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5 Organizational Tips for Academic Success


Teenage girl taking notes and doing homework.

Image caption: Teenage girl taking notes and doing homework.

Happy Get Organized Day! Each year on April 26, this national holiday challenges individuals to declutter their minds and spaces to increase their mental health, quality of life, productivity, and relaxation. 

Organization is especially beneficial for teenagers.  Staying organized can allow you to live a stress-free life and cope with the many changes of high school. Mastering these skills now will also benefit you far into your professional career and personal life. 

However, being organized is a habit formed through practice and repetition. Keep reading for five ways to practice and achieve organization in your life! 

Establish a Routine 

The first key to living an organized life is establishing a routine. Simply put, a routine is a habit or sequence of events that don't typically vary from day-to-day. A good daily routine makes you feel safe and secure amidst life changes and helps you manage the demands of school, family, friends, work, and leisure. 

Routines should be broken into parts of the day, such as morning, school (or workday), and nighttime routine. A daily routine should also include regular sleep, exercise, focus time, free time, and consider your personal and professional goals. The best routine is one that you enjoy and works for you and your schedule! 

Once you’ve established a productive routine, it’s a good idea to write it down and visualize it. Visualizing it daily will help you to familiarize yourself with it, and slowly, it will become second nature. 

Purchase a Calendar or Organizer 

One of the best ways to stay organized is by writing everything down in a physical planner or organizer. Although typing your due dates and assignments on your phone or laptop may seem faster and easier, studies show your brain and memory benefit more from the physical act of writing.  

According to Forbes, physically writing down information is beneficial due to the encoding process of our brains. Encoding is the biological process where we analyze the things we perceive and decide what to store in our brain's long-term memory and what to discard. The physical act of writing improves the encoding process, resulting in a greater chance of remembering written information. 

In addition to better remembering information, using a planner helps keep track of assignments and tasks, increases productivity, reduces stress, and promotes planning and good study habits.  

Planners come in various formats like daily, weekly and monthly and vary based on your personal and professional needs. Click here to browse CNN’s list of top student planners and see which is the best fit for you!  

Improve Your Notetaking 

As we mentioned in the last section, writing things down enables you to remember them better, a skill especially helpful for taking notes in class. There are many ways to take notes, and finding the one that works best for you is key to mastering this skill. Some of the most common notetaking methods include: 

  1. The Cornell MethodDivide your notebook vertically with one large section and one smaller section. During class, write down as many notes as you can in the large section, skipping a few lines each time a new topic is introduced. After class, review your notes and write down a cue word for each section of information. When studying, cover the larger section and practice recalling information based off of the cue words.  
  2. The Outlining MethodIn this method, the most basic information begins on the left of your paper by the margins and transitions to more specific information indented to the right on the following lines. The relationship between different topics and subtopics is carried out through indenting.  
  3. The Mapping MethodMapping is a visual representation that relates each fact or idea to every other fact or idea. A general topic is placed in the middle of your notebook with subtopics branching off of each other.  

These are only three popular methods of notetaking out of hundreds. As you practice taking notes, you’ll begin to settle into a method that works best for you and your learning preferences!


Divide and Conquer 

Another great way to stay organized, motivated and focused is by breaking up large tasks. Trying to tackle hefty tasks like an essay or project all at once can seem overwhelming and result in procrastination. It’s smart to break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. 

For example, if you’re writing an essay, you could break the assignment down into these smaller parts: 

  • Research soures for essay
  • Write outline
  • Write thesis statement
  • Write sections 1, 2, 3, etc.
  • Cite sources
  • Proofread
  • Submit assignment

Breaking down tasks also helps when you have a long reading assignment. Instead of sitting down to read 30 pages of text at once, you can divide readings over a number of days to read 10 pages a day for 3 days or 5 pages a day for 6 days. 

Set Goals for Yourself  

Setting goals is a major way to stay organized and achieve your dreams. Goals provide long-term vision and short-term motivation and help you manage your time and resources. They can be either long-term or short-term, but no matter the timeline of the goals, you should always make sure they’re SMART, specific, measurable, achievable, measurable, and time bound.  

  • Specific: A goal needs to be clear and specific to be effective
  • Measurable: A goals should be quantified to track your progress and stay focused
  • Achievable: A goal should be realistic and attainable
  • Relevant: A goal should matter to you and align with other goals in your life
  • Time bound: A goal should have a deadline to work towards

By setting SMART goals, you can measure and take pride in your accomplishments and see progress in areas of your life you may have previously struggled with. You’ll also increase your self-confidence as you continue to complete and achieve the goals you’ve set.  

If you find that you’re still having trouble with organization, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted resource in your life. Your parents, guardians, teachers, administrators, or friends can give you further tips and help coach you to organizational success! 

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