After any type of break, many students scramble to get back into the swing of studying and homework. Here are a few simple tips for organization that can help you make an effective study schedule.
Know when and where to study
One of the easiest ways to get yourself organized is to use a planner. It can help you visualize how much homework you have every day and keep track of your after-school activities. A planner can take various forms: an app, a sticky note with to-do’s on it, a formal planner, a journal, or a calendar. The important thing is finding something that works for you. Use your planner to set aside time every day for when and where you’ll study. Make a schedule and stick to it. Procrastination is tempting, but it will only lead to more stress in the end.
The specific time to study will differ from person to person. I like to get everything done as early as possible, but I have friends who work best late at night. Most people need their sleep and few people are actually able to craft their best-quality work at 2:00 am. If you find yourself choosing to work late at night, assess the quality of work you’re producing. Are you getting the best grades you can on tests and projects? If the answer is yes, continue studying like this. If the answer is no, you may need to make some changes.
Is working on a big project conflicting with a club or team practice? Were you planning on hanging out with friends before you realized you had a big test coming up? Making the choice to get the homework done is one that will help you later in life. Coaches and friends should always understand the importance of school work.
Create a focused studying environment
Once you’ve decided when and where to study, make sure your studying is focused and worthwhile. This means not watching television or surfing social media after every math problem. Staying focused also means not jumping up every five minutes to do other work or grab food.
Before you start studying, get together whatever food or drinks you need and place them in your study area. Work in time blocks on each task. I find it helpful to sort out my homework by how soon it needs to be turned in. Get the immediate projects done first in 30-minute- to hour-long chunks. Depending on how much more time you have to work on an assignment, adjust the order and how much time you spend on it. Consider if you have time to work on the project in the following week. Take a five- to 10-minute break every hour. Studying for too long with no break in between can cause you to lose focus.
Related: 5 Study Smart Tips for All Students
Are you studying for hours and still not doing well on tests? The way you’re studying is most likely the culprit. You should never only study the night before the test. The people who claim to do this and get top grades are either lucky or lying.
Spread out your studying, and think about the way you study. This should change depending on the subject. Figure out what works for you and stick to that method. If you like flashcards or being quizzed, use Quizlet. If you study from notes, try different types of notetaking. Try the T notes method: draw a line down the middle of your paper—on one side, write in-class notes, then questions and ideas on the other. You can also try the Cornell method, which sections your paper into three parts. One vertical line one-third of the way into the paper creates a large section for in-class notes to the right and a smaller section for questions and ideas to the left. A horizontal line about three-quarters of the way down the paper creates a section for summary after you review.
The general idea of these formats is to force you to review your notes several times and really think about them. I prefer to use my own natural note-taking format, but I always review my notes several times to jot down new ideas and reinforce old ones. If your issue is not being able to jot down everything in class, study with a classmate. You can compare notes and quiz each other on important ideas. You can also get their perspective on the material and answer questions for each other.
Have an organization system
Studying is impossible if you lose all your papers from a lack of organization. Use a binder, organizer, or folders to hold your notes. I like to have a folder for each class where I keep important papers and a main folder for homework that needs to be done that night and papers I need to turn in the next day. This goes for your computer as well. Create folders for each class so you can keep track of your assignments.
Find more study tips in our Majors and Academics section.