Learning how to focus and get something done is about more than just good grades — it’s the foundation for success in life. Mastering the skills of getting organized, staying focused, and seeing work through to the end will help in just about everything you do.
Organization is the first step. It makes everything else a little easier.
Keep your assignments and class information together in binders, notebooks, or folders that are organized by subject. You might want to set up a file drawer at home to keep track of research, returned assignments, and other things you want to hold on to.
If you find yourself stuffing loose papers in your bag or grabbing different notebooks for the same class just because they’re close at hand, it’s time to stop and regroup. Take an evening to get things organized again.
Maybe you can’t carry different spiral-bounds for every class. One solution is to carry a binder that has separate sections. Another idea is to take notes in one notebook and at the end of each day rewrite them in a separate binder. This takes more time, but it is a great study skill because it allows you to read, write, and hopefully summarize all that was important during the school day. The more you review material, the more likely you are to remember it.
Whatever you choose, your system has to work for you. If it doesn’t, change it until you find what does. It’s a great way to learn about yourself and what works for your unique needs.
Most likely, you’re on your own when it comes to progress and work on assignments. It can feel great to be your own boss, especially if you’re a good one. Don’t leave things until the last minute, though — you’ll only end up working twice as hard to do half as well. Nerves and anxiety make it hard to stay focused and do a good job.
Set deadlines. At the beginning of each semester, make a calendar of due dates. Be sure you know what the main assignments are (if the teacher doesn’t mention them at the start of the semester, ask) and what format they will take (a report, presentation, group project, etc.). Set clear goals. Keep these questions in mind when organizing your calendar: What’s the final product? When do certain components need to be completed? Answering these questions allows you to prioritize assignments by due dates, level of difficulty, and completion time.
Include nonacademic commitments on your calendar, such as team practices, drama rehearsals, etc. This will help you see when things might hit crunch time later in the semester.
Give yourself mini-deadlines for the stages of each project — planning, research, drafting, revising, and creating a final product.
Meet deadlines. Decide how you’ll enforce your deadlines. For example, will you reward yourself for meeting them? Ask your friends or parents to check in with you about your mini-deadlines so that you don’t put them off. (Watch out if you ask parents to help, though. When they do, remember that they’re not nagging you — you asked them to check in!)
If you have difficulty meeting deadlines but are attempting to improve your study skills and organization, talk with your teacher. He or she can help you to create reasonable short-term goals for a particular project or test.
Oh, no! That’s due in 2 days! If something slips by and you find yourself surprised by a due date or stuck with very little turnaround time, try not to freak out. Do a breathing exercise to feel calm and focused. Then outline an approach to tackling the work. You can make an hourly or daily calendar of deadlines if that helps you structure your time.
If you’re a perfectionist, it helps to remember that everyone can lose track of something once in a while. If this happens a lot, though, you need to get more organized.
Set Your Space
You need a good workspace — someplace clean and orderly and quiet enough to focus. (If you can, avoid trying to study in places that are the center of activity, like the kitchen.) It helps to have a specific place that’s set aside for homework so that when you sit down, your mind knows you’re there to work and can help you focus more quickly.
Your bedroom, a study, or any other room where you can get away from noise and distractions is an ideal place to focus. It’s best to study at a desk or table where you can spread your work out. You’ll also need a chair that’s comfortable: It should support your lower back and allow you to keep both feet on the floor in front of you. To make studying less of a strain on your eyes, be sure you have enough light.
Finally, make sure the room you’re in is comfortable. This sounds basic, but if you’re too hot, too cold, or distracted by your pet hamster spinning on his wheel, you won’t be able to concentrate as effectively.
Have resources handy. What do you need in your work area in order to avoid interruptions? Books, supplies, notes, research sources? Keep these in one place so you don’t have to go off in search of printer paper, a stapler, or a book you know you just saw around here somewhere.
Be sure you have what you need before you head to the library or elsewhere to work on projects and papers. And each night, check that you’ve packed everything you need for class the next day — including assignments to turn in.
Provided by Teens Health.
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