You Can Do This! – Organization Tips

Write It Down!

For me, when I have way too many things to do and multiple projects, tasks, and deadlines, I like to take some time to write it all down.  Doing this helps me organize what feels like a big mess in my head.  I create different types of lists or calendars that help me see what needs to be done.  Sometimes I make lists that include all tasks for work or school, for example, and sometimes, especially for something that needs to be done on a specific day, I like to put each separate task on a small post-it paper.  As I am completing daily, weekly, and even monthly tasks it feels great to check things off my list, make new lists, and throw away post-its of completed tasks.

Nancy Truett, Director Counseling Services

Organizing your online school

  • Make sure your family and friends know when your study/school time is scheduled. Hopefully, they can refrain from texting or interrupting while you are busy.
  • If you have a presentation, make sure you can upload your slides or presentation before class time. It may be helpful to send your presentation to a friend in class in case you have technical problems. Then, they can upload the presentation for you and you may be able to sill present. (This happened to me. It was terrible! I had actually emailed my presentation to my professor and she scrolled through the slides for me.)
  • Make sure you have the phone numbers of a couple of people in your class. It may be helpful because if you are having technical difficulty logging in, then you can let your friend know and they can inform the instructor. (This also happened to me. I got stuck in traffic on the way home and was an hour late for class. But, they knew I was trying to get home.)

Sarah McMurray – Coordinator, Disability Services

Don’t give up!

  • Make a routine for getting started.  An example: check email, check calendar, check to do lists
    • Use a calendar to determine what the top priorities are either by week or by day. 
    • Set one day or time for planning and put it on your calendar.
    • Use the “power of 3” model to pick the top 3 things to work on.
    • Pick the way that you will focus on those 3 items- a list, sticky notes, whiteboard, record them
    • Find a system that works for you to track your projects, start simply.  For some, a whiteboard works.  Others may use a paper notebook.
    • If you find yourself off task,  do a quick “brain dump” of your thoughts onto paper or on the computer and set it aside for another time or over your break.


  • Choose a planning method that works best for you, but choose one to start with. Keep working with it, and  monitor how it is working for you.Make changes as you go.
    • Plan for the week and then plan for each day
    • Pick the top 3 priorities for work for the session
  • Work sessions
    • If you get distracted, write down the thoughts if they are important and put them aside.  Keep either a notebook, sticky notes, whiteboard
    • Set a timer on your phone for the session so that you will know when to take a break
    • Use a timer to remind you when break is over and return to work
    • Have water or snacks available as needed at your work station, or get them during break if they distract during work.

Technology Tips

  • Read your Pellissippi email daily at least once or twice
    • Read the main Pellissippi page at least daily to see if there are new announcements about the changes and information about resources
    • Download Office 365 from the Helpdesk web page.
    • Use Excel, word or a piece of paper to list out your projects by setting up categories by subject, course, additional responsibilities.  Use this to refer to when planning. 
    • When working on the web, use the bookmark tool to keep up with web sites to use again. 
    • Set up folders in your web browser to group websites by projects or subjects
    • Refer to each Brightspace course and add assignments, due dates, etc to your system.
    • Some instructors will be using the calendar in Brightspace.  Use copy and paste to add them to your list or excel spread sheet as well as your own calendar.  
    • Set up folders in your email to keep track of important emails by course, person, project.  Move your emails into the folder as you read them, or delete them if you are done.  The student mailbox is limited and your account will be frozen if you reach the limit.
  • Contact the HelpDesk when you have problems with your technology.
  • Email your instructor as well when you are having problems with your course work in D2L or other aspects of your technology 

Alice Wershing, Technology Specialist, Disability Services

Organizing Your Study Space

Your study space affects the outcome of the time and energy you spend studying.  Choose and organize your space wisely with the following tips.

  • Choose a place that you will associate only with studying and not other activities such as eating, watching tv, playing games, sleeping, etc. That means the kitchen table, tv room and your bed are usually not good choices for studying.
  • A card table or other flat surface in the corner of a room can serve as a desk if you don’t have one. Make sure you face a wall rather than the center of the room when you are seated at your desk space to reduce visual distractions while you study. You might want to wear headphones or earbuds when you are studying to cut down on sound distractions. If you listen to music while studying choose “background music” that won’t distract you from getting your work done.
  • Have a small lamp on your desk space for good lighting and turn it on only when you are studying. This helps you form the habit of studying when the light is on and also serves as a signal to family or roommates that you should not be disturbed. If you study in a room with a door, close the door when you are studying and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the doorknob or taped to the door.
  • Turn off distractions. Yes, this means your cell phone! Research tells us that trying to do two or more things at the the same time actually takes longer than if we do them separately.
  • Plan for breaks. After 30 minutes of studying, take a five minute break. You can use this time to check your cell phone, stretch, take a bathroom break, get a drink of water, walk around the house, etc. Use the timer on your phone to make sure you break is only 5 minutes!
  • At the end of your planned study time, whether it is an hour or four hours plan ahead to give yourself a small reward—call a friend, eat a snack, listen to music, etc. It gives you something to look forward to for a job well done!

Source: College Success a work produced and distributed under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA) in 2010 by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution

Ann Satkowiak, Director, Disability Services

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