Last time, we wrote about becoming more productive by organizing your things and your work space. Today, we’ll focus on your school work and your time (perhaps the most important element of your life to organize).
Organize your schoolwork:
How you take notes can influence your academic performance. Always date your notes and include a title that indicates the main subject or idea that is recorded in your notes. Also, always take the time to review your notes every night before you complete your homework, and again before each class. That way, you have reviewed what you covered the previous day and will have a better understanding of how the things you cover in today’s class relate to what you covered yesterday. This strategy also improves retention of subjects, ideas, and events discussed in class and will place you in a better position when it comes time to review your notes in preparation for an exam.
The Cornell Note-Taking System is an extremely popular way of taking notes and is very easy to employ! Begin by dividing your note-taking paper into two columns, where one column uses a ¼ of the paper, and the second column uses up ¾ of the paper.
The column on the left will be your cue-column where you can write questions, and write keywords of subjects, topics, or events discussed in class. Writing questions and keywords of topics discussed in class will help to clarify information, strengthen your memory, and can serve as the beginning of a good study document.
The column on your right will be reserved for taking down all your notes during class. After each class, summarize all of the main ideas that appear in your notes at the bottom of each page. You can review this summary before the beginning of your class to help you remember what you covered in class on the previous day.
Organize your time:
Here are two concepts to focus on as you consider how to better organize your time to perform better in school: a) use a planner and b) use to-do lists.
It is important to keep a planner with you at all times during school to record homework assignments, and projects, as well as due dates for homework assignments, projects, events, and other important affairs. Having a planner will help you to prioritize homework assignments and will prevent you from forgetting about important assignments and projects.
Make sure to always record any assigned homework and projects at the end of each class. If you don’t receive any homework assignments for a class, always document that you didn’t receive homework. This will help you to keep track of what’s due for each class.
Related to using a planner is the concept of using and “working” to-do lists. This is something i learned a lot about in reading the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. In the book, Allen notes that a student or working professional can reduce errors, mistakes, and perhaps most importantly, stress, by taking things out of his or her head and putting it on paper. When somebody asks something of you and you agree to help, try to get in the habit of putting it on a list, not just storing it away in your head.
So, in your planner, assignments for any given class should be written down in the appropriate area for that class. But separately, we recommend creating a series of to-do lists that operate across all of your classes, and in fact might include things you have to do for extra curricular activities as well.
The first to-do list would be a “Daily” to-do list. This is a list of things you are going to accomplish on this very day. At the end of any given day, you create your list for the next day, and you might add to it throughout the day. It should have between 5-10 items on it, and you’ll feel great when you cross them off. If something doesn’t get done on Monday, it just needs to show up again on Tuesday.
The next list you could create every Sunday evening, and it’s a slightly different list of things you’d like to accomplish that week. On any given day, one of those things, or some “sub-task” associated with one of those things, might be listed on a “Daily” to-do list. Finally, you’d create a “Monthly” to-do list with long term, major things you need to get done in any given month.
Here are some examples of three to-do list items that work together to support performing well in a math class:
- A monthly to-do list item might be to “spend 10 hours preparing for my math final”
- A weekly to-do list item might be to “spend one hour putting together a study plan for my math final”
- A daily to-do list item might be to “spend 1 hour reviewing old math quizzes”
Hopefully, you found these ideas helpful. Trust us, organization skills can EASILY be the difference between an A student and a B student. It’s up to you to design your own system for staying organized.