Wrapping up 2017: how to declutter your uni life

For most of us, uni is over for another year. Time to forget the last two semesters ever happened, cleanse your pile of notes and study debris with some soothing fire and develop a skin of rational ignorance regarding uni, at least until it’s time to enrol for next year.

But what if this isn’t the best idea?

No, no. Don’t leave! Hear me out. A little bit of decluttering and organising can set you up for next year, give you a shiny, clean slate and help make accessing information next time you need it a lot less frustrating.

If you have files, folders and documents scattered all over the place, then your mind is probably mirroring that. Also, the human short-term memory is pretty garbage, so it’s quite easy to lose that cool reference forever, leaving it to just rattle around in the bowels of your hard-drive.

In short, sacrificing a little bit of your time in the break can save you a lot of future time and frustration. Think of this as a debrief, squaring away and tying loose ends to help you clear your mind and increase your productivity next year.

Firstly, you need a plan

Don’t attempt this in one sitting. Put some time aside during the week, 15 minutes here and there is enough.

Write it down in your diary, stick a Post-it somewhere, tell Siri, however it is you remind yourself to do things.

Then, when it’s time, make yourself a coffee, or other beverage of choice, and chew away at one of the following tasks while you enjoy it.

Blackboard

Your access to the courses you’ve just completed expires eventually. Are there some readings, Echoes of missed lectures, slides, marks or other resources you wouldn’t mind having?

Download them now before you forget.

Make a filing system

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By the end of semester my digital desktop looks like someone sneezed icons all over it and my physical space looks a bit like The Shining with coloured Post-its.

File everything. This applies to the physical and digital realm, but especially on your computer. Create an appropriate folder for ALL your loose documents. If you can’t think of where something should go just yet make an ‘I’ll get to you I promise’ folder. Creating a folder with a series of sub folders for literally everything on your computer might sound painful, but you’ll never lose anything again.

To save time at the start of semester I have a folder template I just copy, paste and rename for each new subject.

Name your PDFs ferchrissakes

While we’re becoming kick arse, name-taking file management gurus, let’s start naming our damn PDFs properly.

Who has a folder full of readings and sources with such easy to decipher labels as ‘PDF.1’, ‘PDF.1(2)’, ‘Content Server’, ‘’Unsw_dlPDFRawls_DL_1987_snfirnrjBf.pdf/blahblah’, or the wonderful ‘asdfghjkl(5)’?

Good luck working out which is which when you’re writing your next essay and remember that reading that would have been perfect…

Rename your files. I go for the ‘Author – Title – Year’ gambit. You can do something else, like keywords or something. Now, when you download PDFs from now on, just name them properly, it’s not difficult, and you can just cut and paste the title when you’re downloading it.

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Delete unnecessary files

While you’re there, look at all those weirdly named documents. Check them out and, if you want to keep them, re-name them. If it’s some weird list or other temporally useless junk, show it to the recycle bin.

Also, delete any garbage that’s clogging up the works. I always have an abundance of twice downloaded lecture slides and those .acsm files you collect borrowing eBooks.

Say goodbye.

Inbox zero

Look at this bloody nightmare!

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Inbox Zero feels SO GOOD, you think we’d want it all the time. Alas, it’s not to be. But it can be achieved, for some more easily than others.

Start by scrolling through your inbox and making folders for the emails you want to keep: turnitin receipts, bills, etickets, registration data and so on. Drag those babies out of your inbox into those files. Your inbox should just be a holding zone for new emails, not where you keep things.

Now, find five mailing lists you don’t want to be a part of any more and unsubscribe from them.

Do this once a week and you’ll eventually have very little mail you don’t want, and it will be easier to find those concert tickets you bought three months ago.

Give your bookmarks a trim

Did you access any cool web resources for a course? Save those bookmarks in folders with the course code. Use a particular database regularly? Save it.

It may sound obvious, but I’ve seen a lot of people over the years take quite a variation of scenic routes to Blackboard. BOOKMARK IT! As well as all the sites you use regularly for uni.

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While you’re there, maybe delete some old sites you no longer visit, make some folders for ones you still do and delete that direct link to your ex’s old Tumblr.

Email a lecturer

While we’re wrapping up the year in a nice tidy package, why not be a bit of a suck-up and email a lecturer or tutor you really liked. Academia is a life of constant rejection and little explicit approval. Staff very rarely get told they’re doing a good job. Give ‘em the ol’ digital shiny red apple and tell them.

 

Now, you’re all clean and squeaky and tidy, try to keep it up.

  • Name things the correct way, and put them in the correct place first!
  • Give your inbox a little maintenance every week.
  • Spend the last five minutes of each study session doing a little tidy up.
  • Clean up after yourself. What, were you raised in a barn?!