It can be difficult to keep track of everything when you’re a student. Between classes, homework, and extracurricular activities, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
A lot of students struggle with organization, but there are some things that you can do to help yourself.
According to experts, the following are good examples of organizational skills for students.
Co-Founder, Illuminos Academic Coaching & Tutoring
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.
Related: How to Be More Organized
Not only are there many obvious practical benefits to staying organized, but 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.
Keeping 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, but 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 actually to 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 will appear.
Using an agenda to keep track of tasks and assessments
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.
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.
Ensuring you have a backup for everything
“Always be prepared” isn’t just a mantra for boy scouts. It should be the 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.
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 an excuse for procrastinating.
Retiring 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.
Being 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.
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 or 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.
Keeping a consistent schedule and 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 as a person), 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 their academic career.
Head of School, The Tenney School
Transitioning from elementary to middle school
A student’s academic life changes dramatically entering the middle school years. Proper organization is critical for students to transition successfully into the middle school years and beyond.
Today, we are going to talk through some tips and techniques for middle school organizations.
I am firmly convinced that there is no tougher transition a student will face than the transition from elementary to middle school.
Instead of one or two teachers working together, students will have six to eight teachers working independently of each other. Instead of moving around the school with their class, they will move around the school alone.
They will have a locker for the first time, and their minds and bodies are now changing at a rapid pace.
For the student coming right out of the nurturing elementary school environment, middle school may be too much to keep up with.
Teaching proper organization is the key to successfully transitioning to middle school and beyond. We will cover our organizational system later, but I want to cover some of the key principles to account for as a student develops an organization.
Tip 1: One place to track work
The first key is that students need to have one place they keep track of work. Students will think they can remember what needs to be done, but very few students will actually recall everything they need to do when they sit down to complete homework.
This can take lots of different forms, from tasks list to folder or binder locations, but the student needs to commit to a method where they keep track of work and follow it in all classes.
Tip 2: One place for work to be completed
The second key to keeping organized in middle school is to have one place you keep work to be completed.
This overlaps with our first key but helps students develop a consistent pattern of how they track and complete what needs to be done for the next day in school.
Some students do well with a folder system, and some students may prefer a binder system where dividers or dividers with pockets help keep help the work to be completed in a logical place.
We recommend against students stuffing work in their textbooks. While it may seem enough to have your work with your textbook, we have found this less reliable and ensure work is tracked and completed over time.
Tip 3: One place for work to be turned in
Finally, the third key is for students to have one place where they keep work to be turned in. Again, it can be a folder or binder system, but it needs to be something the student will commit to doing every time.
Tip 4: All students are provided with an agenda
Now let me cover our middle school organizational system as one way you can tie these principles together. At our school, all of our middle school students are provided with an agenda.
They are required to keep track of work in their agenda so that no matter where they go in school or at home, they know where assignments are written down.
We use a binder system with pocket dividers for each of the subjects (English, Science, History, Math & Electives — as needed). Students also have a pencil case to store pencils, pens, erasures, highlighters, etc.
Work to be completed is always kept in the front pocket of the binder. We use the divider pockets for the current block of material a student is studying, which will eventually transition to the binder rings once the unit is completed.
We also have regular binder checks for middle school students. The binder check system has rewards for students who stay organized and consequences for students who do not follow our organizational system.
Our organizational system is one way to keep middle school students organized enough to make the transition to middle school.
Other systems work, too, as long as students keep one place to track work, one place to keep work to be completed, and one place to keep work they have completed.
We hope you have found this helpful in determining why and how to help your middle school student stay organized.
Curriculum Specialist, Ivy Camps USA
Organization for students can be challenging, but there are many skills that we can help students develop as they progress through their academic journey.
It is important to remember that organization is a skill that is governed by the prefrontal cortex of the brain and is considered one of the key executive functions.
However, the prefrontal cortex and executive functioning do not fully develop in most individuals until they are 25 years of age.
Therefore, when we ask students to demonstrate organizational skills, we are literally asking them to do something their brain is not fully prepared to do.
