Organization and Time Management

by Dahlia Miller
February 2004

“It’s not what you know, it’s what you use that counts.”

There are two great secrets to study skills. One: No one is born knowing them. Two: If you don’t use them, they won’t work for you.

You don’t have to be brilliant or work like a dog to be more effective in studying. Being an effective studier simply means learning some very basic principles and then putting them into practice. These principles are simple and applying them is easy.

There are many advantages to developing good study habits:

  • You’ll study more effectively
  • Your grades will improve
  • You’ll reduce feelings of anxiety related to academic work
  • You’ll be more likely to reach your academic goals
  • You’ll be able to take on bigger projects without feeling overwhelmed
  • You’ll have more free time

Below are suggestions for organizing yourself and your time. Put into practice, these suggestions can help you to waste less time and be more effective and successful in your studies and your life.


Being organized and staying organized is one of the simplest of study skills. So simple, that many people overlook how important it is to cultivate this skill. If you can set up and maintain an organized workspace and materials, you can increase your study efficiency incredibly.

As a comparison, imagine a kitchen without organization. The food, pots, pans and cutlery are randomly thrown into cupboards and drawers. Any time you want to cook or eat something, you need to put time and energy into finding all of the materials first. Over time this will waste a lot of your time and probably lead to feelings of frustration!

You can see how it would be possible to save yourself a lot of time and energy simply by taking the time to organize specific locations for the food, pots, pans and cutlery and maintaining that organization.

The same principle holds true for organizing your workspace and materials. Taking the time to organize, and maintaining that organization will save you time and energy.

Organize Your Workspace
Choose a study area in your home away from the distractions of radio, TV, family members, food and sleep (your bed is for sleeping and your brain knows that) – a desk with a comfortable chair and adequate (preferably natural) lighting is best.

Keep your study area stocked with paper, pens, calculator, reference books and any other materials you use.

Organize Your School Work
As in the kitchen analogy, you need to know where your pots and pans are.

Keep all of your notes and assignments for one subject in one area so you can find your homework and review for tests more easily. The easiest way to do this is to keep a separate duotang, binder, or section in a binder for each subject.

Put the name, date and title on all your work so that you know in what order things go in your binder.

Have all of your supplies and materials together before you start working.

Stay Organized
As you put your notes and assignments into your binders, keep them in order by date. Use dividers to separate your notes into sub-topics, if it’s appropriate.

If you’d like to be ahead of the game, have a sheet of paper at the front of your binder and use it as a table of contents. As you put new information into your binder, record new topics on this list. When it comes time to review for tests, you’ll have a summary of the topics covered. (For more information on how to get organized for tests, see the November 2003 issue of The Smart Connection.)

Remember, the extra energy you are putting into maintaining organization will save you time when you need to locate information for assignments and projects or for test review.

“Failure and success are not accidents but the strictest of justice.”
Alexander Smith (1830–1867)

Time Management

There is no way around it, if you are a student, you need to spend time studying, reviewing, writing assignments and preparing for tests. Managing your time can help you to stay on track and to get work done.

Setting a plan for when to study, can give you perspective. You can see when you’ve got free time, and in your free time you can relax knowing that you are taking care of the tasks that you need to accomplish. No stress!

Managing your time involves:

  • Deciding when to work and when to play
  • Deciding how to spend your work time

In order to begin setting a plan for time management, you need to know what your priorities are. If you fill out an agenda, planner or homework book regularly you’ll know what is due tomorrow or next week, and what projects or tests are upcoming.

It is also helpful to consider your goals. If you want to get an ‘A’ in Chemistry but you’d be satisfied with a ‘C+’ in Business Education, then you might need to focus more of your time on Chemistry.

Some Simple Time Management Tips:

  • Set a specific time each day to work.
  • Each week review upcoming tests and assignments.
  • Before each study session, visualize your goals.
  • Prioritize your homework – depending on due dates, start with the most difficult homework.
  • Work for short periods of time (30 to 60 minutes depending on you and the topic) and take short breaks. Brains remember beginnings and endings best, so incorporating more beginnings and endings into your study time will help you to remember more.
  • Take time for play!

Now that you’ve learned some ways to increase your study efficiency, keep in mind the second great secret to study skills: if you don’t use them, they won’t work for you.