Ready for September?

Being organised is boring, right? Getting ready for the new term, even more so. If you were getting exam results this summer, hopefully they will let you do what you were hoping for. (If not, take your time figuring out how to choose your next steps.) Assuming you’re going to be studying some more, this post can help you get things sorted quickly. Organisation ideas are first with a ‘shopping list’ at the end.

Being organised might not be very exciting but it’s better than getting behind with coursework, grief for not meeting deadlines or losing your notes so you can’t revise. The best kind of system is simple. There’s less to go wrong and it’s easier to stick to.

Your Aims

  • Have what you need each day at school/college.
  • Get assignments done by the deadline.
  • Keep up with long-term projects.
  • Avoid wasting time at home.

The best way to sort this out is to have three stages in your daily routine at home. Along with school/college life, they complete the cycle so nothing gets missed.

GTD cycle

Unpack bag and brain

As soon as possible after you get in, empty out your stuff. As each item comes out, stick a post-it note on it with the job that needs doing and the deadline, and stick it on the folder or book. This could be finish maths worksheet, research Versailles Treaty online or just review notes. If you’ve nothing to stick a note to, use a filecard instead. If you can, add a guess about how long it will take, and anything else that comes to mind that will help.

example task

Before putting each thing in the jobs pile you might want to fetch a relevant textbook from the shelf or whatever. The point is to set up the jobs for yourself while you remember, to make the next stage easier.

Ideally, have a break before you carry on. You might have sorted out your stuff while having a cup of tea; if not, now’s a good time. Kick a football around, catch up with friends online or cook dinner as a surprise for the folks. Just don’t leave the actual work too late in the evening. Some people prefer an hour’s break, some just a few minutes so they don’t get out of ‘study mode’.

Do what needs doing

Sit down and get the work done. Sounds simple – but it’s not quite that easy. Get rid of distractions as much as possible first. Then look through your pile of work, starting with the most urgent (nearest deadline). Set a timer according to your estimate. Then get on with it.

When it’s done, put it to one side for a final check and start the next piece of work. Many students find it best to alternate ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ work, or complete one favoured subject in between those you’re not so fond of. Just don’t leave all the hard, despised subjects for last. How long you work for will depend on your workload and how much you managed at the weekend. If you know the next few evenings are busy it might be a good idea to do some extra time now. This is not complicated.

Make sure work gets reviewed even if formal homework isn’t set. This makes eventual revision easier too. It’s worth saving anything you produce, which will be in two categories. Electronic stuff needs to be saved or bookmarked so you can find it again. Paper is the same; revision notes, mindmaps, practice Qs should probably be divided by subject and stored in some kind of folder. Obviously, if it’s in your book or handed in to a teacher this will have to happen some other way, but don’t be afraid to save draft copies for your own reference just in case.

Pack bag

Check your timetable and put in what you need. Check deadlines on your calendar, whether it’s on paper or electronic. Your teachers and parents will be frantic to tell you this should be done the night before. That’s because they know that if you leave it for the morning, it’s more likely to be rushed. The important thing is that checking and packing should be a routine, so things are less likely to be forgotten.

So are you ready?

Getting these routines going will make your life easier. They’ll mean work gets done, hopefully before deadlines, and you don’t lose stuff that matters too often. But you can’t really use them until September starts. What you can do is sort out the hardware.

  • Plenty of pens and pencils. Keep some for use just at home if you can.
  • Paper, including graph and plain if possible. Bookmark this link to printable graph paper for emergencies.
  • Post-it notes and index cards. You can get them cheap at pound shops or get pretty ones at Paperchase.
  • Folder with a space for each subject (see this example at Amazon)
  • Subject stuff – art pencils, calculator etc.

Please suggest improvements or your own ideas in the comments – and hope you manage to start back in a good frame of mind. At least until the homework assignments start piling up…

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