It is important to provide students with tools that can help them stay organized as they learn and grow. Yet simply providing students with an organizational tool will not create organized students; they must also be directly taught how to use the tool.
The use of a binder is helpful for students in school
One organizational tool that many students find helpful for school is the use of a binder.
If you’re a child of the 90s, you may remember trapper keepers, but binders don’t need to be that fancy to help students stay organized.
Beginning with a simple three-ring binder and dividers is a great tool for helping students begin to organize their classwork. Encourage students to select the dividers that also have a pocket in them.
Often teachers will hand out materials at the very end of class, leaving students little time to organize.
The use of dividers with pockets helps students by providing them with a place to temporarily store loose papers until they can find time to organize them in their binder.
Adding a binder pouch to hold pencils, pens, highlighters, and Post-it notes also helps organize students, ensuring that all of their materials for learning are neatly located in a central and easy-to-access location.
Setting aside regular time to maintain the organization
Once a student binder is organized, it’s important to set aside regular time to maintain the organization.
Organizing the physical materials needed for learning is just the first step in organization for students, but it is an extremely important foundational step.
Students must have the supplies that they need easily accessible in order to engage in the learning process. Once students have organized their physical materials, additional tools for organizing their thinking can be applied.
Cognitive organization is just as important as the material organization for the learning process.
Strategies such as the utilization of graphic organizers or a structured note-taking system, such as Cornell Notes, can help students with the cognitive organization as well.
It is important that all student organization is directly taught, modeled for students, supported by a tool or strategy, and routinely revisited to ensure that the organization is maintained.
Mark Farrell, PhD, FIA
Actuary and Director, ProActuary
Creating a non-negotiable study calendar
The demands placed on students today are significant. Students are expected to achieve good grades, build their professional development skills and still maintain a social life.
Good organizational skills are, therefore, critical for all students in our ultra-competitive world.
Not only will developing great organizational skills help to make the most of your student life, but they will also set you up for making the most out of your future career and keeping stress levels to a minimum in many areas of life.
I believe when it comes to effective organizational skills for effective study, students should focus first and foremost on the basics. Create a strong foundation for the organizational aspects of your life.
From my experience as a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) of Education for the last 13 years, I know students quite often neglect the simple things.
And the simple things are not only often the ‘lowest hanging fruit,’ but also the things that can make the biggest difference. It’s very easy to get distracted by the latest app or technique, but the focus should be first and foremost on getting the basics in place.
One of the simplest, most effective basic foundational things a student can do is to create a non-negotiable study calendar. That’s it.
Create a calendar with the right things in it. Then make a commitment to stick to it, no matter what. Sounds simple and boring. And it is. But it’s also extremely effective. And it is also surprising how few students do this.
I used to assume most students had done this, but when I asked students over and over throughout the years, I was often surprised how few students actually followed through with this.
But why is this important? Well, without a calendar, with pre-planned thought-out activities, when it comes to effective study, it’s too easy to:
- Get distracted doing the wrong things.
For example, going over the knowledge you already know instead of moving ahead with learning the next topic. Re-reading notes when you should do past paper questions, etc.
- Not get started at all.
The brain is amazing at coming up with 101 reasons why studying may not be a good idea: I need rest. I’ll feel more in the zone tomorrow. I’ll watch 10 minutes of Netflix first.
It’s quite amazing to watch the excuses the brain will manifest in an attempt to take the easy way out. You need to pre-empt this and proactively put in place things that will avoid this situation.
Creating a calendar with the right things in it and making a commitment to stick to it, no matter what, is a great way to start.
If you have a pre-commitment to study in your calendar and you treat it like a non-negotiable meeting, you can bypass the mental decision-making. If it’s on the calendar, you just do it. End of story. No need to think about it. This is important since getting started is often the hardest thing.
However, a non-negotiable calendar forces you to start despite how you feel.
The more we can put in place things that will automate our decision-making process, the more likely we are to follow through and not allow feelings to dictate whether we do something important.
A great related example of this is given by James Clear, who highlights that you will increase the likelihood of going for a run in the morning by placing your running shoes next to your bed.
