Keeping up with school work can be challenging for many students. Between classes, extracurricular activities, and social obligations, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by homework, assignments, studying, and projects. However, developing good time management skills and study habits is essential for academic success. This comprehensive guide provides tips and strategies any student can use to stay on top of their schoolwork.
- Create an organizational system to track assignments, tests, projects, and activities. Use calendars, planners, task lists, and reminders.
- Set up a regular study schedule and realistic weekly goals for completing school work. Identify productive times and places to study.
- Improve focus and avoid distractions during study sessions by turning off devices, apps, and notifications. Use apps to block distracting websites.
- Take effective notes in class and review them after each class to reinforce learning and identify gaps.
- Start large assignments and projects early and break them into smaller tasks to complete bit-by-bit. Don’t procrastinate!
- Set priorities each day and week and learn to say no to activities that interfere with school work time.
- Find a study buddy or form study groups with peers to stay accountable and collaborate.
- Ask for help from teachers, parents, and peers right away if struggling with an assignment or concept. Don’t delay!
- Stay organized with binders, folders, file cabinets to store study materials, notes, and returned assignments.
- Make the most of small blocks of time between classes, activities, and appointments for quick studying or reading.
- Learn how to properly use citations, proofread papers, and prepare for different types of tests.
- Use healthy eating, exercise, sleep habits, and stress management techniques to boost mental focus and academic performance.
Create a System to Organize and Track School Work
One of the biggest obstacles many students face when trying to keep up with school work is simply staying organized. Between homework for multiple classes, upcoming tests and quizzes, extracurricular activities, and long-term projects, the workload can become overwhelming fast. That’s why it’s critical to implement organizational systems, calendars, and tools to manage academic responsibilities efficiently.
Use Planners and Assignment Notebooks
Get a planner, assignment notebook, or online/mobile calendar and write down all your courses, assignments, activities, tests, and projects at the start of each term. Refer to your planner every day and cross off tasks as you complete them. Having a master list of all your school work in one spot makes it much easier to prioritize tasks and ensure you don’t forget deadlines.
Set Up Reminders and Due Date Alerts
In addition to a planner, also set up reminders and due date alerts on your phone, computer, or in your online school portal or learning management system. Configuring notifications, alarms, and alerts will prompt you to start assignments, prepare for tests, and turn in work. Never miss a due date again!
Use Folders and Binders to Organize Study Materials
Get a three-ring binder or folders for each class and organize all lecture notes, graded assignments, reading materials, returned tests, study guides, and any other resources. Keeping all your materials for each course properly filed makes studying more productive. Use color-coding and labels on folders and dividers to quickly find materials for each class when needed.
Check Assignments Regularly and Keep a Running To-Do List
Get in the habit of checking your online learning portals, emails, assignment notebooks, and course syllabi on a daily basis to ensure you have an updated list of homework, upcoming tests/quizzes, projects, activities, and assessments. Maintain a running to-do list so you always know what needs to be accomplished each day and week. Cross completed tasks off your list for a sense of progress.
Create Checklists for Complex Assignments
For big assignments like research papers, essays, lab reports, and presentations, break them down into smaller actionable sub-tasks. Creating detailed checklists for multi-step projects helps you take them on in a more manageable way and avoid last minute scrambling. Assign deadlines for each step.
Set Up a Consistent Study Schedule
In order to avoid falling behind on school work, students need to make studying a regular habit, not just something that happens right before tests. Establishing set times for studying each day and week is key. Treat studying like any other fixed appointment or commitment.
Identify Your Most Productive Times and Places to Study
When mapping out your study schedule, perform an audit of when and where you are at your most focused and energized. For example, are you a morning studier who is sharp after a good night’s sleep? Or do you concentrate better in the afternoon and evening? Finding the right study times for your peak energy, focus, and alertness can vastly improve productivity and retention.
As for location, figure out where you have the fewest distractions. This could be a quiet bedroom, library study room, or corner of the cafeteria. Have a regular place to spread out materials and get in the zone. Let family/roommates know that your study area is off limits during certain hours.
Devote Consistent Weekly Time to Each Subject
Based on the number of hours you need to study for each subject and your own focus rhythms, come up with a personalized weekly study schedule. For example, devote a certain number of hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after school for math. Study science and history every Tuesday and Thursday. Schedule language homework in the mornings before class when your brain is fresh.
Repeat this schedule each week for consistency. Scheduling study sessions at the same times each week helps establish a routine so you don’t have to decide when to study. You’ll automatically know it’s time to hit the books.
Schedule Study Sessions in Shorter Time Blocks
While you may need to log several hours a week studying per subject, avoid marathon study sessions. Research shows studying in shorter, frequent sessions is more productive than cramming for hours at once. Your brain best absorbs information in focused 20-50 minute increments. So when mapping out study time, schedule shorter sessions with 5-10 minute breaks in between.
Prioritize School Work Over Extracurriculars When Needed
While clubs, organizations, arts, and sports are important, don’t let them impede completing school work. Learn to balance and prioritize academics over extracurriculars during busy exam and project weeks. It’s better to miss a practice than fail a test. Communicate with activity leaders when you need to skip or reduce involvement temporarily to focus on school work.
