20 Simple Tips for Being an Organised and Successful Student

Student life can be very busy. Between school, homework, assignments, extracurricular activities and personal engagements, trying to stay on top of it all can quickly become a scheduling nightmare.

Not being organised can often lead to a lot of stress and anxiety. You might end up working late and sleeping less to try to catch up which isn’t a good habit.

Getting organised for school is all about developing good habits and systems.

These 20 tips are sure to help you become more organised, productive and effective – leading to a successful academic career.

  1. Develop a routine

Consistency is the key to student success, so write down your general weekly schedule and create a routine. Include things like when you’ll do your homework, when you’ll review the things you’ve learned, when you’ll exercise, and so on. It’s not possible to stick to a routine 100% of the time, but at least set up the framework to keep you focused and on track.

  1. Write everything down

No one has perfect memory and trying to remember everything is stressful. Make a habit of writing down all your events, meetings, ideas, and things you need to do.
Use a notebook or planner, or try an app like Google Keep or Any.do that you can use on your phone and computer.
When you write everything down, you’ll be less anxious because you won’t be relying on your brain as a storage device.

  1. Work on one task at a time – Don’t Multitask!

Multitasking seems like a good idea because you can pretend that you’re working twice as hard. We all get bored of the tasks we’re working on, so jumping about seems more fun. The problem is that it doesn’t result in the best outcomes.
Do this instead: Take a scrap piece of paper and write down the task you’re working on right now, e.g. Math assignment, questions 1 to 5. Put that scrap piece of paper on your study table, to serve as a reminder for you to stay focused on the task at hand.

  1. Use the following websites and apps

Test out the following websites and apps to make studying fun, keep you organised, and remove distractions.

  • Habitica
    Habitica is an app that turns your goals into a fun game. It makes it more likely that you’ll stick to your goals and enjoy the process too.
  • MyStudyLife
    This app replaces a planner and helps you organise your schedule, tasks and exam preparation. It also sends you reminders of upcoming events.
  • KeepMeOut
    This is an online tool that prevents you from visiting distracting websites too often. It will help you concentrate while you’re working.
  1. Use a planner

Put everything in your planner: homework, test and exam dates, family events, social events, etc. This way, you’ll be far more organised.
Consider putting the planner on your desk once you get to class and leave it there throughout the school day. This makes it more likely that you’ll use it because it’s right in front of you.
If you leave your planner in your backpack, you may feel like it’s too troublesome to take it out to use.
If you’re allowed to use your phone or computer in class, then you can use Google Calendar, Google Keep, or MyStudyLife instead of a hard copy planner.

  1. Declutter once a week

At the end of each week, look through all the papers, notes, brochures, and other things you’ve accumulated. Recycle or throw away all the things you don’t need.
Clutter attracts clutter – if you declutter once a week, you’ll be more likely to stay organised in general. You’ll also find it easier to stay focused.

  1. Keep one notebook and one binder for each subject

Take all your notes for one subject in one notebook. When you run out of space, start a new notebook. Label each notebook clearly, e.g. Maths Notebook 1, Maths Notebook 2 etc.
This will make it easy for you to find the information you need in the future.
Make a habit of keeping one binder for each subject and filing your assignments and printed notes according to type. File all your assignments together in sequential order, followed by your printed notes, which should also be filed together in sequential order.

  1. Do five minutes of daily planning each day

Before you start doing your homework or studying for a test, look at your planner first. Take note of all upcoming deadlines and think about your schedule for the rest of the day. Then you can decide what specific tasks to work on for the day. Doing daily planning will ensure that you’re always working on the most important tasks, and that you don’t leave anything out.

  1. Learn to say no

If you want to be an organised, effective student, you can’t say yes to everything – there will always be trade-offs you’ll need to make.
Decide on the boundaries you want to set for yourself. Decide how many times you’ll go out with your friends each week, how many days each week you’ll devote to extracurricular activities, and what your priorities are.
Practise saying no to protect these boundaries. And don’t feel guilty when you say no! Remember, it’s not about being a busy student; it’s about being an effective student.

