This article was written by Tom M, a tutor of Bespoke Tuition, Qualified Teacher and ex Physics Teacher at Tiffin School who has delivered bespoke private tuition since 2010. To request a tutorial with Tom, please email: email@example.com.
I was never a naturally organised student. As a boy, I would frequently return home without my PE Kit, my pencil case, my jumper. My notes were a mess and it was only the herd-like movement of schoolchildren that ensured I turned up at the right classroom in time for each lesson.
In the sixth-form, I began to take charge of my own organisation. I’d like to think it was due to increasing maturity and blossoming self-awareness but I suspect I was given the majority of these tips by older, wiser heads.
Some people seem to be naturally organised. Always in the right place at the right time and with the right stuff. They make it look effortless. The truth is that there’s no magic to organisation. Those naturally organised people are just following a system of rules to manage their time, paperwork and possessions. If it comes naturally to you, that’s a bonus but anyone can learn to be more organised.
Organising your notes and your diary might seem like a lot of work but I promise you that by investing a little time and effort now, you will save yourself countless wasted hours spent searching for notes or catching up missed lessons, not to mention all the stress and panic that goes with being disorganised.
The key to a good system for organisation is that it should be easy to use. This sounds obvious but if you’re not a naturally organised person (and most of us aren’t) then any system that’s too complicated to use won’t last long before you get sick of it and fall back into disorganisation.
Some of this might seem obvious, patronising even. Feel free to skip over the bits you already have under control. I promise you, I had to learn all of this stuff, even the most basic bits the hard way.
- If you handwrite or type notes put the subject, title and date on everything. If any notes do go astray, you then know where they should be. This might sound obvious but you’d be amazed how many people forget and just launch into the start of their work.
- Number all answers to questions including sub-sections of questions (4a, 5b ii etc) Again it might sound obvious but plenty of people forget in their haste to get the work done.
- Label any handouts with the subject, topic and date too, then you’ll be able to file them in the correct folder.
- Keep two levels of filing
- Archive: Large files of all your notes going back to the start of your course. These can be box files, ring binders, card folders, anything that’s easy to access and can be divided into sections.
- Daily: A smaller folder or ring binder you can carry round with you to fill as you write notes throughout the day
- Your day folder will be easiest to use if you use dividers to keep separate sections for each subject.
- Put notes into your day folder as soon as you write them. Work at making this a habit until your folder becomes the one and only place where all your currently in use notes are kept.
- When you come to the end of a topic and no longer need to consult your notes on a daily basis, transfer them to the archive file in the appropriate section. This will stop your day folder becoming too full and too heavy.
- The key here is “belt and braces”: you want everything important to be stored on your device in case you need to access them where connectivity is an issue but you also need them backed up somewhere in case you lose or break your device.
- The same principles that apply to paperwork also apply to electronic notes: One folder per subject, with subfolders for topics within.
- Give your files descriptive titles that will help you find them weeks or months later: “Physics – Waves – Refraction practical write-up 14-03-18” not just “refraction”
- Download any handouts that are emailed or transferred to you and save them in a folder with an obvious name somewhere easy to find.
- Back up your files to a cloud or USB stick. Losing a laptop or tablet is annoying. Losing all your work is worse!
- Stick your school or college timetable in the front of your day folder
- Copy it into your online calendar and sync it with your phone.
- Add locations to appointments if necessary (if you have lessons or lectures on multiple sites)
- Set reminders for one-off events
- Buy more than you think you will need. You will lose it!
If you can follow these tips until they become habit, I promise you it will save you time and more importantly the stress of lost work and missed deadlines. Give it a try and see how it works out for you!
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