How to Stay Organised as a Graduate

Posted by Sam McNeill

The importance of organisation is an often cited skill for success as a recent graduate and later on in your career, but why is it so important? Organisation helps you maintain work-life balance, be less stressed, and achieve your goals post graduation. While it may take some time to develop your own strategy, here are five tips we have to help you organise your work and personal life.

1. Create habits

By developing habits you may become less stressed or anxious as a recent graduate. This is due to habits creating structure and predictability in what can be an otherwise unpredictable environment.

Speaking to Headspace, BT clinical psychologist Dr Steve Orma who specialises in insomnia, anxiety, and stress, says just like creating routines for our physical health we should be doing the same for our mental health.“Create a set schedule for doing chores, work tasks, meetings, exercise, paying bills, and all the usual things you need to do,” he said. “Put these into your schedule. Once this becomes your normal routine, it’s easier to accomplish everything, because it becomes habit.”

2. Use practical tools

The key to following through with your new schedule is in planning and flexibility. Here are some tools to experiment with to see what works for you:

  • Calendar: Probably what your parents kept in the kitchen, a calendar doesn’t have to be a physical object you buy at the start of the year (although it can be!) Digital calendars can also offer you flexibility in being accessible at all times, plus the ability to make changes without the clutter of crossed out canceled plans or pushed dates.
  • Notes: Like calendars this can be physical or digital. The strengths of keeping notes is that it helps you remember important things in what can be a chaotic day-to-day. But, they can be difficult to organise no matter how you take them. A scrawled in notebook, or cluttered Notes app likely won’t be very helpful! Consider revisiting your notes and consolidating them into another method (such as the calendar, or a whiteboard in your room).
  • Reminders: If you’re forgetful this is a simple way to keep you on track. On your phone set reminders for when you should be starting to do things, it’s a soft way to keep you accountable to your schedule.
  • Spreadsheets and templates: Spreadsheets can be a great way for you to organise any tasks on hand, such as applying for jobs! We’ve made it easier for you with our jobs tracking template - downloadable here.

3. Prioritise your tasks

James Burns, owner of the award-winning videogame magazine Superjump (SJP), told GradConnection he prioritises his work based on one to-do list with time-sensitive things at the top.

“Then, each day, I only pull in 2-3 items (these are the things I must do in that day at a minimum),” he said. “If I have more capacity, I can pull in extra - but these are extra tasks.”

“Rather than creating a giant long list that I struggle to tackle (and then keep moving tasks to the next day, so I have no sense of accomplishment), I instead think of it like a 'backlog' of potential focuses... and then each can I 'pull in' 2-3 major focuses

In James’ organisational strategy, he flags the importance of having a sense of accomplishment. As you figure out your own personal strategy it’s important to consider how you work best without overworking yourself. To do this you could look back on how you worked during your studies, or try out different strategies and keep tabs on how successful they feel.

4. Set goals to create a sense of accomplishment

Fostering a feeling of accomplishment is important not only for long term goals but it can be redefined to keep you motivated and with positive mental health on the journey to achieve them.

Research has shown that creating a sense of accomplishment through medium difficulty tasks leads to an “intrinsic motivation for learning”. For yourself, as a recent graduate, this means you can consider changing your definition of being accomplished from reaching a far off goal. For example, climbing the company ladder and achieving a senior manager's position. Instead, create short term goals of intermediate difficulty to best work with your brain’s mechanisms. For example, instead it’s consolidating data into easily understood visual graphs and then tomorrow it’ll be creating a presentation for your peers.

By creating a feeling of accomplishment through medium difficulty tasks on the way to your overall goal you’ll find yourself more motivated and on track with your plan for longer.

5. Don’t forget to take breaks!

Taking breaks are important because it allows you to better absorb information and will improve your mental health by not burning yourself out. It’s tempting to organise your days as a recent graduate from waking moment to waking moment in order to achieve your goals. There is a reason, however, the saying ‘burning the candle at both ends’ exists.

The candle will burn out, and you can too.

When organising yourself as a recent graduate you should consider scheduling in regular breaks, timing them so they balance with how much and the intensity of work, and identifying relaxing activities that allow you to step away from your workspace (computer, desk, etc.). To refocus you can then return to your work environment and perhaps change to a different aspect of the task to start the process again.

Being organised and the way you personally work means the process is highly personal. It’s a balance between achieving your goals without burning yourself out and considering the way your brain works. Simply try things out, see what works, what doesn’t, and adjust. Just don’t be too hard on yourself.

About The Author

Sam is a Media and Communications (journalism) student at La Trobe University. He's been writing for various outlets since he was 16 and recently completed an internship at the Herald Sun. He's passionate about what makes people tick, from their interests to their motivations.


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