I have spent nearly half my life as a middle school teacher, decades as a therapist, and many years as a University professor and still find myself amazed as to how many of my “students” are not proficient at organizing themselves. Issues with executive functioning often impact organization and time management.
Some children develop good organizational skills on their own, however, most children need to be taught how to be organized in all facets of their lives.
To follow is over a dozen of the most crucial concepts to be mastered to help our children, teens, and young adults become and stay organized.
- Set realistic goals and break these goals into manageable pieces.
- Leave enough time to get ready before school, to get to classes, and to complete tasks such as chores, homework, and studying by planning ahead.
- They can prepare for school the night before. Have their clothes selected and book bag packed before going to bed. Have lunch prepared and easily accessible.
- Create a “portable office” out of their backpack. Keep notebooks and folders color coded and labeled. At least once a week empty their backpack and make sure there are no loose papers, everything has a place.
- Our children can divide their notebooks into sections for each subject. Hole punch and insert handouts or assignments in the appropriate notebook sections. Be sure to use dividers, and consider using different colored tabs for each subject.
- Make and keep an up to date “to-do” list. Cross off completed tasks and prioritize by keeping most critical and time sensitive items on the top of the list.
- Select a quiet and well-stocked area to both study and do homework. In most homes, the kitchen table is in a high traffic area. Whenever possible, students do best when they are able to do homework and studying with minimal disruptions. By setting up a desk with needed supplies it will be more conducive to getting work done.
- Getting the proper amount of sleep and eating nutritious foods help students be productive, while establishing good lifelong habits.
- Manage time wisely. Strive for balance. We do not want our children to study all day or to play all day, schedule sufficient time for both play and school work.
- Organize tasks needing to be done by using a student planner or agenda. These are such critical to student success that many schools provide one to each of their students. The key to success with using a planner or an agenda is to:
a. Write down something for each class period, either write down exactly what needs to be done or write “none” if nothing is due.
b. After completing each item place a check mark by the task.
c. If a test or assignment is coming up in a week or two, write it down in two places, both the date assigned and when due. Writing long-term assignments in multiple places will help keep the task in mind.
- Break down and schedule study time. By studying over the course of several days memory recall is significantly better than “cramming” for the test the night before. As many students have one primary job, to be good students, they should have scheduled time to do their schoolwork, ideally before going out and playing or doing other tasks.
- As most of our children are “tech savvy”, they may work well with technology, use organizer software on a computer, a smartphone or tablet, providing they are mature and responsible enough not to become distracted by the technology.
- Write reminders on sticky notes or keep list pads around their room, by their desk, and even by their bedside to write down things as they think of them. Be sure to collect these notes and consolidate all of the reminders on a single “to-do” list every day.
- Keep keys on a big ring so that they can find them easily, or use a brightly colored key chain. If they store homework assignments and other important papers digitally, you can transfer these documents onto a USB device that can attach to their keychain.
- Make a daily list of things to do and check the list every morning before leaving the house so that they know what they have to do.
Remember that as with most things, consistency and repetition are the keys to any change in behavior.
Dr. Eric J. Nach is the CEO of the “Support for Students Growth Center” in Boca Raton. Call 561-990-7305 or visit SupportForStudentsGrowthCenter.com