The title seems to be one of those “pick which word doesn’t belong” exercises; however the first two words are essential to obtaining the third. As a first year student at the Online High School, I am always amazed when people ask questions about last week’s homework while I am sitting in my first class Monday mornings. In fact, I had already submitted that homework last Thursday — right before I shut down my computer and retired from school work for the weekend. Although the work load is more difficult in terms of content, I have found that I have much more free time since transferring to the OHS. At a traditional school, I would sit in school for eight hours and only have time for homework during lunch and if class wasn’t busy for the day. Then I would have to go ride for two hours before finally going home over twelve hours later. By the time I would eat dinner, shower, and workout it was late in the night and I still had a pile of homework to get started on. Now my days are structured much differently, and much more efficiently, in such a way that I get weekends and evenings off from work typically. Many people have asked me how I do it and I thought I would share some tips and what I do to organize my desk, my computer, and my time.
Structuring your day effectively:
- Try to start and end every day at the same time.
For example, I begin my school day at 10:30 and end it at 3:30. I wake up at 7 every morning to go ride and get back in time to shower and make breakfast typically before class starts. After my last class at 3:30 I work out, go on a walk, watch some TV, do anything to relax for a bit, and then either go to work, hang out with friends, or work on extracurricular activities, big assignments, or studying.
- Make time to have fun and relax!
Part of having a structured schedule is knowing when you are going to take a break. I like to follow the guideline of “work hard, play hard” and also notice that I work best if I get up and walk around every now and then between assignments. Don’t neglect exercise, because it is a great way to keep your brain working well and your energy levels up. Part of this is also scheduling time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you can eat healthy.
- Make a list of assignments for each day.
I like to do the assignments for the classes I have that day. On Wednesdays, I try to finish up all my work for the week for those classes; I finish all the work for my other classes as well as anything left over on Thursdays. Of course, some classes have due dates during the week that you will have to meet. Schedule these things first and give yourself plenty of time for assignments by planning to do them the day before they are due rather than the hour before. If you want to just finish as much work as possible every day the best way to do that is still to start with your list of assignments for that particular day and once you finish them work on other things to get ahead.
- Turn the computer off.
When it is time to go to bed, go to bed! Treat yourself before bed by enjoying your bedtime routine, whether it involves reading a personal book, taking a bath, or drinking some tea. Turn off all electronics and just go to bed!
- Assign time slots.
Know when you are going to work on a certain assignment, study, go to office hours, etc. every day. This is also part of scheduling time to exercise and have fun!
- Finish early and prepare early!
I finish all my work on Thursdays, Friday at the latest, so I have the weekends off to ride, compete, and hang out with friends. I end and start every week clearly and do not let the weeks run into one another. On Sundays start preparing for the next week by watching lectures, reading the assignments, and taking notes. That way on Monday you can start off fresh for the week and prepared for all your classes.
Organizing your desk and desktop:
- Have a workspace that works for YOU
Having a clean and organized area is overrated. Personally, it is the only way I can function, but I know many people who like to have sticky notes everywhere with ideas on them and articles, pictures, and quotes that inspire them taped all over the walls. Develop a system that allows you to be relaxed, productive, and inspired. Just please don’t leave any half-eaten sandwiches or glasses of milk around.
- Keep assignments to do and in progress in separate folders
Have a folder or other method of organization to hold assignments you need to do and then another for ones you are in progress on. Another great idea is having a third folder for items that have been completed and need to be scanned and turned in.
- Have folders on your computer too!
Having a folder for each class helps a ton when it comes to organizing all those files. Also develop a naming system so you aren’t searching through a thousand “Doc1”s looking for an essay that is due. I received a tip from a peer about having essays and other works in progress on your desktop with related files beneath them. This is how I organize my desktop now so I can see what I am working on. For example, I have a research paper and beneath it have shortcuts to all my sources as well as my works cited page.
I have two tools that I would absolutely die without. One is Donedesk. It allows you to create a to-do list where you can create hard deadlines, soft deadlines, and due dates for each assignment as well as add tags such as “turn in” or “on hold”. You see what tasks you need to do each day and can easily move them to the next day with one click (not that you should be putting anything off- procrastination kills productivity!). Every week I add all my assignments for the week or the next few onto it so I have a good idea of how busy I will be. You can also delegate tasks to others which is a very nice tool for clubs or group projects. The other tool is a daily planner I love from Erin Condren. They are completely customizable and come with tons of room to plan out each day, separate into morning, afternoon, and night, as well as each month. They are cute and functional (probably a little too girly for the males of OHS). If this planner doesn’t work for you I strongly recommend finding one that does! It keeps you from forgetting office hours, birthdays, and big assignments but also allows you to look forward to holidays and fun events!
If you have any other tips to staying organized, productive, inspired, or relaxed please share them with me and the rest of the OHS community! Most of all, find what works for you and allows you to have good sleep hygiene and the lowest possible stress levels!