How to Organize your Studies
At the beginning of the school year, students tend to be at their most organized. Their binders are neatly tabbed, their laptops have files for each class, and their lockers or dorm rooms are pristine. However, by the end, most people’s binders are stuffed full of random papers and leaflets, word documents are scattered along their desktops, and everything else is in disarray.
Keeping organized is easy when you first kick off the year but staying organized as schedules get crazier and work piles up quickly becomes difficult. However, with the right systems and organizational tools, you can manage to keep everything straight while you study.
The Day-to-Day Grind: Organizing your Schedule
The most important part of student organization is ensuring that you keep your timetable organized. Between classes, sports, and extracurricular activities, managing your time can become difficult – if not impossible. These tips will help you keep your days in order while you learn.
Post your Schedule Somewhere Obvious
Whether you live at home or in a dorm, you should post your weekly classes and extracurriculars somewhere that you can’t miss. This may seem a bit juvenile, but if you’re wondering whether you have calculus or biology after English class, you can quickly check as you brush your teeth in the morning.
Keep an Online Calendar
Though your regular classes and meetings likely won’t change too much over the course of the semester, you’ll have major events like exams and games that crop up every so often. You should, therefore, keep an online calendar to neatly mark down these types of events. An online calendar is easy to change and can even push notifications before events, and you can also share it with others if you need to coordinate a study group or project.
Set Aside Flex Time
While you want to keep a stable routine, you also don’t need to plan out every second. You should set aside times where you can do whatever you need to at that particular moment – read, do laundry, or even just relax. This way, you can keep your daily grind in order while giving yourself some wiggle room if needed.
Tech Savvy: Organization Apps and Tidying you Hard Drive
Technology has become an integral part of modern learning, and as such, many assignments and projects must be completed through online portals and digitized documents. While keeping digital files organized seems easy enough, it can quickly become chaos without a system of organization. You should also take advantage of some of the many online organization apps and tools for your computer, smartphone, and tablet.
Create a Filing and Archiving System
While the details of this system will vary from user to user, you should create a specific system for how you save all of your files. While saving an item or two to your desktop or generic “documents” folder isn’t the end of the world, they can quickly add up, and when you have to study, you might end up spending an hour searching for that one essay or set of notes. You should, therefore, come up with a way to organize your hard drive that works well for you.
Use a Note-Taking App
Apps like OneNote for Windows or Word’s Notebook mode for Macs can be the best way to keep class notes organized. With these apps, all of your notes for a particular class will be in one file, enabling you to keep organized throughout the semester. These apps also feature templates for note-taking styles like Cornell notes or even subject maps. Plus, when exams roll around, you won’t be scavenging through files when you need to study a particular day’s notes.
Use Digital Organizational Tools
Whether you use a shared calendar or to-do list app, you should take advantage of the many digital organization apps out there. These kinds of software can allow you to:
- Sync to-do lists and calendars among your smartphone, laptop, and tablet.
- Create shared calendars and action plans for group projects.
- Track progress on a goal or assignment in real time.
- Instantly update daily tasks or events.
- Keep back-ups in case something goes wrong.
Plus, there are plenty of apps out there with student-specific features to make organization even easier. While the specific apps you use will ultimately come down to personal preferences, you should take advantage of them as a great way to keep organized as a student.
Binders and Folders: Keeping your Papers Organized
Nowadays, most classes use digital assignments and let you use your laptop or tablet, but you’ll always have a teacher or professor who insists on hand-written assignments and notes. Keeping notebooks and worksheets in order can be a difficult task when you’re used to using technology for your organization tools, but these tips will help you keep your life together even with an old-school professor.
Always Carry a Three-Hole Puncher
If you need to carry a binder for your class, always have a portable three-hole puncher with you. Even if you meticulously tab out every section at the start of the year, your binder can easily become messy if you stuff papers in the sides with the intent of cataloging them “later.” With a portable three-hole punch, you can immediately file away any papers that you receive.
If you have a class where you need to take notes by hand, then you need to make sure that you carry the right supplies – pens, pencils, paper, or otherwise. You don’t want to miss an important part of the lecture because you have to ask your classmates if they have an extra pen.
If you have multiple notebooks and binders, you should color code them by class and/or purpose. This way, if you’re in a rush, you’ll be able to quickly grab what you need without looking.
Digitize What you Can
The best way to avoid a paper mess is to not have one in the first place. If you’re able to digitize any notes or other assignments, then you should. You should also be sure to add any assignments, test dates, or other important items to your to-do list or calendar. Instead of keeping your digital and analog classes separate, you should integrate them where you can.
Keeping it Together
The hardest part of organization is staying organized. Though you can easily download apps and color-code files, your system might fall into disarray as life gets busier. However, if you follow these guidelines, you can keep organized even when you’re buried in tests and homework.
Keep it Clean
Whether it’s your email or your backpack, you should regularly take time to clean up your things. Throw away old flyers and tissues, and delete irrelevant emails and Word documents. Eliminating clutter every now and again helps you to feel refreshed and ready for learning.
Manage Time Wisely
While your schedule is important, you should also do your best to generally manage your time well. Good time management involves:
- Knowing when you’re most productive: are you an early bird, night owl, or somewhere in between? Knowing when you’re at your peak can help you determine when to take classes and when to study.
- Giving yourself enough time: when you have a major assignment coming up, you should sit down and evaluate what it entails as well as how much time it will take to complete. This way, you’ll avoid the classic all-nighter before a test or due date.
- Get One Step Ahead of the Game: is one of your classes canceled or did you get out early? If so, you may be tempted to celebrate by going on a Netflix binge, but you should instead try to use that time to get ahead on other projects or take care of a task that you’ve been meaning to get around to. Whether you clean up your bathroom or start working on a research paper, you’ll be happy that you used that extra time productively.
- Switch it up: if you start getting weary of studying for bio or writing an English paper, then switch to another, equally important task. This way, you can give yourself a break from a frustrating task and come back to it when you’re ready.
- Take a break: are you feeling too tired to study? Is your brain running in circles? If so, take a break! You shouldn’t feel obligated to work every second, and these breaks can actually increase your efficiency and productivity.
Stick to your System
Though you may find it tedious, sticking to your system of organization is the most important part of ensuring it works. Saving a file to your desktop or telling yourself that you’ll update your calendar “tomorrow” may save you a minute or two, but in the end, failing to do so will cost you even more time. If you commit to your system and stick to it, then your mind will stay clear by the time you have to study for exams.
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