Organized to Learn: For Students

Published Thursday, August 26, 2010 2:10 PM

With five days full of classes to keep up with, not to mention homework, sports and after-school activities, family time and time with friends it's often difficult to stay on top of your schoolwork and manage free time.  
Gain control over your life by learning how to organize properly with these helpful tips.




 Examine your organizational know-how and implement a system that you can (and will) use year-round.

How Do You Measure Up?
What exactly does an organized student look like?  Thankfully, there are some easy ways to tell if you measure up or need a little schooling in organization.  Start by asking:

  • Can you find things quickly and easily in your book bag, locker or desk?
  • Do you always remember your long-term projects and class schedule? 
  • Are you ready to start class when the bell rings?
  • Do you always keep track of assignments and submit them on time?
  • Can you manage a large project without getting stressed?

 
If you answered no to any of the above questions, you might need a little organizational help.

The Bottom Line
Don't get upset if your backpack , desk and locker are on the messy side.  Organization is not a trait we're born with, it's something that must be learned and then practiced.  Fortunately, the right supplies will help you on the path to organization success.

The Right School Tools - Building Blocks of School Supplies
Here are some basic tools to get you organized. Feel free to mix and match these options to create a system that works for you:

Three-Ring Binder
This is a must-have. Look for one large enough to store all the papers and folders you'll collect throughout the school year or semester. Use binder accessories to help manage your binder contents.

Tab Dividers
Separate binder contents. Don't forget to label tabs to create different binder sections for homework, assignments, quizzes, etc.

Sheet Protectors
Insert sheet protectors to shield important papers from the occasional rain shower (or soda spill!)

Binder Pockets/Pouches
Store smaller supplies (e.g. pencils, pens, highlighters, index cards, calculators, etc.) in convenient binder pockets. These portable pouches will keep your backpack from turning into a messy jumble of supplies.

Pre-punched or Snap-In Folders
Insert these twin pocket folders into a three-ring binder. They are a convenient way to keep track of homework, project instructions, permission slips and other loose paper. To easily find papers, label each folder based on contents (e.g. homework, current assignments, tests, etc.).

Twin Pocket Folders
These are great for storing extra papers and keeping track of important information. Pick colorful folders or designs that say something about you. Coordinating folder and binder colors will help you to find your paperwork faster.

Calendar/Planner
A calendar can help provide a big-picture view of your classes (and lessen your chance of forgetting tasks). Avoid last-minute stress from rushing to complete another huge project again - write reminders well in advance of the due date, so you can get a jumpstart. Calendars are also great to keep track of your extra curricular activities, doctor's appointments, field trips and any other important dates.

The Right Bag
Choose a backpack or book bag that matches your personality and has plenty of pockets for storage. Reduce clutter, by emptying your bag once each week, on a specific day. You'll find missing assignments and perhaps even that lost banana from lunch!

Seting Up A Study Space
Before you set up your work area, think about how you like to study. The answers to these questions will give you an idea of how to set up your work area:

  • Do you lock yourself in a quiet room with no distractions? Or do you prefer to sprawl out on your bed, music cranked?
  • Do you want the area to be brightly lit or do you to work with one strong desktop lamp?
  • As you read, do you make notes on paper or your computer?


 Regardless of how you study, you need to stay focused.  Remember, distractions and endless searching for misplaced paperwork wastes tons of time.  You can quickly create order by focusing on one thing at a time and designing an organizational system that works for you.

How to Organize

Papers, Notes, Files and More
There are several simple ways to organize your schoolwork - but feel free to tailor these ideas to fit your personal style (after all, there's no use setting up a system if you're not going to be able to stick with it).

Backpack Dump
Clean out your backpack.  Dump everything out and go through each item one by one.  Separate everything into a keep pile important papers and information you'll need to use now or to study for future tests - and a dump pile - things you no longer need, like old homework and last months sports schedules.

