New Year's Resolutions: Get Organized for School

picture of centennial college students preparing for the winter semester during thier holiday break

It’s almost the start of a new year, and the time-honoured tradition of the time is to make a New Year’s Resolution, pledging something you’re going to accomplish in the coming year. If you’re a student, a common one is “do better in school.” How did last semester go? If the answer is “not well,” it’s not too late to turn things around, and even if you did well, there’s always room for improvement. Your winter break is the perfect time to come up with a “plan of attack” for next semester. While every person’s methods are different, here are few common suggestions, mixed in with things from my own personal experience.

Get the tools of the trade

Don’t get too caught up in buying things to help you stay organized at school. It’s what you do that helps, rather than what you have. That being said, there’s a few simple items no student should be without. The most important one is some kind of a planner. It can be physical, or digital. I use the calendar on my laptop. The important thing is to actually make use of it. Sarah Laughed lays it out: Write down every assignment, every class, and every due date in a single, easy-to-find place, so you always know what’s on your plate, and can plan for it.

Another important thing to bring with you? A USB stick. They’re cheap, easy to carry around, and can save your assignment. As Simply Sinova says, they’re good for printing assignments, and work as insurance in case your laptop, or the school computer you’re using dies. Emailing things to yourself isn’t always an option, and it’s good to be prepared for when the internet or your computer gives up the ghost.

Give yourself some time

It’s a commonly-cited bit of wisdom that you shouldn’t do assignments the night before, and should be aiming to get them completed early, but no one ever talks about why, aside from how doing them last minute will result in a weaker product. The actual reason I’d finish things early is for what I call “mess-up time.” No matter how well you plan things, something’s going to go wrong. Maybe your computer will run out of power, or you’ll realize you forgot an aspect of the assignment, or it takes longer than you think. When things go wrong, you’ll be thankful you have a few more days to work the problems out. That’s mess-up time, and you’ll be glad you left yourself some. So when you’re using your planner to chart assignments out, make a point of having them finished a few days before they’re due.

Decide on a work space

It’s important that you decide on a workspace to study and complete assignments. It doesn’t have to be clean and organized, but it does have to be a place where you can get work done. Some people can work in their house, but a lot of people can’t, as Sarah Laughed points out, with games, a television and a bed nearby. When I was in school, I’d deliberately go to the college library and find a cubicle to work, since I wasn’t at home, and there wasn’t nearly as much to distract me, and I’d avoid going home between classes, since, as The Prospect says, if you’re going home, it’s not to get work done. What’s important is to know your own mindset and what distracts you, and plan around it.

Do a post-mortem, and plan for the future

To move forward, you need to look backwards, which is what a “post-mortem” is all about. If you haven’t heard the term, it refers to a meeting held after a project is concluded when you figure out what worked and what didn’t, and come up with a plan for next time. So, now that you’re on break, take an honest look at how the semester went. What went well? And, more honestly, what didn’t go well? There’s always something that’s a problem, so you need to find what it is. Everyone’s situation is unique, and to ensure your own success, being honest about what you need is, perhaps, more important than anything else on this list.

By Anthony Geremia

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