From Lazy to Organized

From Lazy to Organized

By Tasha

If there's one thing that unites us as a species, it's our inability to manage our time properly. Today, Tasha has some tips for a high schooler who's stressed about his studying habits.

I'm currently a Grade 11 student. To be honest, I've been been lazy the last couple years in grade 9 and 10 and I find it extremely difficult to properly manage my time now.  I've tried reading self help books but they don't seem to connect to me; I try their way for a bit but I always find that I'm sinking back into my old habits. Are there any tips that would help me better manage my time and become a better student in general?

Thanks for submitting this question—I think it's one lots of students can relate to. I applaud you for realizing that you have trouble managing your time—and for trying to correct your behavior.

First of all, if you don’t already have a day planner/schedule, I would encourage you to get one. Make sure that you buy a planner with lots of space for each day. Some people prefer PDAs, but I’ve always found paper planners to be easier to correct and update. It's nice to see your semester laid out in front of you, instead of scrolling through screens—and there's something satisfying about crossing an item off your list using a pen. You just don't get the same thrill with an iPhone.

The important thing is that you use this planner to help you stay organized. Here's how to do it.

1. Mark all upcoming test, quizzes, and presentations. It's a good idea to put all these important dates in your planner as soon as you know them. You could also (and I am a big fan of this) write in reminders weeks beforehand so the test never catches you by surprise.

2. Block off your time. When I was in college, I liked to make a sort of Study To-Do List. Each morning, I would write a list of the material I needed to study in that day's space. Next to each item in the list, I wrote out the minimum amount of time I needed to allow for each subject. For example, if I had no pressing exams or quizzes coming up in French class, I would write something like French: 20 minutes of review, whereas if I saw in my planner that I had a test in British Lit the following week, I would write something like Read/ Review Brit Lit: One hour. These are some examples. Once you get in the habit of using a planner, you will soon see what works for you.

3. Keep track of grades. I think it's very useful to log grades in your planner. By keeping track of your scores—and, ideally, of the amount of time spent preparing for exams—you can see if your approach in each class is working. Also, if you notice that your Algebra test scores are putting you on the border between a C grade and a B, you can be sure to dedicate more time to preparing for the next exam.

4. Highlight, cross out, Post-It. Figure out a color-coded system that works for you. Maybe you cross off completed tasks in green ink, or highlight any math-related tasks in orange. Try to take pleasure in the visual look of your planner, and in the satisfaction of crossing items off your to-do list!

Try this approach, at least for a little while—you may get into the habit and find that logging this information becomes second nature.

Mapping out study time and noting important dates will prove extremely useful if you plan on applying to college. Not only will your grades improve, but you’ll be better able to pace yourself and take a steadier approach to preparing for exams than students who try to cram the night before, which is an essential skill in college.

Cramming for exams is not how you want to approach test-taking. Sure, cramming a little the night before a big test is OK once in awhile, but studying the material throughout the semester is far better because you are constantly familiarizing yourself with the information—and the material sinks in. I’m not necessarily talking about hours upon hours of studying every night. A basic review of material (20 to 30 minutes) could involve anything from glancing back over last week’s Political Science notes to creating some Spanish flashcards to review for an exam coming up next week. You should be engaging with the material. When you cram for a test, you are usually stressed and anxious and always exhausted the next day—the day of the test! Lots of students try to do too much in not enough time, and the test scores usually reflect that unprepared, superficial understanding of the subject. Scheduling study time on paper can help you beat the temptation to procrastinate and then cram. I hope this advice helps!

How do you manage your time?

Got a question for Tasha? Send it to advice@sparknotes.com.

Topics: organization, studying

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