Time for Some (almost) Spring Cleaning: How to Organize Your Life in Grad School


By Cydni Young

Students study in the Johnson Center, Fairfax Campus


Happy New Year and Welcome Back Patriots!! On behalf of the Graduate Student Life team, we hope that you had a wonderful, relaxing winter break and that it brought you all the joy the world can offer. It is such a joy  to see you all back on campus as we kick off the Spring 2023 semester and please know that we are HERE for YOU as you transition back into the grad school routine. With that being said, I definitely understand the struggle that can come along with coming back from break. You get used to the extra free time, the relaxation, the no homework vibes… all that is chill and not school-related. Once you come back, it can feel like it all is coming at you like a runaway train! We’ve all been there, but fear not. Getting back into your school week routine no longer has to be a thing of your nightmares with just a little organization and planning. Although it’s not spring yet, it’s never too early for a little spring cleaning. Get ready for some (almost) spring cleaning folks and learn the best ways to organize your grad school tasks and materials!


First things first, it is always a good idea to read over syllabi provided by your professors to get a sense of the required assignments and deadlines. Once you’ve done so, an article from Northcentral University, “5 Organizational Tips for Grad Students,” recommends that you develop a consistent schedule, in advance,  using whatever calendar type  you prefer1. Whether it's buying a beautifully decorated planner from the craft store and writing out your schedule, or utilizing that handy calendar app on your phone, planning out your work, school, and life  commitments supports you in cleaning up the perceived mess of assignments and holds you accountable for your own success.


Second on our list of tips comes from an article by author April Townson from Rowan University, which  is maintaining a daily to-do list2. In being a first-year grad student AND graduate assistant myself, this has personally been one of my all time saving graces. Each day, I make it a point to try and make note of all of the tasks that I plan to do that day before it begins, in order of current priority. This has made my life ten times easier in that I can really see my day laid out in front of me, rather than solely relying on my brain to sort it all out for me (I’ve been guilty of this more than I’d like to admit). Biggest secret? Try your best to think ahead of your days and write out your list the night before. I know, it’s just one more thing that cuts into your relaxation time, but trust me… you will thank yourself for the averted stress and extra time later! As Townson outlines, being able to check off each task as you go about your day can be very rewarding2


Our third and final tidbit has to do with a feat  I think we all deal with in some capacity. Circling back to the article from Northcentral University, one major tip is to organize your emails1. Emails have a funny way of starting out as a quiet messenger and then turning into this needy cascade of chaos. Really take the time to sort your emails as they come in, once again according to the level of priority (i.e. what is time-sensitive?), by way of organized folders, archiving old/spam emails, etc. Here is one example: with Microsoft Outlook being the prime communication platform at George Mason, there is a pin feature that can be utilized to highlight your important emails right when you receive them, giving them the celebrity treatment by placing them right at the top of your inbox. Now this feature… insanely useful. This has truly helped me to highlight the most pressing emails that I receive, everything from time-sensitive requests to obligations that I will have over an extended period of time. I’m human and the “forgetful bug” bites me quite often, so I can very much speak to the importance of cleaning up your inbox. Please save yourself the digital clutter and find your groove when it comes to navigating your emails!


Whew… are you still with me??? Spring cleaning is a beast, but hopefully these grad school organization tips will bring some peace as you get back to your daily routines. As you get into your spring cleaning, please remember the most important tip over all the ones I mentioned. Above all other things, give yourself grace and time to get adjusted. Remember, you must take care of yourself before you can take care of the world surrounding you - no one can do you  like YOU can! Even when it comes down to organization, find what feels and works best for you and your life - there’s no perfect way that works for everyone. Sending you the utmost peace and good fortune as you move forward in the spring semester - you’ve got this!


Take care of you :)


Best of Wishes,

Cydni Young


Northcentral University. (2018, August 29). 5 Organizational Tips for Grad Students.  Northcentral University Blog, https://www.ncu.edu/blog/5-organizational-tips-grad-students#gref

Townson, April (2022, January 13). Unclutter Your Life - Tips for Staying Organized in Grad School. Rowan University. https://global.rowan.edu/admissions/rowannow/2022/01/stay-organized.html