How to Be Organized in Nursing School

If you can be organized in nursing school, then you’ll save yourself much needed time and energy. That’s time and energy you get to spend on fun activities – like hanging out with friends or going on a hike. Or, studying if you must. But if you’re the type who struggles to keep a binder let alone a calendar, then this post is for you.

Beyond the basics like using a planner and organizing pens, there are many ways you can be organized in nursing school. Most of which starts before the semester even begins. And that’s a lesson that will take you far if you can learn it quick.

Get ahead time and time again, and you’ll never waste time getting behind. Here’s how you can be organized in nursing school…

[bctt tweet=”Get ahead to save time. Stay organized. #organization #nursingschool” username=”@NextGenRN”]

Before the Semester

Choose a Method

Everyone has their method: paper or electronic. Some even choose a mixed method. Whatever the method, choose one and stick with it.

If you decide mid-semester that the system you picked just ain’t cuttin’ it, then wait until the end of the semester to make changes. If you make changes during the semester, you’ll get distracted, waste time, and become confused. Which you don’t need when you’re also confused about your patho/pharm class.


If you choose paper, then there’s a lot to organize.

You’ll need binders or spiral notebooks. If you do flashcards, you’ll need a way to secure them, either a container, rubber band, or plastic bag. What’s more, you’ll need to know how to separate them by subject and category. You’ll need tabs, colors, and more.

These are supplies you’ll need to get ahead of time. Make sure you have plenty to last you the entire semester to eliminate the need for extra trips to the store.


If you love electronic everything, then you’ve made your life ten times easier when it comes to staying organized. You don’t need to hassle with binders, notebooks, or  flashcards.

But you may need to keep a central binder for papers that don’t come electronically. You won’t need more than one binder or folder.

Otherwise, you’re only tasked with keeping your digital sphere organized. There’s a way to keep the files on your computer organized. Everyone has their own system, but there’s a great method for doing so outlined in this eBook.

Complete a Semester Calendar

A couple weeks before each semester begins, instructors post their class schedules online. Sometimes the schedules are tucked in with the syllabus. Other times, it’s a separate document.

Find the one that shows class by class what you’re doing, when assignments are due, and test dates. Then write all due dates and test days on your calendar.

Bonus: For extra assistance, set alarms on your phone calendar to alert you a day or two before assignments are due so you never forget. It can be super stressful when you forget an assignment and get a zero.

Schedule Mapping

Map out your daily and weekly schedule. You can print a weekly calendar and use a pencil to fill in blocks of time for class, studying, clinical, work, rest, and miscellaneous. You can create one week that serves as the template for every week. You use this one template to guide your daily and weekly scheduling as you go through the semester.

You can do this electronically, if you prefer. Google calendar has an easy way to color code events in a week. You can set events to repeat for a period of time. Then you can schedule unique events or tasks around the template material.

Schedule mapping provides a strong foundation. It makes your feel secure. And you can easily say yes or no to spontaneous events as they crop up throughout the semester with ease and relaxation rather than fear and uncertainty.

[bctt tweet=”Schedule mapping makes your feel secure. #nursingschool #organization” username=”@NextGenRN”]

Buy Supplies

Now here’s a classic organization tip. This tip hails from elementary school when you’d go to Wal-Mart to pick-up your school’s supply checklist with your mom. At least, I remember those days. That same habit may be with you today.

Take advantage of it. Get what you can ahead of time. And get plenty of supplies if you’re a hardcore paper person.

You can know what supplies to get after you’ve reviewed the class schedule. It’s a good bet that patho/pharm will be more paper heavy (and a bigger binder) if you print all the PowerPoint slides.

But your intro to nursing class might only require a small one inch binder. Get highlighters, pens, and pencils, if you need them. Check around your home first though. You may have plenty at home. If so, don’t waste your money.

[bctt tweet=”Save money! Use supplies you have at home. #nursingschool #supplytime #organization” username=”@NextGenRN”]

During the Semester

Running Schedules

Develop a running schedule either the night before the upcoming week or create a schedule for the upcoming 2-3 weeks. The point: to know what you’re going to do specifically.

This includes reading material, specific assignment tasks, meetings with classmates, tutoring sessions, and playtime.

Make Lists & Brain Dump

Lists and brain dumps are essentially the same thing. The main difference is that a list may only be about a certain thing, like one specific class.

A brain dump includes everything. That means anything from nursing school to new recipes to gifts ideas. You dump absolutely everything on your mind, including concerns, on to paper. You then organize the dump into lists based on subject.

If you have a long list of things for one specific class or assignment, then you can make a list. But if you need to clear your mind, a brain dump is in order.

Use brain dumps and lists to capture all your to-dos and tasks for the upcoming week or even a few months in advance. Whatever is on your mind, get it off with these tools so you have more brain space for nursing info.

Post Class Session

This little trick takes just a few minutes but can save you loads of time. The five or ten minutes you have between classes is perfect for this. Or simply take five or ten minutes at the end of the day.

Use that time to do the following:

  • Collect and organize paperwork
  • Rearrange loose files on your computer
  • Fill in your calendar with newly announced assignments or tasks not mentioned on your class schedule
  • Organize and consolidate notes
  • Review materials
  • Brain dump or make a list

[bctt tweet=”Game plan: 5 min. after class to get organized. #nursingschool #getorganized” username=”@NextGenRN”]

Stay Clean

Keep your study spot clean and organized, be that at home or school.

If your spot is at home, then your desk is more likely to get dirty quickly. Before and after each study or work session, spend a few minutes organizing, putting things back in place, and discarding what you don’t need.

Just a few minutes will save you headache when you need to find a specific highlighter, pen, ruler, or notecards.

If you are a transient studier, then keeping your book bag clean and organized would be the equivalent. Always put the same stuff in the same pocket. That way you always know where your pen, highlighter, or notecards are. And you know which zipper holds your books and which one holds your binders.

These are simple tricks that can save you time and a headache.

[bctt tweet=”Put away and discard regularly to keep things clean. #nursingschool #organization” username=”@NextGenRN”]

After the Semester

Final Organization

You might not think there’s much to do once the semester is over. If you’ve been well-organized all semester, then there shouldn’t be. All you need to do is collect all paper materials into a nice and neat location in your home.

Store all the semester’s books with these same papers. In your subsequent semesters, you most likely will want to reference them. And you’ll want them in a spot that’s easy to find and well-organized.

Keep them on a bookshelf and organized by semester and by subject. Then you’ll be set for the next semester with a clean desk and bookshelf.

Final Thoughts

These are the broad strokes necessary for your to be organized in nursing school. There are many more tips and tricks for staying organized based on subject, using colors or applications, or other weird and quirky tools. But these should set a solid foundation for an A+ semester.

Remember you don’t want to overdo it. Find a simple method that’s easy to follow over the long term. That’s what will lead to ultimate success.

Do you have any other tips or tricks you like to use that aren’t listed here? Leave a comment below and share your smart strategies with your peers.

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