In a similar fashion to your non-negotiable study calendar, this helps to reduce decision fatigue by making the decision to go for a run much more automatic.
Karen Southall Watts
Professor in Humanities | Founder, Ask Karen Coaching | Author, “The Solo Workday“
Students are like everyone else when it comes to needing good organizational skills, with a few notable exceptions.
Students must often translate tasks and obligations from the language of the academic world into everyday words in order to understand where they need to put their efforts.
Colleges and universities have their own rules, policies, and structure that dictates the way things are done and when.
Students must meet the demands of individual instructors too, and this can feel like having multiple bosses to please.
Students must recognize and prioritize
Whether they use a tool like the Eisenhower Matrix or a ranked to-do list, students must be able to recognize which tasks are urgent and time-sensitive and which can be scheduled in a more relaxed fashion.
Identifying what needs to be done now, in the next hour, or before the end of the day is an essential skill that can save students from the heartache of falling behind and being in perpetual catchup mode.
It is just as important to pinpoint which activities are dangerous timewasters.
Planning and organizing a week in a visible format, on paper or in an app, allows students to see where time is going and take more control.
Realizing physical place impacts mental space
Even if we carve out an exception for bursts of creative activity that generate bottled chaos and clutter, in general, a sloppy study or living space is not great for students who want to achieve.
A clean, dedicated study area, even if it’s the library, limits distraction, and aids in concentration.
Organizing your living area, perhaps even having a staging area near the door, means less time lost looking for books, your phone, pens, or the car keys.
Nothing ruins a day quite like starting off in a flurry of missing socks and homework. A great habit to develop is resetting your space at the end of each day.
In the morning, you’ll thank yourself for the time you don’t waste looking for the essentials.
Reflection, review, and adaptability lead to long-term success
End-of-the-day, week, month, semester, and year reviews of organization strategies and habits are key to building and sticking with good systems.
That bullet journaling habit or capsule wardrobe technique you learned about online might not be working for you. Perhaps you notice patterns in the strategies that really deliver. Repeat these.
Getting organized is not a one-and-done affair. Each new semester or job brings challenges and tasks that need to be worked into your systems.
Middle School Language Arts Teacher | Owner, Mrs. Beers
The biggest obstacles to student efficiency are often tied to their organizational approach. A few common examples I see at the middle school level include the following:
- A misinterpretation or oversight in delivering the requirements of an assignment.
- General procrastination leads to impulsive work and deductions for insufficient work, grammar mistakes, and missed deadlines.
- Irregular study routines affect the consistency of work and restrict the development of complete thoughts.
Developing simple organizational skills can prevent learning obstacles from interrupting the thought process. Much like an athlete’s pregame routine, preparing to complete a school assignment involves preparing the brain to focus.
As a teacher, there are three organizational skills I direct students to utilize for every project and assignment. Incorporating these simple skills can eliminate the common learning obstacles that are tied to a lack of organization.
There are three keys to project mapping that set students up for success:
- Read the assignment directions multiple times and highlight the deliverables.
- You want to identify the steps for completing the assignment. For example, you need to read the book before you can answer the comprehension questions.
- If it is a long-term assignment, set a consistent schedule for completing each part of the project.
Setting a routine
The number one reason we ask students to develop study routines is to help them avoid distractions. The most important part of any study routine is to eliminate interruptions. This includes:
- Having all of the necessary supplies at hand.
- Turning off recreational technology.
- Working in an environment that allows for focus.
An inquisitive mindset may not seem like an organizational skill, but the truth is inquiring minds solve problems. It is not uncommon for me to see students “push through” an assignment that they don’t understand, which typically leads to a disappointing grade.
Learning to pause your work and ask for guidance eliminates unnecessary frustration and lost time.
Content Administrator, Coursetakers
The first thing that students would be wise to do if they want to succeed would be to keep a diary/planner. As a student, you’ll have a lot of different assignments and tasks to juggle, and you’ll need to keep abreast of them all as best you can.
While you might think that you’ve got an impeccable memory and can remember all of your due dates from the top of your head, this isn’t sensible.
