bug you every weekend, do it. Or, if you just have the innate talent to remember everything on your to-do list on a whim…well, go you! We’re impressed. Either way, make sure you set aside some time each week to get it done.
Trust us, the second/third/fourth time you declutter your workspace will never be as painful as the first because you’ve already seen the worst of your junk pile-up. And if you stay on track in the future, you will never have to see it again! There really is more to this “organizational thing” aside from pure obligation; it will allow you to live your life in a more fulfilling manner because you actually have time to stop and smell the roses—instead of pulling weeds every time you have to sit down and get some work done.
While you may be used to your usual study environment – clutter and all – sometimes a little change can go a long way. As you declutter your workspace, you may be surprised by the increased ease you feel, knowing that you have an appropriate place to maintain your studies. So, get a fresh start this semester with a clean workspace that allows you to focus on school work— distraction-free. Your sanity and your grades will thank you.