This article was co-authored by Ashley Pritchard, MA and by wikiHow staff writer, Amy Bobinger. Ashley Pritchard is an Academic and School Counselor at Delaware Valley Regional High School in Frenchtown, New Jersey. Ashley has over 3 years of high school, college, and career counseling experience. She has an MA in School Counseling with a specialization in Mental Health from Caldwell University and is certified as an Independent Education Consultant through the University of California, Irvine.
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It can be really frustrating to feel like you're always forgetting your homework or losing your pencils, but you might not realize how much it's affecting your school performance. Fortunately, those problems can usually be fixed by a little organization. When you keep your work area, schedule, and even class notes organized, you'll almost certainly find that it's easier to keep up with your schoolwork, and you might even see an improvement in your grades!
Method 1Method 1 of 4:Assignments Download Article
- 1Create a binder with a separate section for each class. Even if you do a lot of your schoolwork online, you'll still have things like worksheets and handouts to keep track of.
- Try putting color-coded pocket folders inside the binder to keep track of papers that don't have holes punched in them. For instance, you might use a blue divider, folder, and notebook for math.
- Any time you get a piece of paper for class, put it in your binder right away. That will help keep you from having a lot of loose, crinkled paper to sort through at the end of each day.
- Figure out the organization method that works for you—you might want to have a section in your binder for graded papers and one for assignments that are ready to turn in, for instance.XResearch source
- 2Organize your digital files into folders. Just like you need to organize your physical papers for class, it's also important to keep your digital files sorted. Any time you save a document, whether it's a draft of a paper or a worksheet that you downloaded, make sure to save it to a folder for that specific class. You can even use sub-folders to separate different types of files for a single class.XResearch source
- For instance, you might have a parent folder labeled "Biology," then within that folder, you might include sub-folders like, "Class Notes" "Homework," "Research Paper," and "Handouts."
- Consider using a service like Google Drive or iCloud to store your files online (or on the cloud). That way, you won't lose your files if your computer crashes.
- 3Track all of your assignments in a planner to keep up with them. Keep a weekly planner so you don't forget to turn in any important assignments.
- If your notebooks and folders are color-coded, consider using the same color pens to write down your assignments. For instance, you might write all of your math assignments in blue and all of your English assignments in red.
- Include other activities in your planner as well. That way, it will be easy for you to see which days you'll be busiest, so you'll know how to plan your studying for each week.XResearch source
- 4Use an online planner if you prefer to keep up with things digitally. You can use the calendar app on your phone, tablet, or computer to keep up with assignments.XExpert SourceAshley Pritchard, MA
Academic & School CounselorExpert Interview. 4 November 2019. For instance, you might track everything in Google Calendar. You could also use apps like myHomework Student Planner, Trello, or Power Planner to help you manage assignments and to-do lists.XResearch source
- Your school might provide an online assignment manager that you can use, as well.
- When you're trying to decide between a paper or digital planner, think about which one you're likely to check the most often. For instance, if you already have a paper planner but you forget to look at it most days, you might do better with an app you can put on your phone.
- 5Set alarms on your phone to help you remember important deadlines. Even if you're using a paper or digital planner, sometimes a due date might still creep up on you without you realizing it. If there's anything really important you need to remember, set an alarm on your phone. Try to set it a little ahead of the actual deadline so you'll be reminded in time if you do forget.XResearch source
- For instance, if you have a big paper due for Lit class, you might set a reminder for 1 week before the due date so you won't forget to work on your final draft, as well as a reminder for the morning it's due so you don't forget to bring it to class.
- Your online planner may be able to notify you about your assignments, so check out the settings!
Method 2Method 2 of 4:Notes Download Article
- 1Start a new page of notes at the start of each class. Every day when you start class, take out a fresh sheet of paper. Write the date and the class at the top of the page, then set it aside while you listen to the teacher. Throughout the class, use that sheet to write down the important points your teacher mentions.XResearch source
- If your teacher mentions a new assignment, write the due date in your planner immediately.
