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Organizing Schoolwork & Assignments

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD

Learning how to get organized, stay focused, and get things done are must-have skills when it comes to managing your schoolwork. And beyond helping you get good grades, these skills help you in just about everything in life!

You probably know the basics by now, but here's a helpful refresher. The more you practice, the better you'll get at these skills.

Get Organized

Organize your stuff. Being organized makes everything else a little easier. And, it helps you get to work faster without wasting time looking for stuff. 

Keep your assignments and class information together in binders, notebooks, or folders organized by subject. Clean out your backpack regularly. Decide where to keep returned assignments and other things you want to hold on to. Offload things you no longer need to carry around.

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 reorganize.


Organize your space. You need a good workspace — some place quiet enough to focus. It's best to work at a desk or table where you can spread out your work. Have a specific place set aside for homework. That way, when you sit down, your mind knows you're there to work and can help you focus more quickly. 

Organize your time. Use a planner to help you keep track of your assignments and when they're due. Break big projects into parts. Mark the dates when each part needs to be completed. Schedule in your planner when you'll work on each part.

Mark the dates you'll have tests, and also be sure to schedule when you'll study for them. Don't leave things until the last minute — you'll only end up working twice as hard to do half as well. One sure way to reduce test anxiety is to prepare by studying (really!).

Include other activities on your calendar, too — such as team practices, drama rehearsals, etc. This will help you see when things could get too busy to get all your work done. Use your planner to schedule what time you'll do your schoolwork on days you have other activities, too.

Get Focused

Avoid distractions. Think multitasking is a useful skill? Think again! Studies show that when people do lots of things at once, they do a worse job on all of them than if they'd done just one thing at a time. So when you multitask as you study, you're less likely to absorb and retain the information you need to do well on that test. Park your devices, and check them after your work is done.

Some people concentrate best when it's quiet. Some people say they study best if they listen to background music. If you do study with music on, make sure it isn't going to sidetrack you into singing the lyrics and dancing all over your room when you're supposed to be focused on your work. If you find yourself reading the same page over and over or fixing mistakes that you made as you worked, these are clues that the music isn't helping.

Take breaks. Taking a short break in between assignments can help your mind stay fresh and focused. 

Get up from your desk, move, stretch, or walk around to clear your head and allow your mind to absorb what you've just studied. Put on a song that makes you dance and sing! Just make sure you get back to your studies in a few minutes.

Re-focus yourself. If you find yourself getting distracted and thinking about other things, pull your attention back into a study groove as soon as possible. If daydreaming seems to take up a lot of your work time, set aside a separate time later to let your imagination wander. Remind yourself that now it's time to stay on task.

Get It Done!

In summary, here's a quick checklist of things that can help you focus:

  • DO know your deadlines.
  • DO make a calendar of stages and final due dates.
  • DO include social events on this calendar for time management.
  • DO understand the assignment and expectations.
  • DO give yourself a quiet place to study with all the materials you need.
  • DO give yourself brief breaks.
  • DON'T put work off until the last minute; you'll be too frantic to focus.
  • DON'T do your homework late at night or in bed.
  • DON'T let yourself be bored; find the aspect of the project or paper that interests you — if you're dying of boredom, something's not right.

If you need more tips on staying focused, ask a teacher, school counselor, or a parent for help. It's their job to assist in your learning.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: September 2016