Improve Focus and Avoid Distractions While Studying
A common complaint from many students struggling to keep up with school work is an inability to focus while studying. Distractions like social media, texting, YouTube, video games, sibling annoyances, and background noise can severely sabotage study session productivity. Use these tips to minimize distractions.
Study Away from TVs, Phones, Computers, Video Games, and Other Distractions
The #1 rule when trying to focus on school work is to eliminate access to electronics like TV, gaming consoles, tablets, and especially phones. Just having your phone nearby makes it too tempting to text friends or check notifications. Power down all devices and keep them in another room while studying.
Use Website Blocking Apps to Limit Access to Social Media and Entertainment Sites
When using a computer to study, enable website blocking programs like Freedom, SelfControl, Cold Turkey, or StayFocusd to restrict access to time-wasting sites like Instagram, Youtube, Reddit, games, etc. Safeguard your study time by literally blocking distracting sites that derail focus.
Silence Phone Notifications
The constant dings and buzzes from text messages, news alerts, emails, social media, apps, and more can totally destroy your study momentum. Turn off all notifications on your phone and computer sound settings before starting a study session.
Find Quiet Study Spots Away from Noisy Areas
Studying is difficult when trying to ignore background noise from family members, roommates, TVs, music. Seek out quiet spots at home, the library, or coffee shops to avoid auditory distractions. Use noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs if needed.
Tell Household Members Not to Interrupt During Study Times
Communicate your set study hours to parents, siblings, roommates and ask them not to disturb you except for emergencies. Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door. Let your friends know not to call or text during study hours too. Guard your focus time.
Take Short Breaks to Recharge When Focus Wanes
It’s normal for your focus to waver after long periods of concentration. When you notice your mind wandering more, eyes glazing over notes, or clicking over to other browser tabs, it’s time for a break. Take a short 5-10 minute break to stretch, grab a snack, respond to texts, etc. Then get back to work refreshed and ready to concentrate again.
Take Great Notes and Review Them Regularly
Attending lectures without taking notes is an inefficient way to learn. Taking quality notes improves focus, comprehension, recall, and academic performance. Set yourself up for learning success by taking excellent notes and reviewing them consistently after class.
Develop Your Own Note-Taking System
Figure out your personal preferred note-taking style. Do you prefer handwritten notes or typing notes on a laptop? Would templates, abbreviations, symbols, highlighting, or shorthand improve note quality and readability? Experiment to determine what note-taking methods work best for your learning needs.
Note Key Concepts, Definitions, Formulas – Not Just Facts
Mindlessly jotting down every word from a lecture is ineffective. Prioritize noting key course concepts, new vocabulary words and their definitions, formulas, diagrams and visual maps, central ideas, unique examples, etc. Identify what information is most essential for mastery.
Record Assignments, Due Dates, Test Dates
Never leave lecture without writing down all assignments, readings, project specifications, and test/quiz dates. Having this information handy in your notes prevents scrambling later to figure out deadlines or assignment requirements.
Review Notes and Fill in Gaps Soon After Each Class
Schedule time shortly after each class while the material is still fresh to review notes and fill information gaps. Jot down clarifications, examples, questions to ask the teacher, and concepts you need to study further. Reviewing notes routinely leads to better understanding.
Organize Notes in Binders by Subject
File notes chronologically in labeled binders or accordion folders to keep each subject’s notes organized. Have a separate section for returned quizzes/assignments. Organized notes by class make studying more efficient later.
Share and Compare Notes with Classmates
If you’re unsure about the accuracy or completeness of your notes, ask a trusted classmate if you can review their notes and compare them to your own. Combine your versions for a more comprehensive set of notes. Having multiple perspectives improves learning.
Start Long Term Projects and Assignments Early
One of the biggest mistakes students make when trying to keep up with school work is waiting until the last minute to start big projects and assignments. Procrastination just adds unnecessary stress and leads to inferior work. Make a habit of starting large assignments as soon as possible.
Break Long Assignments and Projects Into Smaller Tasks
Review project guidelines right away and break them down into smaller, manageable sub-tasks to complete incrementally versus all at once. For example, break a research paper into: choose topic, form thesis, make outline, gather sources, take notes on sources, write rough draft, revise and edit. Assign deadlines for completing each step.
Schedule Project Tasks in Your Planner
Add the small, doable tasks for long term projects into your daily/weekly planner and schedule regular work time until completed. Treat project tasks like fixed appointments so they become part of your routine. Checking them off as complete brings a sense of accomplishment.
Use Countdown Apps for Tracking Progress and Deadlines
Downloading countdown apps can help you visualize how many days you have left to complete each project phase. Seeing time slip away provides motivation to avoid procrastination. Meeting interim deadlines keeps you on track.
Set Aside a Weekly Project Work Session
Devoting set blocks of time every week solely for working on projects helps ensure you make continuous progress versus forgetting about them. For example, spend two hours every Saturday morning dedicated to project tasks. Consistency is key.