- Writing the date on your paper will help you keep your notes organized, and it can be helpful if you're trying to recall something specific while you're studying.
- 2Jot down the important things your teacher talks about. Keep your notes simple and effective by writing down keywords and short sentences from the lesson. Don't try to write down everything your teacher says—just write down the main concepts, preferably in your own words.
- Try using a highlighter to call attention to anything you think is especially important.
- Rewriting things in your own words may help you learn, understand, and memorize the material better!
- 3Try the Cornell method for more organized notes. To follow the Cornell method, draw a horizontal line about 6 lines from the bottom of your lined paper. Then, draw a vertical line about 2 inches (5.1 cm) from the left side of the paper. This should create a total of 3 boxes. Use the left-hand vertical box to take down key points, and the right-hand larger box to take down general notes. After class, use the bottom horizontal box for review, clarification, and summary.XResearch source
- When you're studying for a test, first read the bottom horizontal box, and then go up to the other 2 boxes if you need more information.
- The Cornell note-taking method might be the right note-taking method for you if you're studying something like History that has a lot of key points and specific details.
- 4Practice the Mind Map note taking format. For Mind Mapping, you'll need a blank sheet of paper instead of lined paper. Mind Mapping uses bubbles to connect individual keywords to one another. The benefit of Mind Map note-taking is that you can easily see the relationship and connections between 2 ideas at a glance.XResearch source
- If you feel yourself often getting bored taking notes, try Mind Mapping since it's more creative!
- Mind Mapping can be effective for subjects like Literature, where 1 main subject (i.e. a book) has several important features (i.e. characters, themes, plot points, etc).
Method 3Method 3 of 4:Studying and Time Management Download Article
- 1Do your homework at the same time every day. Just like it's easier to get up in the morning when you wake up at the same time every day, it's easier to remember to study and do your homework if you have a set time for it. It might feel a little strange to have a set schedule at first, but if you stick to it for a few weeks, you'll find that it starts to come naturally.XResearch source
- As you're planning your schedule, think about when you tend to be most productive—are you full of energy after school, or do you prefer to have a little downtime when you get home, then do your homework after dinner?
- If you're learning remotely, think about the times of day you tend to work best and plan your difficult subjects for that time period. Save your easiest subjects for times when you might tend to drag a little more.
- 2Study in a quiet, distraction-free spot. Whether you're doing your homework after school or primarily learning online, you'll need a quiet, calm spot at home where you can focus on your schoolwork. Try to pick a spot that's out of the way, like a desk in your room. However, if that's not an option, let your family members know when you'll need some peace and quiet so they don't bother you while you're working.XResearch source
- It's a good idea to turn off notifications on your phone and tablet during your study time. That way, you won't be distracted by text messages or social media mentions.
- Some people study best in complete silence, but other people do better with a little background music or white noise. Experiment to find what works for you.
- If you start getting distracted while you're studying, get up and take a 10-15 minute break, then come back to your work.
- 3Work on large assignments a little at a time. Don't let big projects pile up on you—you'll feel anxious and rushed if you wait until the last minute, and your grade will likely suffer. Instead, start working on things like essays and art projects as soon as you know they're due. Break the project down into smaller, more manageable parts, and tackle a little at a time until the job is done.XResearch source
- For instance, if you have to write a 3-page paper in a week, you might schedule one day for doing research, one for filling out a detailed outline, one for writing a first draft, and two days for revisions. That will still leave you a couple of days of free time in case you fall behind or have other things you need to work on.
- Working a little bit each day on your project will help the workload feel smaller. It will also give you more time to relax at the end of the day.
- 4Review your notes from class every day. Even if you're busy working on homework and other projects, take a few minutes of your study time each day to go over the notes you took in class. That will help you retain what you learned, and it's a lot easier to study for a test a little at a time instead of trying to cram all at once.XResearch source
- This is a good time to rewrite your notes if they're a little messy.
