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Your Future Starts Now – Get Organized

Chances are your backpack is where you left it when school ended for the year…crammed full of papers, half-used notebooks and a bunch of pens, pencils and unidentifiable junk.

Now you are transitioning from middle to high school, so it’s time to get serious about getting and staying organized. Your future starts now – today – and there is no better time than right now to get ready for the new academic year at your new high school.

High school will be challenging, but here are a few organization tips to help you get ready.

Find a Spot Where You Can Do Your Homework

If you’ve been working on your bed, the floor or wherever you could find a place, it’s time to section off a part of your room just for doing homework. No room? Ask your parents if you can use a corner of the dining room or kitchen and keep it for doing you homework. You’ll need a small, quiet space for working and keeping supplies handy.

If you already have a desk in your room, but have it cluttered with other things like empty food containers, baseball cards, old CDs or toys, now is the time to clean it off and get it ready for homework use. There’s an old saying that still rings true: “messy desk – messy mind.” A chaotic work area can steal valuable time and focus for working on your school projects, essays and other homework.

Dump Your Backpack

Yes – dump it – sort through all the papers, pens and stuff in the pile. Throw out the broken pencils and pens. Keep the good ones for next school year.

Now the paper: You’ll have to sort through each piece, but getting organized will eliminate this step in the future. If you have any work you think might be useful for next year, put it aside and recycle the rest. Trash any notebooks that are full and keep those that have lots of unused paper (it will save your family money for school supplies for next year).

Start a Filing System

Talk to you parents about your plan to get organized for high school. It’s a pretty good bet they will want to help you. If possible, get a small, two-drawer filing cabinet. You might find a used one at a yard sale or you can buy an inexpensive one at an office supply store.

No room for a filing cabinet? Get a sturdy box. Reams of paper come in a box with a lid and handles; you might ask at the school office or at a copy center if you can have one or two. Spend a little time decorating it to suit your personality.

Next, get some file folders – at least as many as you will have subjects for the next school year, plus a few more for any personal things you might want to file.

Label the folders with the names of the courses you will be taking: math, English, social studies, science, music, etc. Label another folder with “old work” to hold all the papers from your backpack that you want to keep. The best filing system is the simplest, but if you want, you can color-code your course folders and mark your incoming papers with the corresponding color to make filing easier.

Now, as you complete homework assignments, you can promptly put the graded papers in the appropriate folder so they will be available for studying for tests or final exams, plus your backpack will be a little lighter and easier to carry around.

Handle paper as few times as possible. File graded papers as quickly as you can and recycle anything that is of short-term use.

Are there permission forms or school announcements that you have to show your parents or have them sign? Keep a special folder in your backpack in which to put them, so you can give the folder directly to your parents for their review, to sign or return back to school. No more digging around your pack or scattered papers on the floor to find an important paper your parents need to see.

Organize Your Desk

Organize your desk to cut down on time spent searching for things when you need them. Keep your calculator, a couple of extra pens and pencils, paper, a ruler and tape in your desk drawer or small basket. They should be handy, but not in the way of your work space.

You can make a personalized pencil and pen holder by covering an empty soup can with wrapping paper, a small piece of leather from a craft store or material from the remnant table at a fabric store, then decorate with your favorite photos. Empty Altoid (mints) tins make great paper clip holders and can be left as-is or decorated.

Avoid mixing “business with pleasure.” Your homework space should be kept just for homework. Keep your hand-held video games, mp-3 players, TVs or other distractions off the desk top.

It may seem like a daunting task, but getting organized and ready for high school now will pay dividends once school starts. You’ll be glad you spent a little time this summer to prepare for high school in September. You’ll find it easier to stay focused, on-task and on time as you make the transition from middle to high school.

“It's hard to be fully creative without structure and constraint. Try to paint without a canvas. Creativity and freedom are two sides of the same coin….Want freedom? Get organized. Want to get organized? Get creative.”
-- David Allen (a productivity and organization expert)


Issue date: Updated 3/15/2010