Keeping a diary and noting down each of your due dates
Not only will this stop you from shock and horror, missing a deadline, or needing to rush an assignment to submit it on time, but it’ll also help you prioritize your work.
It wouldn’t make any sense to spend too much time on an assignment due at the end of the month if you have another deadline at the beginning, would it?
Still, simply writing the due date for an assignment alone doesn’t constitute the sufficient organization. You might now know exactly when your work is due, but how do you plan your time in the interim?
Methodically working through your current assignments
Trying to tackle an assignment can be daunting when you view it as one big task, but if you break it down into lots smaller, more manageable tasks, you’ll soon find that your workload feels a lot lighter than it actually is.
Methodically work through your current assignments and ask yourself what the necessary steps are for the completion of each; once you’ve done this, you can start to think about how long to allot yourself for each task.
With this information, you can then draw up a timetable for each day, which you absolutely must stick to. It’s by far the best way to tackle a large body of work, at least in my opinion.
There will be some days when you’re tempted to put off some or all of your work. After all, there’s always tomorrow, isn’t there? You might well be able to catch up on a different day, but adopting this attitude can be a slippery slope.
If you’re not careful, you could easily find yourself in a situation where you’ve got a pile of work to get through and what seems like almost no time to do it all in.
Distributing your workload equally throughout the week
That’s why mastering the art of distributing your workload equally throughout the week is one of the most important skills any student can learn.
All that said, it’s still worth uttering a few words of caution when it comes to drawing up a work timetable.
First of all, don’t overestimate how much work you can realistically do in a day; while your work is important, there’s far more to life, and you don’t want to become stressed and, perhaps ultimately, burnout.
Similarly, it’s also important to factor days off into your work timetable.
Personally, I recommend following the traditional Monday to Friday-schedule and allowing yourself the weekend off. This will make the transition from being a student into the world of work much easier.
However, if, for whatever reason, this does not work for you, make sure you give yourself a couple of days off each week.
It’s surprising just how much of a boost to your overall productivity a little downtime can have.
Organizing yourself as a student isn’t just about organizing your time, though, it’s also about organizing your ‘stuff,’ by which I mean all of your work files and any associated documents.
In the old days, this might have meant filing them all in physical folders or a Filofax, but with everything online these days, the task is slightly easier.
Still, even with search functions and the like, it’s best practice to keep your virtual workspace tidy, with all your documents stored in the appropriate folders and subfolders.
Staying organized is a great habit to be in, and you’ll save yourself time tracking down certain documents.
Adaptiv Home Specialist and Professional Home Organizer | Owner and Operator, Tidy My Space
Being organized means being prepared
Creating zones in your room
A student’s room has to be multi-functional. It has to contain a space to study, sleep, and store everything they’ll need.
Zones that are distinctive for each purpose will help to know where items should be placed and help them find items when needed.
If a room gets sloppy and disorganized, then chances are they’ll misplace an assignment or lose track of deadlines because they wrote it on a scrap of paper that’s under a pile of clothes on the floor.
Make a habit into a routine by placing study items near the study area. Have a home for everything. This takes a bit of time to decide where things should go, but once you see what you need and where you use it, then always put items back where they belong.
Always make your bed! This seems unnecessary, but it sets the mood of accomplishment and takes very little time. It also allows the bed to be used as a lounge area without getting crumbs in the sheets. This is where life and organizational skills connect for a fuller and richer adult.
Storage Zone is usually a closet and maybe a dresser. Keep only the clothes that fit into those without overloading them.
You can live without a large number of clothes. Hang things up and file fold those items that go into drawers. You’ll be able to get more in.
Use stick-on wall hooks (if allowed) to hang wet towels or jewelry. An over-the-door hook is a great solution for swinging closet doors to store shoes or bath products.
Clothes stay in the Storage zone, not on the desk, floor, bed, or even under the bed unless you have under-the-bed storage containers.
Cleaning up dishes and trash
When the life of a student gets busy, eating at their desk or in their room is going to happen. With that comes trash and dirty dishes. If this is left for too long, you get bad smells and infestation.
