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Study tips and staying organised at university

Home / Student blogs / Hannah Sly / Study tips and staying organised at University

Published: March 21, 2018

If you’re anything like me, the start of a new academic year is the perfect excuse to go shopping and buy an excessive amount of stationery. Deciding which notebook and pencil case to purchase can be a rather difficult choice, due to the wide range of designs available. I currently have an ever-growing collection of half-filled notebooks, pencil cases and pens which have been bought over the years…

Organiser and pen

Hopefully I’m not the only one.

I’ve always tried to be as organised as possible. Knowing what you should be doing and when helps to reduce the pressure that exists around approaching deadlines. With so much to do, it’s very easy to forget about a task - leaving you with reduced time to complete it. Organisation is key to ensure the right balance exists between both your work, part-time job (if you have one) and social life.

Here, I will share some of the ways I’ve stayed organised and made the most of studying during my first year at University.   


  1. To keep on top of fast-approaching deadlines, I downloaded a countdown app for my phone. This may seem a little excessive, but it puts into perspective how long (or not) I have until a piece of work needs to be completed and submitted.

  2. With so much information and dates to remember, there’s always a risk of accidentally forgetting to do something. Diaries are the perfect way to plan and keep up to date with everything that needs completing or attending.

  3. Remember to ALWAYS save and back up your work in more than one place. I repeatedly save my work on my USB stick, Google Drive account and PC. This means that it can be accessed from a range of different sources if the worst scenario occurs. You don’t want to re-write that perfect essay or lose an important document.

  4. The simple to-do list on a piece of paper is one of the most effective ways to remember everything that needs to be completed. It’s also extremely satisfying to finally tick a box when a task has been achieved. I use colour coordination for each individual module to differentiate, which makes it easier to follow.

Study tips

  1. Try and attend all your lectures, as you may miss out on information discussed and stated by your lecturer that isn’t in the presentation when you come to revise later at home.

  2. On occasion, I find that going over the lecture notes a second time at home or in the library again is effective towards understanding, as there is more time to focus on each individual slide and each piece of information. Sometimes it’s difficult to write everything down during the lecture as it can be quite fast-paced. I usually write down information said by the lecturer that isn’t featured in the presentation, so nothing is forgotten.

  3. Before starting an essay, I write down all the ideas and points that I may cover onto a blank Microsoft Word document. This means that you won’t be thinking of ideas on the spot at the time of writing the essay. In addition, it will allow you to find and get the books you need from the library before you begin for those all-important quotes, references and information.

  4. I find that I focus on one piece of work more than other pieces. Maybe this is due to finding a specific essay question more interesting or perhaps more difficult, therefore spending more of my time trying to figure it out. I aim to complete the ‘easier’ tasks first and then give additional time to focus on the more challenging ones.

  5. You know when you’re writing a sentence and it just doesn’t seem to make sense? Or when you can’t think of any more points or arguments to make and you still have a huge word count left to fill? It’s probably time to take a break, especially if you’ve been staring at your laptop screen for hours. It’s important to take breaks, as often I find too much time spent on Microsoft Word doesn’t always lead to continuous productivity. Maybe go to the gym, read another chapter of your favourite book, meet up with friends, bake a cake or watch an episode of your favourite TV show (this may not be the best option, as it’s very difficult to watch just one episode!

  6. To make essay writing and studying more ‘entertaining’, make a playlist of your favourite songs, or put on your favourite radio station and listen to music. If listening to music through your phone, or your phone is anywhere in the proximity of your work area, it’s probably best to put it on silent, as we all know how distracting social media can be...

  7. If you can’t concentrate at home, or vice versa, in the library, change your environment. I often spend some days in the library to complete my work and other days at home – so that I’m not sat in the same place every day.

Finally, the first year of University can help you prepare for the rest of your course. If there is a specific organisation or study approach that you feel doesn’t benefit you, change it to something else that makes your work time more effective and productive.

Topic: Course, Advice and tips