Getting Organized in Grad School


Graduate school can feel much like an exercise in project management because  graduate there is so much to manage. You have to fit in  A LOT, research, coursework, reading for the coursework, not to mention the whole life you have outside of school, cooking and cleaning so you're still a human. Things can start to feel like, dis tew much. Organization benefits the busy scholar in a myriad of ways

  • Reduces stress

  • Boosts productivity

  • Better time management

So what can you do to be more organized? First, let's place organization in two categories: There's organizing yourself and your day,  then there's organizing your physical spaces.

Organizing yourself

I wish I had some step-by-step system for organizing yourself but I legit believe that organization  is not one-size-fits-all. You have to take time to figure out what will work for you. I do however have some guidance on how to figure out some aspects of your unique organization style. Take a minute to reflect on your tendencies.

Are you more likely to follow your planner or your phone calendar?

Do you like to work on papers or projects a few hours a day over a month?

Or would you rather work on the paper for three days and get it out of the way?

These kind of questions can help you figure out the best way for you to structure your time. If you need more, I got you just click here.

I'll share my own workflow as an example. I've learned work well with a weekly to-do list (from my dump page in The Balanced Scholar) and then I spread it across the week in my Panda Planner and some things make it to my google calendar. As far as how I organize my days it work on projects by category my day. My week typically goes like this:

  • Sunday - Organize/School +research work

  • Monday, Tuesday and 1/2 Wednesday - Research

  • 1/2 Wednesday, Thursday - Coursework

  • Friday - mostly meeting but I try to do a little school work

  • Saturday - Podcast  

This was a result of plenty trial and error, and a little self-acceptance. I go more in depth about organizing your day in Episode 59, which you can give a listen below.

Organizing your space

This is equally critical for busy graduate students and in the era of Marie Kondoβ€”it’s lowkey a popular topic. While you could toss out all that doesn't spark joy. You may end up needing some of it later and so I'd suggest maybe getting it organized before you start moving old papers to the physical or digital trash bin.

Again, organization works best if you do what's best for you. If you're completely unsure where to start, it's probably worthwhile to have a folder for each class and then put them into a semester folder. If you keep a lot of physical articles, note, etc. binders and folders may be an easy way to keep things together.

So What does LL do?

On my laptop, I have the following folders:

Yes β€” Golden Girls needs it's own folder, judge your momma (jokes of course) 😝


Admittedly, I try to keep my paper products to a minimum so I purchase a lab notebook each semester and it lasts me the entire semester. I'll just keep and date the notebooks as more semesters pass.

I share even more on Episode 60, check it out now:

There are two must-haves that I firmly believe have made organization and execution less burdensome: external monitor and a white board. According to a study done by the Jon Peddie Research, productivity increases an average of 42% when using multiple displays. I can attest to that. I have an external monitor in my home and school office and they make it easier to see everything I need as I work on projects. I also have a white board at home and in my office as they help me get my thoughts out when a piece of paper won't do. I highly suggest you get one to help with thinking through writing, research, planning, reminders, and more. I feel like it’s an academic Swiss army knife and help with organizing your work or your thoughts.

That's it for now, but it's important to understand when you’re organized you're more balanced in your life. If you want more help sign up for The Balanced Scholar and say goodbye to overworked and overwhelmed. Achieve the school-life balance you desire (and deserve!) in 10 days.