Set Small Daily Goals for Incremental Progress
Having clearly defined tasks for each day makes starting easier instead of viewing a project as one mammoth undertaking. Something as simple as “Spend 30 minutes researching sources today” is doable. Daily progress builds momentum that results in project completion.
Partner with a Classmate for Accountability
Arrange with a classmate to be work partners on long assignments, checking in with updates and keeping each other on track with deadlines. Peer accountability makes it harder to procrastinate and provides collaboration opportunities.
Set Priorities Skillfully and Learn to Say No
Another strategy that helps students keep up with school work is properly prioritizing academic responsibilities over the myriad of extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, hobbies, and social events competing for time and attention. Learn to set priorities and say no when needed.
Rank School Work, Activities, and Social Life
Make a list of all your obligations and activities and rank them in order of importance. Generally, school work should be near the top with extracurriculars and social activities lower. This provides perspective on time allocation.
Use a Calendar to Visually Assess Commitments
Viewing all your academic tasks, activities, practices, games, club meetings, social events, etc on one master calendar makes it easier to spot potential scheduling conflicts and determine priorities. Identify where tradeoffs are needed.
Drop Obligations Strategically If Overcommitted
If you’re stretched too thin with obligations to give academics sufficient focus, consider cutting back on certain extracurriculars strategically. For example, cut back on clubs instead of sports if sports are your passion or college resume focus.
Just Say No – Set Limits with Friends and Activities
Practice saying “Sorry, I can’t, I have a big test to study for” or “No, the project is due this week” when asked to attend events that interfere with study time. Learn to set boundaries politely. True friends will understand.
Schedule School Work First, Then Other Activities
Get in the habit of scheduling study sessions, homework, assignments, and project work first before booking other activities. Treat academic tasks as the priority appointments when planning weeks and months. School work comes before play.
Wake Up Early to Complete Work Before Activities
If weekday afternoons and nights are packed with sports, clubs, and jobs, try waking up earlier to fit in study time, reading, and assignments before the activity rush starts. Knocking out work first creates free time later.
Enlist Peer Support for Accountability
Surrounding yourself with classmates who take school work seriously and support each other in getting assignments done on time creates beneficial peer pressure. Find study buddies and form study groups.
Form Study Groups with Peers
Invite a few classmates to form an informal study group to review notes after school, quiz each other before tests, proofread essays, collaborate on projects, and keep productivity momentum going. Shared accountability improves results.
Find a Homework Partner
Team up with a responsible student in each class to be homework partners – setting reminders to complete assignments, texting questions on homework, checking answers, and ensuring you both stay on track. Having a study buddy provides comradery and support.
Offer to Help Peers Who are Struggling
If you have a solid understanding of course concepts, offer to form study duos with classmates who need more help grasping material. Explaining concepts reinforces learning. Peers often understand explanations better from fellow students than teachers.
Study Together Before Tests
Schedule group study sessions with classmates before big exams. Quiz each other, review flashcards, work practice problems. Studying together drives engagement and improves performance compared to solo cramming.
Proofread Each Other’s Essays and Papers
Having a friend or two exchange drafts of course essays and papers enables you to catch mistakes and provide feedback while improving your own editing skills for writing assignments. Peer reviews improve quality.
Compare Class Notes to Ensure Accuracy
If you miss a lecture, borrow notes from a classmate and compare them to your own notes to fill in anything missing. Or meet routinely with a friend to review each other’s notes, clarify confusing points, and ensure note accuracy.
Seek Help from Teachers and Parents When Struggling
When students start slipping behind in grasping concepts, completing assignments, or studying for tests is when they should immediately seek assistance from resources like teachers, tutors, and parents. Don’t delay getting the help needed to succeed.
Meet with Teachers to Discuss Any Academic Concerns
Email teachers requesting to meet individually if you feel you are falling behind or need help with certain concepts. Most teachers are happy to provide 1-on-1 guidance, resources, and support. Let them know right away you are committed to improving your performance.
Attend Teacher Office Hours for Extra Help
Teachers often provide open office hours for students to ask questions and get assistance. Take advantage of this free tutoring! Make a list of concepts you are struggling with and get clarification during office hours. It shows initiative.
Arrange Student Tutoring if Needed
If you need more intensive academic support beyond the classroom, ask your teacher to recommend peer tutors or inquire if your school offers free tutoring. 1-on-1 or small group tutoring provides individualized help.
Hire a Private Tutor If Necessary
If you still don’t feel fully confident with certain subjects or courses, hiring a professional private tutor can provide the edge you need by tailoring instruction to your learning needs. Customized tutoring builds skills and confidence.
Utilize Parent Support for Study Help
Don’t be afraid to ask parents for homework help or to quiz you before tests if they are knowledgeable in the subject. Or request they review/edit papers or help organize your study space. Involved parents can be valuable academic resources.
Stay Organized with Assignments and Study Materials
In addition to planning and tracking school work demands, students need to be organized when managing the myriad of assignments, notes, study guides, reports, returned papers, and other academic materials. Organization and filing systems make studying more efficient and keep items from getting misplaced.