College Prep Series

Many of my students are looking ahead to the fall when they will begin college.

In anticipation of losing many of the built-in routines of home and high school, they are thinking about how to organize their lives away from home. This series of posts aims to inform graduating seniors of some of the systems I’ve found that help to organize and manage a busy life. College can be overwhelming; why not set the transition up to be as easy as possible?

However, these ideas can apply to anyone:

  • All students trying to juggle classes, assignments, sports, work, and the rest of life.
  • Busy parents trying to keep track of everything going on in the family.
  • Teachers hoping to get a handle on the madness of time management while buried in teacher work.
  • Recent graduates trying to organize their lives after losing the support and structure of school.
  • Anyone, really, who wants to be more organized and to feel that they have a better handle on their time and their happiness.

Why are systems important?

Systems are your fall-back behaviors. They are the habits and techniques that you can default to so that you can still get things done even when you’re overwhelmed. Knowing that you’re organized and that you can find your next step makes taking that next step much less draining. Knowing how to find what you need quickly means that you’ll spend less time searching and more time doing. Having systems means that you don’t have to think as hard about what to do with each piece of information that comes your way.

Why Google?

Many of the products I’ll be focused on are in the Google ecosystem (GMail, GCal, GDrive). There are a few reasons for this bias. First, Google is ubiquitous, cloud-based, and basically always available so long as you have internet – you won’t have to worry about losing data or not being able to access it. They’ve been around for long enough to have set up their own good systems: the services are well-integrated, have good security (if you opt-in), and play well with lots of other applications. Most of Google’s services are searchable – you’ll be able to find that email from 3 years ago, you’ll be able to figure out when and where you last got your oil changed, and, generally, you will have a record of the documents you created and ideas you communicated online. Will the systems I’m talking about work with non-Google providers? Sure, but I’m not convinced that they will necessarily work as smoothly and consistently.

My plan for this series is to focus each post on one system.

Systems I plan to cover include:

  • Email (GMail)
  • Digital Calendar
  • Digital Document Creation and Storage
  • To-Do Lists and finding a system that works for you
  • Note-keeping, for the ideas you have when you’re in the middle of something else
  • Ways to improve sleep
  • Ideas to improve mornings
  • Techniques for tending to mental wellbeing


I anticipate publishing a new post in the College Prep series each Wednesday until I run out of ideas.

Your homework in the meantime:

If you don’t yet have a Google account, think about what names you might choose. Keep in mind – you want the username you select to be one you’ll happily use for a very long time with a wide variety of people: your friends this year, with colleagues in five years, employees in 15 years, and to invite people to your 60th birthday party down the line. Also remember that a lot of usernames have already been claimed, so include plenty of alternatives on your list of possible usernames.


I’m so excited about this series! I woke up at 4am with my mind buzzing with ideas about systems to share with you. Are there any other systems or ideas you recommend that I look into? I’d love to know what you think in the comments below!


All posts in the College Prep series will appear at this link (as soon as they’re published).

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