- 5Get ready for the next day every night. Before you go to bed, check your planner and make sure you have all of the assignments and supplies for the next day of school. Put them in your backpack if you'll be taking them to school, and consider packing your lunch at night so you won't be rushed the next morning.XResearch source
- You can even lay out your outfit for the next day! That way, all you'll have to worry about in the morning is getting up, brushing your teeth, and eating breakfast.
- If there's anything important you need to remember for the next day, try putting a sticky note somewhere you'll be sure to see it, like on your bathroom mirror, lunchbox, or door.
Method 4Method 4 of 4:Supplies and Study Space Download Article
- 1Keep your school supplies in one place. If you're attending school in-person, use your backpack and locker to store your items, or keep them in your desk or stacked in a bin if you're learning remotely. In addition, use pencil cases or pouches to organize small things like pens, pencils, highlighters, glue, scissors, and calculators.XExpert SourceAshley Pritchard, MA
Academic & School CounselorExpert Interview. 4 November 2019.
- There is no "right" or "wrong" way to organize your supplies—the important thing is that you consistently put your things in the same place so you'll always know where they are.
- Try keeping your pens, pencils, and colored pencils in a pencil case, for instance, and keep your extra papers and notebooks in a desk drawer at home.
- Even if you want to rush out of class when the bell rings, it will be a lot easier to find your stuff later if you take a few seconds to put everything away neatly.
- 2Stock up any time you're running low on school supplies. A big part of being organized is being prepared. If you're running out of paper, pencils, or something else, make sure to buy more or ask your parents to buy you more. Put it in your pencil case or backpack as soon as you get it, so you don't forget it at home!XResearch source
- Being unprepared for class can not only distract you, but your classmates as well, especially if you have to ask them for supplies. It can also detract from your participation grade.
- 3Throw away anything you no longer need at the end of each day. Every day, take a few minutes to look through your school belongings, including your study area, backpack, locker, and binder. Toss out things like scrap paper, candy wrappers, dried-up pens, or anything else that's definitely trash. Keeping your study area tidy will make it easier to concentrate on your schoolwork.XResearch source
- Don't throw away old assignments and tests, even after they're graded—they might be helpful when you're trying to study for final exams.
- If you study in an area that's also used for other things, like your family's dining table, try keeping your papers and books stacked in a bin when you're not using them.
Community Q&A Did you know you can get expert answers for this article?Unlock expert answers by supporting wikiHow
- QuestionHow do you stay organized in high school?
- QuestionHow do you organize school notes?
- QuestionHow can I stay organized without a planner?
- Don't expect to become organized overnight! It takes time, so be patient with yourself and have confidence that it'll work out soon.
- You should clean out your backpack at least once a week or after school every day to get rid of trash or rubbish that you don't need in there.
Things You'll Need
- Pencil case
- Sticky notes
- Organization tools (storage bins, pencil holders, etc.)
- ↑Ashley Pritchard, MA. Academic & School Counselor. Expert Interview. 4 November 2019.
- ↑Ashley Pritchard, MA. Academic & School Counselor. Expert Interview. 4 November 2019.
About This Article
To be organized in school, start by setting up a different color binder for each class, like red for English and blue for math, and labeling dividers to keep notes, assignments, and tests in separate sections. Additionally, use a planner to write down things like homework assignments and club meeting dates, and check it every day to stay on track. You should also try to keep your backpack and locker clean and organized. For example, use caddies in your locker to keep things neat, or keep your pencil case in an outside backpack pocket for easy access. For more tips, like how to use the Cornell method to organize your class notes, read on!
Reader Success Stories
- "I think what helped me the most was the topic on the locker information, especially the idea to do a weekly clean! Also, what to put in your backpack, since I tend to personally put junk/random stuff in my bag! Lots of great ideas. I love your website!"..." more