Six organizational hacks that will mean you’ll never get lost in your homework
Often find yourself cramming over your assignments or exam prep? If so, it’s time to rethink your approach to studying and get organized.
Sure, going with the flow seems to be a good idea. It’s effortless, after all. But there’s a heavy price to pay for it. Lack of organization means late-night studying, missed deadlines, worse grades, and mental and physical exhaustion.
Sometimes, you might use an essay writing service online to submit your academic assignments in time. Nonetheless, you still need to develop proper organization skills to succeed in studying and career.
Here are 6 hacks to set you on the right path and help you reap the benefits.
Set up a designated study area
Nothing will signal your brain “It’s time to study!” better than a change in the environment. Never do your homework lying in bed or on the couch after watching Netflix. If you do, your brain will take a long while to switch from the “relax” mode to the “work” one.
Setting up a physical workplace has three benefits:
- Once it’s a habit to work there and only there, your brain will automatically get the message that it’s time to do some mental lifting.
- A properly set workplace has enough storage space to keep all the study materials organized.
- It’s more convenient to have everything in order.
So, a good study area meets these four criteria.
- There’s enough room for all the study materials, both in terms of storage and surface space.
- Anything you may unexpectedly need is within your reach: other notebooks, stationery supplies, printouts, and so on.
- You are seated comfortably.
- You won’t get distracted by someone or something else.
Take your notes game to another level
Once you open your notebook, you’re overwhelmed with walls of text. Sounds familiar? If it does, it’s high time to change the way you take notes. Here are four ways to make them more organized.
- Structure the text. Use headings and subheadings, bullet points and numbered lists, highlighters, and pens of different colors. Come up with your own system and stick to it.
- Write summaries. After the note-taking is over, take several minutes to sum it all up in one or several sentences.
- Change the note-taking method. The Cornell method is probably the most popular one out there. In case it’s not exactly your cup of tea, try mind mapping or the outline method.
- Make notes retrieval easier. Create a table of contents in the beginning or use arrow post-its as bookmarks.
Master the highlighting skill
What do you do with the notes you already have? Highlight the most important pieces of information, of course! The same goes for any printouts or textbooks you read.
There’s one pitfall to avoid, however. It might be tempting to highlight as much as possible, but it’s a terrible idea. You’ll end up with almost the whole page highlighted, which fails to achieve the initial goal.
Instead, think of the highlighter as a scarce resource. Read the whole thing first and then look through it again to find several most helpful (and concise) phrases or sentences.
Consider using different colors to distinguish between the types of information. For example, use blue for the important dates, yellow – for names, and green – for definitions.
Organize your study materials into binders and folders
Having a tall stack of printouts, notebooks, and textbooks, or worse, having them scattered all over the room, guarantees you’ll be wasting time finding the right study materials. And that will be the case every single time it’s time to do homework.
To tame the paper chaos, get stocked up on folders or binders. Then, group all the materials for the same class into one binder or folder and find a place for it. Yes, that’s it.
Don’t forget about the digital files. The same rule applies to them: one folder for each class, and you’re golden.
Before calling it quits, though, make sure you can find a file by its name. Change the filenames that are just numbers, random sets of letters, or something nondescriptive like “Doc1”.
Harness the power of planning
Planning is the driving force of time management, and it keeps anyone organized throughout their day.
How you approach planning itself is a personal matter. Every individual is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, explore the following ideas and see what works for you.
- Keep yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily planners or any combination of them.
- Print out pre-made planner templates (or make some yourself). Put them up on the wall where you’ll see them often.
- Use the calendar app on your smartphone.
- Organize your plans in task management apps like Trello, Wunderlist, Todoist, or Evernote.
- Write important reminders on post-its and stick them somewhere you’ll look for sure.
- Schedule study sessions and make a specific to-do list for each of them.
- Schedule weekly decluttering – the time to clean up your backpack, desk, and room itself.
Ironically, the crucial part isn’t planning itself – it’s following through on the set tasks. That said, remember to allow yourself to be flexible. Otherwise, you risk pushing yourself to the point of breakdown.
Install impulse blockers
Although it’s often overlooked, getting organized means knowing when to restrain your impulses to procrastinate. Yes, studying isn’t always 100% fun, but it still needs to be done.
If you want to make studying more productive, reflect on what usually distracts you the most. In most cases, the list is full of websites or mobile apps. Maybe, you check in on the Facebook feed every 5 minutes or find yourself browsing YouTube even though you meant to open Google Scholar.
The good news is there are browser extensions and apps that can temporarily make those websites or apps unavailable. The most popular ones include
- Cold Turkey (Windows PC) – for blocking websites and apps.
- Forest (iOS, Android, Firefox add-on) – grow a tree by avoiding distractions.
- SelfControl (Mac OS), BlockSite (Chrome and Firefox extensions, Android, iOS) – basic website blockers.
Anyone can be organized with a little effort!
Organizing is not a talent or personality trait. Anyone can acquire this skill as long as they make an effort to continuously practice it. So, use the hacks mentioned in this article to handle your assignments like a time management pro!