Remove trash to the appropriate recycle bin or trash container asap. When you leave the room, you bring trash/recyclables/dishes with you. Drop them off on your way.
If that gets forgotten, then start a habit of taking 10 minutes at the end of the day to clear all garbage/trash/recyclable/dishes, hang up clothes and put things in their proper places.
Getting set for the next day
After the room has been cleared of trash and items are in their ‘homes,’ it’s time to set yourself up for the morning/day.
Pack what you’ll need for the next day, decide what you’ll wear, and set it out or at least hang it in front of the other clothes. Collecting all books, work items, wallets, purses, and whatever you need should be packed and ready to go.
This sets you up for a calm and organized day—nothing worse than rushing around trying to find stuff and being late, and being prepared.
Charging all electronics
Make it a habit, aka routine, to plug in all electronics at bedtime to make sure that you have fully charged electronics prior to starting your day.
Executive Director, Student Coaching Services
Making use of digital calendars
Generally, I recommend students use digital calendars (e.g., Google calendar).
Make sure to create events for places you have to be, and make “all-day” events to remind yourself of due dates. Use the task list for all other to-do’s and week-ahead due dates. Make sure to review your calendar and update it regularly.
It’s easy to set aside the syllabus after week one and forget about it — don’t make this mistake.
Put everything from your syllabus on the calendar as soon as the semester starts. And be sure to set notifications and reminders for everything. (This will save you an anxiety attack halfway through the term!)
Making use of binders or digital notebooks instead of traditional notebooks
I also recommend using binders or digital notebooks instead of traditional notebooks. This makes it easier to reorganize, add in notes and new handouts, and stay on top of things. Accordion folders are another helpful tool to keep everything in one place.
Blocking out plenty of study time
Resources aside, it’s a good idea to develop time management skills early on! Block out plenty of study time.
A good rule of thumb is that the amount of time you spend studying for a class should be double that course’s credit hours — for example, if you have a three-credit class, block out six hours per week outside of class to do homework, read textbooks, etc.
That time allows plenty of cushions to:
- Review and reorganize notes
- Make study sets
- Studying those study sets
- Write papers
- Read materials
- Prepare for exams
- Do homework
And if possible, get an academic coach to help you start off on the right foot! This will pay dividends in your future.
Instructor, Herzing College Winnipeg
Creating a spreadsheet or due date calendar
As a student, you must stay on top of your due dates so that you don’t fall behind or miss an assignment. One of the best ways to do this is to organize all your due dates into a calendar or spreadsheet for every class to keep them all in one place.
If you are Excel savvy, a spreadsheet can be a great tool as you can use infinite columns to fill in the due date, class, assignment type, details, grade weight, completion status, and so on.
Using a simple excel command, you can organize the assignments by the due date or whatever other sequence you like. The best part is getting to check off assignments as the semester progresses.
An online calendar is another great option and helps to keep everything in one place. For example, Google Calendar allows you to color code events, insert details, choose the time, and set reminders that will notify you across all devices leading up to the due date.
These two tools can even be used together to ensure all your bases are covered.
Creating computer folders for all files
When it comes to storing resources for school, keeping your laptop desktop clear is essential. Try using folders on your desktop to help you stay organized.
By creating a folder for the school year, you can then put in additional folders labeled for each course. Within those folders, you can add more sub-folders for all applicable documents: one for assignments, one for lecture notes, one for readings, and so on.
This helps when you need to pull up resources to study for an exam or even need to reference them for an assignment, you will know exactly where everything is.
If you like to do things the old-fashioned way and handwrite your notes, consider scanning them to your computer and organizing them via the folder system for extra security.
Head of School, MUSE Academy
Conflict management is a really important organizational skill that all students should learn throughout their schooling.
This counts as organizational skill; if you can resolve conflict, you are better able to continue with your work and make group projects and work tasks much easier.
When you can solve problems, you have a much easier time completing tasks when they’re due, and it can help you later in life when in the workforce, not just in an educational setting.
Conflict management enhances your learning and the learning of others around you which also increases the chances that you get out of school and what you put into it.
