how to stay organized

Get Organized: 5 Tips to Achieve and Maximize Success

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Junior year is often hailed as the paragon of busy-ness; everything from school to extracurriculars tends to ramp up. With a busy schedule involving sports, music practice, AP classes, journalism, and more, I had to find a way to keep everything under control. With a lot of experimentation, I came up with the things that work best for me.

Below are the ways I stay organized and motivated during the school year. A lot of these are applicable to everyone and I highly recommend you either adapt them or find ways to modify them to better suit you.

1. Write everything down

This may seem really obvious, but you would be amazed at the amount of people that try to keep track of everything they need to do in their head. Save that brainpower for homework and write down everything you need to to do! I like using the Stickies application on my computer because I do most of my homework on my computer, and I also write in my planner. You can either hand-write or type what you need to do, but hand-writing it will help ingrain it into your brain.

2. Prioritize and categorize

For everything you write down, prioritize it by when it’s due and categorize it by the difficulty of the task as well as how long it will take. This is a really easy way of gauging what order to do activities in. I like staggering long and short tasks and also staggering easy and difficult tasks so that I don’t get tired as easily.

3. Take breaks

Some people tend to forget to take breaks; luckily, I love taking breaks so I always make sure to take a lot. You can vary how you take breaks. I like to take a lot of short breaks, but some people like to take only a few breaks but enjoy longer breaks. Breaks help you reset so you can stay focused for longer instead of getting tired. A break is also a great source of motivation. If I tell myself I get a break after finishing a particular task, I’m more likely to get the task done faster. During a break, remember to not just surf Instagram — get up, stretch, drink water, eat a snack, go outside, pet your dog, say hi to your family, or do anything that gets you moving and engaged!

4. Schedule in the things you don’t think about

The issue with trying to write a schedule for each day with timings for activities is that it doesn’t take into account things like sports practice running late, getting stuck in traffic, etc. For that reason, I don’t put specific timings on my activities, but you can if it helps you. Additionally, a lot of people only schedule academic activities. It’s important to schedule in things like time with family, hanging out with friends, exercising, and other things that are necessary to maintain mental and physical health. I like to combine categories — for example, I like to schedule in workout sessions with friends — because I usually have limited time. I also like to put fun activities into my planner to keep myself excited and motivated.

5. Find ways to hold yourself accountable

It’s really easy to take a much longer break than anticipated, get distracted taking one too many Buzzfeed quizzes, or fall down a Facebook rabbit hole. I do it all the time too. To minimize this and to maximize productivity, I find people and techniques to keep myself accountable. Some of my strategies include studying with friends, face-timing a friend while I do work, putting my phone out of physical reach while doing work, or studying next to a parent so that I won’t get distracted on the internet. You can even download apps that will block you from accessing certain websites (like Youtube) for a specific period of time.

With these tips, it’s easier for me to stay organized and motivated, and hopefully they will help you too. If you try any of these, let me know in the comments below if they worked for you. I’d also love to hear any of your own tips!