 Next, go through your keep pile and figure out how to store this information. Consider keeping papers in a three-ring binder or placing them in a two-pocket folder for future reference.  You may also decide to file your notes and papers in a file folder and keep them at your desk for future use. 

 Finally, don't forget to throw out the dump pile.

 Color Code By Subject
Assign each subject its own color (think green for biology, red for math, blue for English, etc.), then make sure everything you buy for that subject is the right color.  This is a great system because it cuts down on time spent looking for things, you'll be able to tell which binder or notebook is the right one with just a glance.

 Bind It
Keep at least two binders (or one binder with two sections) for each class one to hold all of your important review handouts and notes, and another for all of your day-to-day class notes.  When it comes time to study, you won't have to waste time searching for the handout or notes you need.

 Avoid Confusion
Make sure you date your notes each day, and label whether you were taking notes in class or from the textbook.  This makes it clear which notes need to be studied for any given test.

 Highlighter 101
Only highlight the main ideas on a page.  Its easy to go overboard and end up with full pages of highlighting, but that won't help when you go back to review your notes.

Memory Helper
Use index cards as flash cards to help you study they're inexpensive, and will help you memorize theories and facts.  Just write the question on the front side and the answer on the back.

Managing Your Desk
Once you have a system in place to help keep track of all your papers, you can now focus on organizing your desk.

 If your desk is small, the easiest way to make it seem bigger is to create a place for everything you'll need (this also keeps clutter to a minimum). Keep in mind that homework and handouts aren't the only thing you'll need to keep track of.  Copies of old tests and magazines can easily be filed away or stored in a folder.  There are many organizational supplies to help you keep everything tidy (such as stackable organizers, magazine holders and more), so experiment with the different solutions until you find ones that work for you.

 Don't forget about your desk supplies, you probably have a variety of highlighters, paper- or binder clips, pens, pencils, paper, a stapler and a three-hole punch.  If you can't fit all of these in your drawers, look for small baskets, pen holders and other desktop storage to help keep these small items in place.

Now that we've explored the basics of organizing your room, we'll cover the trickiest subject of all, planning ahead and managing your time.

Planning Ahead Time Management
It's amazing how fast time can go by, keep the big picture in mind with a portable, wall or desktop calendar.  At the beginning of the year (or when your teacher tells you there's a test coming up), mark all of your upcoming exams, dances, practices, games, etc. on the calendar.  This not only helps you plan your schoolwork, it will actually let you organize your social life!

 Helpful Hints
After a couple of weeks, you'll find that planning your time will become a habit and you will be setting yourself up for success in school.  In the meantime, here are some additional tips for managing your time:

Make Time To Study
And mark this time on your calendar!  Doing so helps you avoid procrastination and stops you from double-booking yourself.  But, when you're studying for any length of time, remember to reward yourself with five-minute breaks and small treats.  Also, set reasonable goals for yourself.  If you have four chapters to review for a test, aim to be done with two chapters in time to join friends for a walk or a snack.

Prioritize
Always work on the most important assignments with the closest deadlines and set aside time to work on longer-term projects.

 Plan Ahead
For a large project, break it down.  Divide the project into several smaller steps so it doesn't appear so overwhelming.  Be sure to jot down when you will work on these pieces in your calendar.

Weekly To-Do Lists
Making a list of smaller tasks lets you cross off finished items as the week progresses.  Seeing all the crossed-out items is a visible reminder of your progress and an amazing motivator.

Monthly To-Do List
Larger to-do lists should be reserved for big responsibilities, like research papers and finals.  As with the weekly lists, crossing off items as you accomplish them is incredibly satisfying (and a great excuse to reward yourself with a small treat).

Remember, practice makes perfect!  Don't forget, everyone needs a little organizational refresher every now and then. Have confidence you can reach your organization goal!  Take pride in your accomplishments and pat yourself on the back.  Before you know it, your teachers, parents and friends will notice and be impressed with the newly-organized you. 

And to be sure you stay on track, download the .pdf  "Keeping it Together".

 

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