This organizational skill can also increase your performance as you can move on from negativity and keep going with projects and assignments. This is also a skill that many good leaders have, which means you can thrive better in group-related assignments.
To acquire this skill, it helps not to sit back if there is conflict present, whether it is between you and a student or you and a professor or teacher.
If there is something negative happening that gets in the way of you becoming productive at school, you need to be able to speak up to fix the issue. Being attentive and non-bias is also helpful, as well as hearing other people out before speaking your mind.
Founding Partner, Espresso Translations
It is very important to prepare and expose students, while they are still bendable, to some organizational skills that can help them walk the terrain of their chosen careers later in life successfully.
Several habits compound to form our characters which, along the line, formulates our identity as humans.
It is not enough to have the best grade to graduate from college. The challenges of the labor market are raging and whirling, ready to snap off the unprepared.
Complaints of stress and fatigue are common on the lips of many these days because of poor time management, poor work-life balance, etc. It will be unfair for students to match into this in trying to make their dreams realizable.
This is why it is necessary to equip them with the following organizational skills as they will help them eliminate procrastination, chaotic atmosphere, stress, giving excuses, and falling behind schedules.
Proactiveness can produce outstanding results
In simple terms, proactiveness means sensing possible danger and showing a reaction to it.
Students are not just complacent and unconcerned. They rather become self-motivated and are able to think independently. They don’t wait to be told what to do. But are on their toes, always ready to plunge into action.
When an organization is filled with people who are proactive, the workspace becomes a working and engaging atmosphere. When students have this skill in them, they can multitask with ease and produce outstanding results.
Keeping records is necessary
Yes! Our mind is far superior to the best computer and the fastest computer ever invented. We can claim we are accurate in our sums, but the truth is we are only humans because we are susceptible to forgetting things easily.
This is why keeping records is a necessary organizational skill students need to possess. Students must form the habit of writing things down, including the date and time.
Doing this can always help them remember events easily and save them from long hours of racking their brains in search of vital information.
Remember, you need a stable and healthy mind to work effectively; keeping records will save you from being messy.
Being initiative and reactive
There is a clear difference between taking the initiative and reacting to things.
When you take the initiative as a student, you are able to juxtapose different contrasting elements, analyze situations with a clear mind and make rational decisions.
But when you react to things as they come, you do so without taking your time to analyze and understand the situation. You jump to the conclusion anyway and ruin things.
Having the ability to manage your time
Time management skill is a very important skill students need to have. Remember, time waits for no one. The same 24 hours I have is the same 24 hours you have. You must hold the knife by the handle and cut the cake right.
Attention must be paid to everyday patterns. Strike out meaningless activities that are eating through your time. Prioritize your activities by allocating time.
Also, challenge yourself to abide by the time you have set. If you need to set an alarm, reminders do it. There are certain apps that can help you achieve this. When you become mindful of how you spend your time, it will become easy to live a stress-free life and enjoy your career in the future.
CEO, Webpop Design
The three organizational skills I personally coach all interns on are ‘Goal Road-Mapping,’ ‘Self-Motivation,’ and ‘Stress & Burnout Management.’ Each organizational skill is key to improving productivity, ensuring fulfillment, and allowing for self-growth.
When asked about key organizational skills, many talks about time management, goal setting, prioritization, and critical thinking, but these should not be thought of as individual skills but as complimentary ones.
Goal Road-Mapping is the amalgamation of all the aforementioned skills and allows for them to be used in tandem, and this is one of the best organizational skills a student can have.
Goal Road Mapping teaches you to build an effective blueprint for your thought process along with the necessary steps to execute it in the most efficient manner possible.
A lot of students ask me if this is a skill, and my response is always the same. To be able to motivate yourself and not wait on muses to give you inspiration is one of the best skills you can have.
Self-motivation allows you to stay focused regardless of what obstacles deter your path, and in doing so, you are able to achieve results others cannot.
We also coach students on how to attain this skill by following a few simple steps.
- Find value in your work: If what you are doing is meaningful, you will motivate yourself.
