18 Aug Get organised before you go back to school
We know, we know. With just a few precious days of the summer holidays left, organising yourself before Day One back in the classroom probably doesn’t feel like a priority.
With that in mind, here are a few ways of staying on top of academic organisation. Essentially, it’s all about devising a system and then being consistent about using it.
- Planning ahead
Have a paper planner (or an electronic version such as Google Calendar) containing test dates, assignment deadlines, plus all family and social events and sports matches. As each day, week and month begins, spend a couple of minutes reminding yourself of what lies ahead.
Additionally, consider positioning a medium-sized whiteboard on your desk or work-space wall.
Divide it into two sections by drawing a vertical line down the middle then write the most imminent assignments on the left and list any longer-term coursework deadlines on the right.
- Spend fifteen minutes a week decluttering and filing
Go through all your accumulated paperwork every week (preferably at a particular time on a particular day so it becomes part of your routine), and recycle any documents you’re finished with. This should help you focus, and it’s easier to do it as you’re going along. Each week, transfer the notes you’ve been carrying around at school into the relevant binder for the subject. This will keep you on top of class handouts.
In the same ‘little and often’ spirit, clear your desk at the end of each day so clutter doesn’t accumulate.
- Rank and file
A concertina-style folder or file with dividers works well for carrying around the papers you need day-to-day; these should then be filed away every week. Try to keep the papers in the concertina folder categorised according to type or subject.
With the more permanent (larger) subject folders that you keep at home, have one binder per subject and create different sections (using coloured dividers) in each folder for assignments, notes and so on, filed chronologically.
- Take note!
Your notes are valuable – keep them accessible and organised. This saves time and means that when you need to revise or write an essay, you know what information you already have, and where. If you’re not sure about certain information when making notes in class, put an asterisk in the margin so you can check and fill in any missing details later.
Consider using a different colour of paper for each subject or purpose, e.g. essays, class notes, lists of terminology. If you use loose pages, be sure to number and label them. Or use a different notebook for each subject, labelled with the dates you started and finished using it, so you can keep your notes in a logical order. If possible, devise your own indexing system to help you keep track of what information you have and where.
A digital notebook stores handwritten notes electronically, or you might explore note-taking software. If you use PowerPoint, the Slide Sorter function does what it says on the tin!
Equally, use the time you have now before term begins to set up clearly labelled computer folders for work you’ll be storing electronically, and perhaps deleting anything you’re sure you no longer need.
- Be a vocab vulture
We’ve previously mentioned the importance of vocab for language learners. Use an A5 hardback notebook (ideally with a tough spiral spine) exclusively for writing down new words you encounter in class (or when doing homework assignments) in French, German or Spanish – preferably one notebook per language.
Jot these words down in your vocab notebook immediately, and get into the habit of going through your list of newly acquired words at the end of each day so they sink in. Moreover, whatever you do, don’t neglect English – strive to expand your English vocabulary each day as well!
Of course, we’re not advocating spending more time on admin or organisation than on actual class or homework, nor can any system (or indeed anyone!) be consistently perfect. However, getting into good habits at this early stage of the academic year will definitely stand you in good stead for the weeks and months ahead.