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Learning to Structure the Mess of a College Life

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

By Scott Daniels

Most college students can’t seem to kick procrastination and that lack of organization. Whether it be in class or life, for some, simple organization isn’t enough.

In my case, I’ve tried agendas, calendars, and every color of highlighter imaginable, but no structure or routine could help me use them to full potential.

I’ll admit that I have no clue what I’m doing half of the time. But recently, I finally found some structure in my life.

If you’ve struggled like me, here are some tips to help you make time for assignments, friends and stop struggling with deadlines.

Find the Perfect Environment

This should be a place that is quiet and peaceful — somewhere where you will actually be able to think through that five-page essay.

For me, its Hayden Library on the Tempe campus. For a downtown student, the shuttle ride may seem too long, but to find a space that, for me, is very peaceful and secluded, makes the commute worth it.

But if this ideal environment is not easily available, there are great alternatives to work in, like a cafe that “fits your aesthetic” or at your dorm room desk.

Find the Right Group

Find a group dynamic that works for you. Sometimes, working alone can be difficult and you need people to bounce ideas off of.

Think of those who aren’t necessarily part of your immediate friend group, but whom you work well with to improve your environment for critical thinking.

Also make sure that with close friends especially, you’re choosing people who won’t distract you from the task at hand.

Don’t Get Down on Yourself

Sometimes, things don’t pan out the way you want them to, either because of canceled plans or unexpected weather.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, there are ways to plan around the unexpected: multiple mindful locations and different people to be around.

An issue I had when trying to fix my study and overall habits was being too self-critical.

I had to learn that the first essay’s rhetoric doesn’t have to be flawless, but it’s simply a rough draft. Even though I wanted to go out and have fun, this did not mean I had to go to every single party announced.

You only have so much time to prep for certain things, so prioritize what needs to be done. Trust me, the feeling after completing your most essential of plans is quite satisfying.

But Where to Start?

I know these tips are all easier said than done, so one way to make sure they are swiftly implemented is by doing a little shopping.  Even on a tight budget, you can find a planner or agenda that best suits you.  

I got mine from Target and it has multiple sections, including “Today’s Schedule, To Do, Notes, Tonight, and Gratitude.”

The last three in particular help motivate my everyday routine. Items that keep you positive and passionate will help in the long run, more than any plain notebook that’ll get lost in the pile of old textbooks you need for classes.

Highlighters are another key to my routine’s success. These writing utensils are literally the highlight of my life and help me keep track of the most important sections of notes — not to mention they make everything aesthetically organized.

And to sway any possible reader insecurity, organization isn’t nerdy, it’s smart.

Planning Ahead

Now that you have your tools, it’s time to put them to use.

Have an academic advising appointment? Write it down.

Forgot your Instagram password? Write it down.

Can’t remember a friend’s birthday? Get it together and write it all down.

Tracking what you do and what you have to do on a daily basis will keep you from forever forgetting that one, really important thing.


Let’s finally apply it all. You have your location, time, friends, and supplies, so time to fit it all into your routine.

For example, I chose Hayden Library as my location to study, so every Wednesday I set aside time to study. I then contact the people I want to work with and make this outing a weekly occurrence. Soon enough you won’t plan to study, it’ll just happen.


If you’re stuck in the vicious cycle of overlapping plans and sleeping through morning classes, it may be time to make a change. Even if you feel like you’re behind in life, there’s always room for improvement.

Maybe you feel like everything is collapsing around you, so take a step back and analyze your options. Figure out what needs to be fixed and do it.

Tackle these problems head-on and make sure those around you provide support during your endeavors.

Hopefully, in no time, you’ll be able to achieve the utmost level of success.


Where’s your favorite place to study? Let us know on Instagram and Twitter!

Reach the writer on  Twitter and Instagram


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