- Always reward yourself: After project completion, always treat yourself for your efforts.
- Learn workplace autonomy: Don’t look to be told to perform. Seek out where you can add value.
Stress and burnout management
Regardless of industry or workplace culture, work stress and burnout are unavoidable and inevitable.
The ability to manage stress and burnout are valuable skills that will be great not only on an organizational level but also on a personal level.
Through this skill, you will avoid productivity pitfalls and show company leaders your management capability, which in turn will have you highlighted for future growth prospects.
CEO, Echo Creative
I lived all my childhood and most of my adulthood until the past few years, doing my best to thrive with undiagnosed ADHD.
I did always meet all my goals, but it was daunting because my spaces and organization were chaos (physically, to others, though I knew where everything was if I had time — but mentally, to me).
Now that I’ve realized why many of my peers always seemed to flow so smoothly while I struggled (yet still surpassed their achievements), I’ve aimed to help myself and others stay productive and have the mental clarity we all deserve.
I even began a Twitter dedicated to documenting productivity in the office-based workplace.
Make your to-do lists daily, but break them up into sections
If certain tasks are done in the same location, put those together. Or if you’ll be following a route throughout school or town, doing them in order, then list them that way.
Utilizing bullet points in your lists
Utilize bullet points in your lists to help categories stay clear and in manageable pieces.
If you have to do a science fair project, don’t write “science fair project” and stare at it hopelessly. That is a huge undertaking that will feel impossible and never get done.
Give the project its own sticky note or section, then add bullet points you can do in one sitting without being overwhelmed and shutting down.
You’ll not only feel more capable, but you can cross off each one as it’s done and get on a roll of small victories that snowball into a completed project! Some examples might be:
- “Determine hypothesis.”
- “Shop for supplies.”
- “Set up Word document layout.”
- “Compile page of resources to cite/reference.”
Not being afraid to draft a list
I usually have a messy list of “brain dumping” all I need to do or the previous day’s unfinished tasks.
Once it’s all on one page in front of me, I scratch out, use arrows, add time/place notes, group items together, then put it all on one page in a way that will lead me to get it done.
Author, Entrepreneur, Social Activist, and Writer
Writing things down helps tremendously when organizing
Making a list of things that you have to complete will help you stay on the path to organization.
Start off small. Simply number your paper from one to ten (add things that will take you a short amount of time to complete near the top of the list, and then add things that will take the most time to complete at the end of the list).
This will help you gain an overall view of all the things that you will need to complete without being overwhelmed.
Creating one list for school and one personal list
Creating separate lists will help prevent feelings of being overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks.
Create one list for school (with assignment due dates, projects, set aside reading time, etc.). Create another list for personal tasks such as (taking out the trash, cleaning your bathroom, doing laundry, meal prep, etc.).
This can help relieve stress in task-related areas and help keep you organized.
Managing your time
Time management is another great way for you to master your organizational skills. Set your daily alarm for things like:
- Setting time aside to do your homework assignment.
- Cleaning your room.
- Preparing for the next day.
- Setting time aside to enjoy a movie or lunch with friends.
Narrow down items that will fit into the realistic daily time frame. Try to avoid cramming many things in a one-time slot.
Utilizing organization tools
Find tools around your house that can contribute to your organization. If you can’t find items, purchase inexpensive items; this can include but is not limited to:
- Storage bins to help organize large or small items.
- Different color folders to help separate different assignments and important information.
- Different color writing tools such as highlighters and pens.
- A flash drive or something similar to this handy tool will benefit you when running into any computer errors that can lead to losing important material.
Checking off tasks as you complete them
There is nothing better than completing tasks. Checking off each task as you complete it will give you a gratifying feeling of accomplishment. Start from the top of your list and work your way down to the last item.
You can add items to your list as you go. By staying consistent, you gain more practice in mastering the skill of organization.
College Counselor and Community Manager, Transizion
It feels like everyone’s parents always want them to stay tidy. However, there is a reason for the madness: it’s a skill always to put your things back where they belong, and it’s a huge time saver.
If you’re not misplacing homework, your keys, or a favorite pen, you have more time for everything else you’re trying to get done.
