Simple Ideas to Help Students Get Organized ~ Back to School

August 13th, 2013

As we kick-off another school year in North America, we need to reset our routines.  Folks often ask “how do you get organized for the school year?” or “help me organize my student”.

Here are simple tips to help students manage time, avoid clutter, set goals, and stay on an organized path to a successful school year.

1. DON’T RUSH.
No one likes to feel rushed. It is a process to bathe, dress, eat breakfast and get everything together for the day, Make sure your child wakes up early enough to arrive at school well ahead of the start time. If your child will bathe in the evening, you gain spare time in the morning and some extra minutes of sleep. If your child bathes in the morning, and they need at least 30 minutes to get up, shower, dress and eat breakfast, pad that time by waking them up at least 45 minutes prior to their departure. This will avoid rushing, arguments and stress.


2. WARDROBE PREPARATION.
Before bed each night, help them choose and lay out their clothes for the next day. This way, you’ll avoid arguments and they’ll be all set to dress and go in the morning.


3. DO A NIGHTLY REVIEW.
Each evening spend 5 minutes with your child reviewing their upcoming activities. Determine what needs to be done to prepare. In doing so, they will know exactly what they are expected accomplish the next day.


4. GET ENOUGH SLEEP.
A good night’s rest is essential for students. This will ensure they are alert and ready to learn the following day.


5. EAT A BALANCED BREAKFAST.
Students should eat three healthy meals each day, along with fruit or veggies for snacks. Studies show students who start off with a healthy breakfast had higher energy levels and better learning ability than similar students who did not eat breakfast. Harvard researchers found that students who ate breakfast were “…significantly more attentive in the classroom, earned higher grades in math, and had significantly fewer behavioral and emotional problems.” Avoid overloading on high sugar sweets, which cause many people to feel tired.


6. SET-UP AN EFFECTIVE STUDY ZONE.
Designate a quiet, well-lit area for studying. Make sure the supplies your child needs for school work is easily accessible.  This could be a desk in their room, your home office or the dining room or kitchen table. During study time, minimize disturbing activities so your child can study without distraction. Don’t allow children to study in front of the television, or in an area of your home where they are bound to be distracted.


7. AVOID CLUTTER.
Papers add up throughout the year e.g.) assignments, notices from the school, etc. Be careful not to build clutter as the year progresses. Create separate folders for school announcements, tests that have been graded, papers that must be given to parents and so on. Review your folders weekly. As papers become outdated, such as an event that has passed, toss them immediately.

8. SCHEDULE CONSISTENT STUDY ROUTINES.
We all do better when we have routines. This is more important for children. They do better when they know what is expected of them. Set aside time every day for study, and make it consistent. Set a designated time for your child’s study time for each afternoon. Whatever you do, teach your child to avoid late night, last-minute studying and cramming.


9. SET A TIMER.
Break up big tasks, into smaller, bite-sized jobs. For instance, if they have to read three chapters of a book, read one chapter at a time each day. If they have to work on a project, break it down into three or four manageable stages. It is less overwhelming for the student.

10. TACKLE LEAST FAVORITE OR MOST CHALLENGING SUBJECTS FIRST.
You teach children to eat their veggies before offering dessert. Just the same, your child should start their homework with their most difficult subjects first. Then, everything else will be a breeze, and you will encounter less resistance. AVOID OVER-PROGRAMMING. While you may sign up your child for extra curricular activities, such as basketball or cheerleading. Over-scheduling puts too much pressure on them and can lead to problems managing school work and activity balance. Review their course load. Determine how much study time they will need. Then, choose one or two recreational activities they really enjoy.

11. USE A PLANNER.
Use a good student planner or organizer. The ones that have pocket folders, dividers and planning calendars are ideal. If your child has an iPod or smart phone, you can electronically share calendars and reminder systems. Ask yourself, does my student respond better to paper or electronic notes.


Student homework12. 
WRITE IT DOWN.

Many school systems enable teachers to post homework assignments and tests online. When your child learns of an upcoming test, event, or anything they must prepare for or attend, teach them to immediately jot it on their planner and carve out study and preparation time.

13. USE ONE CALENDAR.
Use one calendar to plan all of the child’s school and personal activities, rather than two or more. When you use more than one, you run the risk of scheduling conflicts and missed appointments. Give the child one place to look for their obligations. If your child has an iPod or smart phone, you can share a calendar where you post obligations and the child can get reminders on their electronic device.


14. COLOR-CODE.
You may consider color-coding your child’s similar activities on your calendar. For example, highlight all upcoming tests in yellow, study time in green and recreational activities in pink or you could do a different color for each child. This is made easy when using electronic planners.


15. GET HELP.
Check in with your student. Teach your child, if they don’t understand a lesson, to immediately ask for help before they get to the point where they are totally confused. A sibling, friend, parent, teacher or tutor can be a lifesaver.


16. OH NO!
If you find your child has gotten off track, teach them to simply take a deep breath, find out where things went awry and get back on track. It is better to get slightly derailed, rather than giving up.


17. REWARD THEM.
Designate enticing rewards for goals your child meets, such as family night at the movies, or a quiet, relaxing walk in the park. As they achieve their goals through hard work, provide them with rewards. This will help keep incentivize them and keep them motivated throughout the year.

What are your favorite tips for getting students organized?  Here is to a great school year!

