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  • Lisa Eng

Quick and easy tips and tricks for students to help stay organized

That “oh no” moment when you realize that there is an assignment due the next day, or perhaps even in a couple of days that we had forgotten about, is a moment that everyone has probably experienced at some time during their academic career.

Here are a few easy tips and tricks I’ve used and developed to help meet deadlines, stay organized, and avoid that “oh no” moment.

1. Make to-do lists and deadline lists

To-Do lists. A tool recommended by practically every guidance counsellor I have ever had, but a useful tool that helps to keep your schedule organized nonetheless. Deadline lists, which I have only just recently started creating, are slightly different and are even more compact. Unlike To-Do lists, Deadline lists contain only deadlines, usually those within the next month and a half or so. I usually put all of my deadlines for the next 5 weeks, however, this is completely up to you.

How to make deadline lists :

  • If you’re on a laptop, more precisely, an Apple laptop, there is an app called “stickies.”

  • Open this application and create a rectangular sticky which reaches about ½ to ¾ down your desktop screen

(I’ve found that stickies about 2 inches wide and 7 inches long are an appropriate size)

  • If you are on a device other than an Apple laptop, open up a note on a notes app or write it by hand (either works fine). Make sure that the note is in a place that is visible to you at all times. Even a widget on your home screen works :)

  • Write “deadlines" in big bold letters across the top

  • Below your title, write the dates for the following week (Ex: December 21-25)

  • In point form, write out the deadlines falling in that week

  • Repeat this for 3-4 more weeks

The great thing about these deadline lists is that they’re always present on your desktop, thus always in sight, but in a subtle way. In organizing your deadlines by week, you’re able to avoid becoming overwhelmed and disorganized.

2. Start projects/papers/assignments at least 2-3 weeks ahead of the deadline

Starting assignments early on not only allows for plenty of time to revise and refine but also helps to add it to your mental “To-Do list.” While this may differ from person to person, I find that in physically starting an assignment, I have a tendency to go back to it and work on it more than when I just leave it in my physical To-Do list. Even if this means just opening up a new google doc and writing some ideas in point form, this helps to get the ball rolling, and pushes you to actively start working and avoid procrastination. Even if you find you have an absolutely jam-packed schedule, spending as few as 5 minutes to create the document for the assignment and write 2-3 bullet points can really make a difference.

3. Use spare time wisely - but make sure to take breaks

Taking breaks from doing work is crucial for productivity, as working for extended periods of time can in a way “overload” your brain. While this does differ from person to person, I have found that at some point, I become somewhat less productive, and much more prone to distractions. Upon asking a few of my peers whether this is the case for them as well, I found that most teens have a tendency to become more prone to getting distracted when working after having completed an ample amount of work. While you may want to dedicate your spare time to studying for a test you have next week, remember that it is important to take breaks, and provide your brain with something else to do for a short period of time.

A system that I have found works for me is to take a quick 5-15 minute (but no longer than 15 minutes) timed break between each unit/subtopic when studying for a test, or after every hour to hour and a half of work. Again, this is different for everyone, but I recommend trying to get at least 1-1.5 hours of distraction-free work done between breaks.

Another tip I have regarding free/spare time is to take breaks from school-related work altogether. I generally try to take at least half a day off on weekends, and an entire evening after school once a week to unwind and do an activity completely unrelated to school, and have found that physical exercise is excellent for this, or even watching an old (or new) movie. I’ve also found that taking these breaks helps to give my brain a chance to “reset” and helps me avoid becoming too stressed and overworked.

Again, these are just some tricks/methods I’ve used to keep organized and on top of all of my work as a student and thought I’d share. While most of these work for most people, it really does depend on your personal study/organizational habits, so what works for me might not work for you.


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