Breaking the Cycle: Taking the First Step to Better Organization

It’s 2:04 am. That essay still isn’t done. It’s due in less than 6 hours. You’ve known about it for about a week but here you are….stressed and exhausted, at 2:04 am.

Now you’re sitting at your desk in the dark with your laptop because your roommate went to bed over an hour ago. You’re a little shaky. Maybe it’s the adrenaline or that grande iced caramel macchiato you had a few hours ago. It’s probably both.

And now you’re wasting time, thinking about all the time you wasted earlier in the week. But you don’t have time for that. Because it’s 2:04 ─ excuse me, 2:05 am ─ and you have an essay to finish.  

Sound like you? Trust me, I’ve been there, stressing out late at night. It’s not fun. It’s not sustainable either, because you end up exhausted the next day in class. You’ll struggle to keep your eyes open. The sleep-deprivation headache will be excruciating. All you’ll want to do is go back to your room and nap. But then you have a million other things to do that you should have started/finished already.

Every time, you tell yourself today’s the day you change. You’ll get things done on time. You’ll sleep more. You’ll keep track of deadlines. You’ll feel amazing, and you’ll have so much more time.

But then the cycle repeats itself. And again…and again…and again.

So how do you break the cycle?


The key to getting organized starts with planning: organizing your commitments and responsibilities and scheduling your day. The most effective tool for this is the planner.

The planner is your rulebook, your guideline, your reference point. It may very well hold the secret to life. I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you on that one. I can tell you it is where you keep track of your entire life.

Use the monthly calendar pages to lay out all your activities, meetings, practices, tests, social events, etc. Seeing all of your commitments for a given month gives you a reality check and helps you start planning how far in advance you need to start writing that essay. I recommend starting by going through each syllabus for your classes and filling in all of the deadlines. Then move on to clubs, sports, and organizations before filling in your social events. Check out my post Write It Down: The Guide to Making an Effective Checklist for more about calendars!

Once you have everything in one place, it’s easy to keep track of deadlines and manage your expectations.

On a daily basis, use the notes section for each day of the week to write down your homework assignments and tasks. Once you complete an assignment, go back and cross it off.


I recommend getting a planner that has a large space for daily notes each day of the week so that you have room to elaborate. I use a Kate Spade planner ─ this one or this one ─ because the calendars have large boxes to write in, and the hard-shell cover protects the pages. It looks pretty classy too, which never hurts.


Now you’re ready to tackle those deadlines and manage your priorities in style. So that next time, you’ll be sleeping at 2:04 am.


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