Everyone has a fallible memory. One of the best ways to not forget to do things is to write everything that needs to be done on a list. It can be as simple as a whiteboard above your desk or a bullet journal.
The point is that by seeing everything, you need to get it done in the same spot, so you don’t forget anything.
Using a calendar
It’s super easy to end up double, or even triple, booked. The best way to avoid that is to put everything on a calendar. This includes everything from hanging out with friends to setting aside time for homework.
If you care about getting it done, set aside time to do it, and then stick with it.
Note-taking is a vital organizational skill for students to develop. By taking notes, students are able to record information that they can later reference when studying for exams or completing assignments.
Notes also help students to organize their thoughts and identify the main ideas in a text, and act as a reminder for work they need to do.
Developing strong note-taking skills can help students be successful in school and in life.
Those who can take effective notes tend to do better on tests and assignments, and they are also better able to retain information over the long term.
Setting goals is an important part of any student’s educational experience.
By setting goals, students can keep themselves motivated and on track to achieve their long-term objectives. In this way, they are more likely to be engaged in their studies and less likely to become distracted or discouraged.
For students doing a TEFL course, this is particularly important because there is a lot of information to get through.
Sometimes this can feel overwhelming but if students can focus on the end goal of being TEFL certified, it is much easier for them to maintain focus and stay organized.
Creator, Adventures On The Rock
Creating an organizational system and developing the daily habit of using it
In my time at Penn State, I learned how important it is to be organized. The more organized I was, the easier and less stressful my time at university became, and the better my grades were.
I also found that being more organized gave me more time for all the fun stuff I wanted to do, too, like going to friends’ parties or playing video games.
The number one skill you need as a student is developing a system and sticking to it. If you can do that, the rest of the skills you need will fall into place. Creating an organizational system and developing the daily habit of using it is key.
How to create an organizational system for school
First, you need to find a system that works for you. That can either be a physical system—good old-fashioned pen and paper—or a digital one.
I’ve used both and found they are both helpful, but ultimately digital is the one I came to settle on. I use Notion to keep notes, organize my to-do list, and link everything together. I’ve also found Asana to be helpful, but Notion is more robust, even in the free version.
Once you’ve chosen your system, the how is pretty straightforward. I keep a master task list with all my assignments—both for school and personal—then prioritize them based on urgency and importance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are organizational skills important for students?
Organizational skills are crucial for students because they help them manage their time, prioritize tasks, and stay on top of their responsibilities. Being organized means having a clear understanding of what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and how to do it efficiently.
For students, having good organizational skills can mean the difference between staying on track with their studies, meeting deadlines, and earning good grades, and falling behind, feeling overwhelmed, and struggling to keep up. It also helps students develop self-discipline, independence, and a sense of control over their lives and academic careers.
Good organizational skills also benefit students in the long term, as they learn to manage their time and responsibilities more effectively, they will be better prepared for the demands of college, the workplace, and life in general.
How do you teach organizational skills in the classroom?
Teaching organizational skills in the classroom is an important part of preparing students for success both in school and in life. Here are a few strategies that can be effective:
• Model good organizational habits yourself: As the teacher, you can set a positive example by being organized, using a planner or calendar, and keeping a tidy workspace.
• Teach time management skills: Show students how to prioritize tasks and manage their time effectively. Encourage them to break big projects into smaller, manageable steps and to plan ahead for deadlines.
• Use visual aids: Color coding, graphic organizers, and other visual aids can help students better understand and remember information.
• Encourage the use of planners and to-do lists: Encourage students to write down their assignments and deadlines, and to check off tasks as they complete them.
• Provide structure and routines: Establishing clear routines and procedures in the classroom can help students feel more in control and less overwhelmed.
• Give regular feedback: Encourage students to reflect on their organizational skills and provide constructive feedback on areas for improvement.
• Offer extra support: For students who struggle with organization, offer additional support and resources, such as after-school tutoring or one-on-one sessions.
Remember, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to organization. The key is to find what works best for each student and to be patient, supportive, and encouraging.
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