  1. Block out time in your schedule for the things that matter most

Blocking out time in your schedule is critical. If you don’t do this, other things which are less important will fill your schedule.
In your calendar or planner, block out time for things like family events, religious activities, volunteering, and studying.
Honour these commitments and stick to your schedule as much as possible.

  1. Break down big tasks into smaller tasks

Breaking down big tasks and projects makes them seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Doing this also makes it clearer what your specific next step or task is, so you’ll be less likely to procrastinate.

Here’s an example. Rather than telling yourself that you need to work on your history essay, break it down into smaller tasks like:

  • Read 10 articles on the topic for research
  • Write outline
  • Write introduction
  • Write main point #1
  • Write main point #2
  • Write main point #3
  • Write conclusion
  • Proofread the essay
  • Adjust the formatting, layout, etc. of the essay
  • Submit essay
  1. If a task takes two minutes or less to do, do it immediately

The “two-minute rule” was popularised by productivity expert David Allen. When you follow this rule, small tasks don’t pile up and become overwhelming.
Things like texting a friend, sending your classmate some information via email, or asking your parents to sign a consent form are all quick tasks that take less than two minutes to complete.
When you do these tasks immediately, you’ll feel a sense of achievement too.

  1. Create a conducive environment at home for studying

If you want to be an effective student, you need to have the right environment to work. You need all the necessary materials, stationery, paper and study tools. You also need a suitable table and lamp.
And if you want to be productive, you definitely should not study on your bed!

  1. Before you start work, eliminate all distractions

Take a moment and think about the distractions you typically face when you’re trying to study. Common ones include text messages, notifications on your phone, social media, YouTube, books, and magazines.
Remove these distractions before you get to work. Put your phone in another room, turn off the Internet access on your computer and put the books and magazines at the other end of the room.

  1. Use a stopwatch or timer

When you want to be productive, use a timer to help you focus. Using a timer adds a sense of urgency.
Try working in blocks of 30 to 40 minutes, followed by a short break. If you’re up for it, set a timer for your breaks too, so that you don’t take a 45-minute break when you only intended to take a 10-minute break.

  1. Double-check that you’ve completed all the homework that’s due the next day

Set a recurring reminder so that you’ll do this every school day in the mid-afternoon.
This will prevent you from scrambling at the last minute or pulling an all-nighter just to get the assignment done.

  1. Every day, review all the new information you learned in school earlier that day

A quick review of the key concepts should only take you about 20 minutes. Doing this helps to ensure understanding, so you stay on top of the material.
If you really can’t do this review on the same day, do it the following day while the information is still fresh in your mind.

  1. Keep an ongoing list of the questions you have about the class material

As you read your notes and the textbook, keep a list of the things you don’t understand and the questions you have. As soon as you’re able to, ask your teachers or tutor about the items on your list.
If you do this consistently, you won’t need to spend so much time studying for tests and exams, because you already understand the information.

  1. Every school night, pack your backpack for the following day

This way, you won’t have to scramble in the morning to pack. Set a reminder on your phone or put a Post-It note on your desk to ensure that you do this every school night.
Create a checklist for the things you need to remember to bring to school and put the checklist somewhere accessible.

  1. Wake up a little bit earlier each morning so you don’t have to rush

For most students, waking up 5 to 10 minutes earlier is enough to avoid the unnecessary stress of rushing in the morning.
When you rush, you often forget things – which means that your day doesn’t start well. So go to bed early, get at least eight hours of sleep every night, and set your alarm so you wake up a bit earlier.
Put the alarm clock at the other end of the room, so you won’t be tempted to hit the snooze button!

This article is quite detailed and may leave you feeling overwhelmed, especially if you’re not already an organised student.

  • Take it one step at a time.
  • Start by identifying which areas you need to work on, and then prioritise them.
  • Adopt one new habit in the coming week. Once you’re comfortable with that habit, adopt one more.
  • Review this article periodically. Each time you do, identify another area to work on.

Remember that no one is perfect!
Your journey as a student – and in life, too – is always about progress, not perfection.

Start making progress toward becoming an organised and focused student today!

BONUS: Download a free PDF summary of this article. The PDF contains all the tips found here, plus 5 exclusive bonus tips that you’ll only find in the PDF.