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Staying Organized

Staying organized can be difficult. It’s very common for students to struggle with keeping their things in order, yet it’s one of the keys to success both in school and in life. Not only are there many obvious practical benefits to staying organized, there is also research that consistently shows that people who stay organized do better in school and at work. These people also tend to be happier and more productive. Luckily, staying organized isn’t as hard as it seems. Here are a few simple ideas that can help any student stay on top of their organization.

Keep your binders in tip-top shape

Have you ever found yourself rifling through your backpack, looking for the paper that you need? If each subject or class has its own section in your binder, this problem disappears. Not only do subdividers help you find what you need quickly, they also eliminate clutter in your backpack. In fact, we love using dividers and subdividers in our organization systems because it feels like each class has its own binder without having to actually carry around a separate binder for every class. This way you never have to worry about having the correct papers for each class when you need them. Color-coding the subjects in your binder with custom-printed binder tabs can also be a great way to keep track of the work for your different subjects, cutting down “search time” and making you a more productive student or worker.

Pro tip: Did you know you can even color-code your folders in Google Drive (i.e., your e-binder) to match the color-coding system you have in your binder? Just right-click on the folder in Google Drive, and the option to color-code with appear.

Use an agenda to keep track of tasks and assessments

Let’s be honest. Even people with the best memories forget things. On any given school day, teachers give students short-term, medium-term, and long-term assignments, in addition to the plethora of assessments and projects due that day. Trying to keep track of everything in your head, often has disastrous consequences. Instead, keep a planner and write your assessments down throughout the day. Outsource some of that memory work to your planner to create more space in your brain for more important tasks. That way you only need to remember one thing…look in your planner! Think of it like a computer browser. If you have twelve tabs open already and you try to open one more tab to watch a YouTube video, the page is going to take forever to download. Similarly, if you have twelve things to remember to do for homework and you are trying to brainstorm ideas for an English paper, your brain is not going to work very efficiently. Close some tabs. Use a planner.

If your school doesn’t provide a planner, don’t worry. They are cheap and easy to find. Just be sure to look for an academic planner rather than a yearly planner. These are meant for students and are easier to navigate in a school setting. For students in college or device-friendly schools, there are some great apps on both Apple and Android platforms to use for planning purposes. Planners also help you prioritize tasks by putting everything you have to do in one place, so you can order tasks by importance and urgency, helping you get ahead and stay ahead.

Make sure you have a backup for everything

“Always be prepared” isn’t just a mantra for Boy Scouts. It should be a first principle for any student looking to succeed both inside and outside of the classroom. Always have a spare. This applies to everything, from pencils and pens to folders and notebooks (maybe even tires if your student is driving). By preparing for the worst ahead of time, if something breaks or gets lost, you don’t waste time searching for a replacement. Knowing you’ve got backups at home and/or in your locker just in case not only provides peace of mind, but it also eliminates one more excuse for procrastinating.

Retire binders at the end of each semester

Keeping highly organized binders is crucial. However, as students matriculate into middle school and high school, their binders can get very full very fast. Filing systems at home can be cumbersome and oftentimes lead to things getting lost or bent out of shape in the process. Consider retiring binders at the end of each semester. If the size and organization worked, create new ones that are set up the exact same way for the new semester. Just instead of labeling it Fall Semester, label it Spring Semester. Dedicate a shelf in the house to keeping the older binders. As the years go by, you’ll feel proud of all that you’ve accomplished, and you’ll have quite the library of previous course material for you or your younger siblings to reference. Think of all of the social capital this one move creates. 

Be organized everywhere

Staying organized goes far beyond binders and planners. It’s also about keeping your desk, locker, drawers, and school supply cabinets in order at all times. So, ensure that you have enough materials in all of the places where they are required. For example, you may not need a calculator or hole-puncher for your locker AND your backpack AND your desk. But it’s probably a good idea to have extra paper, pencils, pens, erasers, etc. in most of those places. Being prepared and organized turns potential “procrastination traps” into workflows that increase productivity. The more effort you put into these systems on the front end, the more time they will save later on. If you have siblings or share spaces with other people at home or at school, discuss organization expectations with them. Consider labeling a certain shelf, drawer, or cabinet as yours to maintain. Since it is all toward staying organized and maximizing performance, the people around you should respect your wishes. Learning how to have these conversations early in your school career will make the transition to living with a roommate in college much more fluid.

Keep a consistent schedule/routine

Another important part of staying organized is sticking to a consistent schedule or routine whenever possible. Not only has having a routine been scientifically proven to be great for your health, but it is also a great way to increase productivity. Everything from homework and exercise to mealtimes to bedtimes are best when they happen on a set schedule.

An essential consideration when creating a consistent schedule is to make sure that there is enough time allotted for each activity. If you’re always in a rush, it’s difficult to feel organized and in control. Figure out how much time it takes you to get ready in the mornings, and make sure you wake up with enough time to do everything you need to do at a comfortable, relaxed pace, so you make it to class with time to spare. The same goes for the rest of the day. Intelligently designed routines translate to calm, productive days. The more rushed you are, the higher the risk of you making simple mistakes on tests and quizzes or forgetting an urgent task.

Consider doing some tasks before they become urgent. For example, if you are more of a night person than a morning person, make your life easier by stacking as much as you can in the evenings when you are more alert. You can do things like lay out your clothes for the next day and/or load your backpack in the car the night before instead of waiting for the morning. By doing this, you have one less thing to worry about in the morning. It’s a great way to get the next day started on the right foot.

Staying organized is an essential part of being successful as a student, and it doesn’t have to be hard! Following these simple tips can help any student become more organized, more productive, and more relaxed throughout his or her academic career.

Evan Weinberger


Staying Ahead of the Game offers unique academic coaching & tutoring services to help good students achieve greatness.

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