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Home Office Set-up for Optimal File Management and Productivity

July 23rd, 2013

Do you have a home office?  Or do you use your tablet, phone or laptop and your home office is all over your home?  The key to reducing household paper clutter and increase productivity is having a centralized home office.  A home office could be a designated area of a room or a specific room.  Your home office should have a place for papers to be dropped as they enter the home.  It should also have an area where papers that require action or follow-up are placed.  Your home office is an extension of your home and should be treated as such.  You should give it an inviting coat of paint, good lighting and hang some artwork and/or pictures of your family and friends.

Last week, I was interviewed by Robert Lerose of Bank of America’s Small Business Community.  Their site provides great resources and support for small businesses.  Check it out.  It is free to sign-up and participate. I will let you know once the article is published.

Here is a video I created a few years back on creating an ideal home office.

Do you have a dedicated home office? Do you use it?

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Use It or Lose It – Organizing Style

April 2nd, 2013

We are starting a regular post called “Use It or Lose It”. We will feature an organizing or productivity product we find and ask you “Use It or Lose It?”  Would you use it or should we lose it and move on?

Today’s product is from CB2 (a division of stores from the Crate & Barrel company).

 

 

 

 

The CB2 Chalkboard Storage Line.  The items are made from wood composite.  They are a painted chalkboard surface and include one piece of white chalk.  They wipe clean with a soft dry cloth.

 

Prices

File Box = $39.95

Pen Cup = $4.50

Magazine Holder = $19.95

What do you think?  Would you use it or should we lose it?  Leave a comment below.

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Time for the Closet Switcheroo

March 15th, 2013

 

It is that time of the year again… Spring ahead, lose an hour of sleep, warmer temps, more hours of daylight and time to change over your closets.

Change over your closets? Change it to what or change it to where?

IMG_3218

Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? The what??? Pareto Principle? Wait… Don’t go anywhere. You have heard of it but maybe not by that name. It is better known as the 80 – 20 Rule. Oh yeah, the 80 – 20 rule. I won’t bore you with the details about Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population but rather tell you how it relates to our closets.

As a rule, we wear 20% of the items/outfits in our closets and drawers 80% of the time.

We often stuff our closets with items we rarely or never wear and certainly wouldn’t miss. We stuff so much in our closets that can’t find things we are looking for when we need them and sometimes we forget what we own so we end up of multiples of similar items.

Many folks have two distinct wardrobes (depending on the climate where they live). A summer wardrobe and a winter wardrobe. So how do you separate them?

Some have the space to keep two closets and switchout the items in the dressing area depending on season. Others have two sections of their closet and do the switcheroo with the current season in the most accessible section of their closet.

So as the seasons change from Winter to Spring, it is time for the big Switcheroo.

Here are three suggestions for making a successful and productive Switcheroo.

1.  Ask yourself as you take each item from your closet,

  • Do I still like this?
  • Is it in style?
  • Does it fit?
  • Is it clean?
  • Is it in need of repair?

2.  If it is a keeper, proceed to the next item. If it is in need of repair, set it aside to mend or take to a tailor or seamstress. If it is dirty, toss it in the wash.

3.  If you no longer like it, it is out of style or it no longer fits, grab a bag & pen & paper. Write down a brief description of the item and it’s condition. Then toss the item in the bag for donation. When you have finished, drop the bags at your preferred charity.  Next year when it comes time for taxes, you won’t be standing there with a handful of donations slip with a puzzled look on your face trying to recall what you donated and it’s value based on the item and it’s condition.

Repeat the same process for each item that comes out from the past season before adding it to your closet.  Your future self will thank you when it is time get dressed each day and you feel like you are shopping in store where you like everything, it is clean and it fits,  and also when it comes time for taxes next year.

Good luck and feel free to add your suggestions below.  Also, what is the oddest thing you found in your closet when doing the switcheroo?

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How to organize almost anything – Step 1

April 12th, 2011

So I’ve shared the four basic steps to organizing almost anything

junk drawer

  • Empty
  • Sort
  • Purge
  • Replace

In this plan, we are aiming for organized and good enough. We are not talking about buying any supplies (other than a trash bag, a recycle bin and a shopping bag to hold donations). In this project we are not running out and buying label makers and pretty bins. We are aiming for better and good enough, increased function not perfection.

Let’s attack the easiest one. It always helps to start off with something easy to get you rolling.

EMPTY

I doesn’t matter what you are organizing you need to start with a clean slate. Let’s say your organizing a drawer…. find an EMPTY spot on the floor, a countertop, a desk and remove all of the contents of the drawer. All of them, no really everything. If you find any obvious trash, go ahead and toss it. You can do a general sort now grouping similar item but don’t worry we will handle sorting in detail in step 2. If you are using the floor to EMPTY the drawer, you may want to lay down a piece of cardboard, a trash bag or newspaper first especially if you are EMPTYing a desk drawer. Desk drawers are prone to having leaky pens and we don’t want to get ink on your hardwoods or carpets. Remember to only EMPTY one drawer. We will go through all 4 steps with each drawer before EMPTYing the next drawer.

EMPTYing is the same if it’s a closet. Pick a section, a wall, the floor, just shoes or belts. EMPTY everything out of that section. That is it. Told you this step was easy.

Stay tuned for step 2 – SORT. That is where the real fun begins!

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