It’s Friday afternoon. Anxious to escape an exhausting week of tests, quizzes, projects, and reading assignments, you open your locker with reflexes honed from years of experience and quickly block the books and papers that tumble out before they hit the floor. Thoughtlessly tossing items into your backpack, you race out the door only to discover Sunday night (when you finally get around to thinking about your homework) that you don’t have what you need. It’s now 10 PM and you’re scrambling to contact someone from your class who can text you a copy of their notes, so you can cram for your test tomorrow. At midnight, you fall into bed, having set your alarm extra early to get to school in time to quickly scan the literature assignment before class. You’re so stressed your face is breaking out; you struggle to fall into a restful slumber.

If any of this sounds familiar, you could benefit from a bit of organization in your life! Many students operate on the erroneous assumption that being organized requires extra time when in reality, being organized actually saves time and relieves a great deal of mental and emotional stress. Whether you’re a middle schooler preparing for high school or a high school student preparing for college, if you need to get things a bit more ordered in your world, here are some ideas to keep in mind:

    1. Discover your SPARK – Identify the catalyst to get you organized. Make a list of reasons why getting organized is a “must do” rather than a “nice to do.” This method will help you approach organization as an imperative and keep you focused on the benefits you’ll achieve as a result of your success.
    2. Find your STYLE – We are unique, as God designed us, which means different approaches work for different people. Determining your learning style allows you to tailor your study skills and organizational techniques to what work best for you. The websites noted at the end of this post offer tips and tools for this purpose and can set you on the path to determining your best system.
    3. Develop your SYSTEM – Piece together the elements that align to your objectives and your style. As you do, consider the following:
      • Integrate your resources such as an agenda, RenWeb calendars and lesson plans, classroom assignment boards, and grading rubrics.
      • Consider color – it can help you quickly identify subjects when you are in a rush and keep you from mistakenly picking up the wrong book or notebook.
    4. PACE yourself – As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Replacing poor study habits and organizational skills with good ones can be a challenge, so don’t try to solve every problem at once. Consider testing your system with a single subject and really committing to it for a specific period, such as 30 days. As you gain comfort with your system, then roll it out to other areas.
    5. PRACTICE your process – As you implement your system, it is important to be consistent. For example, if your system includes a blue folder for math papers, make sure you are consistently filing all math papers in your blue folder. It may take an extra second at the end of class to put the paper where it belongs, but when you are able to find it again without searching for it, you’ll be glad you have a system that works!
    6. POLISH your plan – Experts tell us it takes a while to establish a new habit; therefore, be patient. Don’t expect to do everything perfectly right way. Give yourself credit for what you are doing well and resolve to do better on the things that need further improvement. Remember to review your system from time to time to make sure it is still working for you. Over time, you may need to revise it to fit your changing circumstances.

Getting and staying organized is a worthwhile effort. In time, you will feel less stressed and have the capacity to be proactive about your schoolwork. Cultivating your organizational skills is more than developing a school skill, it’s a life skill that will allow you to better anticipate and manage your workload for years to come – as you prepare for college and beyond. So don’t put it off another minute – resolve to CONQUER THE CHAOS!

Useful Reference Sites: 

  1. Organization and Time Management:
    http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Organized-in-High-School
    https://www.cornerstoneondemand.com/reference-guide-time-management-skills (scroll down for a section specifically tailored for students)
  2. Learning Styles Inventories:
    http://www.personal.psu.edu/bxb11/LSI/LSI.htm
    http://www.thestudygurus.com/learning-styles/
  3. Learning Style-specific Study Tips:
    http://www.gavilan.edu/tutor/documents/StudyTipsforDifferentLearningStyles_000.pdf
    https://www.whitman.edu/academics/academic-resource-center/study-skills/learning-preferences-study-tips