Organization: Willpower, Patience, and Active Evaluation

By: Carys Brown

An aunt might say, “Starting school? My advice is to stay organized.”

“And not just your locker!” adds an uncle. “Every space, physical and digital, should be organized.”

Being organized sounds daunting, but a good place to start is with your backpack (or other bookbag), everything in it, a block of time, and some floor space. Spread out the contents of your backpack. Group together the related objects, such as your notebooks and textbooks – those are both academic, right? Try to make the number of groups equal to or less than the number of pockets in your backpack. The tiny front packet might hold your phone and orthodontic accessories, while the biggest pocket would be best suited for your school books. Make sure to keep related notebooks and folders together, so that you can quickly grab everything you need for math without rifling through all your other subjects.

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This method can be used for other to-be-organized spaces, even files on a computer. Regarding out of sight objects, such as those in a drawer, it is a good idea to label that space, so that you remember where everything is. Regarding your locker, books that are stored upright are easier to grab quickly than books that are stacked on top of each other. Storing books upright also makes it harder to simply toss everything else on top of them, which acts as a built-in clutter-reduction system.

A planner is also a vital part of academic organization. Some people choose to use a small notebook, while others choose to use a planner bought from a store that already has dates marked down. Inside the planner, one option is to write down what is due under the date or heading, and another is to write a to-do list.

Starting is important, but that doesn’t mean upkeep is trivial. In fact, upkeep is the only way to stay organized! Keep things consistent. If you put your phone in the side pocket of your backpack one day, the front pocket the next day, and your pants pocket the third day, you will have a hard time finding it the fourth day! It may seem harmless to place something where it shouldn’t be, but this can easily become a habit and lead to a mess. Especially at the beginning, it is important to form good habits that will help guide you back to organization should the need arise.

Once you have a system, tweak it whenever needed. This helps keep it working, even as needs change. If your system is completely and utterly useless and small adjustments don’t help, it is probably a good idea to find a temporary fix to use until the next weekend or break (schedule this!), when you can completely redo your system. Think about what works and what doesn’t; create your new system accordingly.

Organization takes willpower and patience, not to mention active evaluation, but it really does improve grades. That aunt and uncle who recommended organization were right. They just didn’t know how inconsequential their statements were: simply saying “organization,” without some more instruction, doesn’t help.