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!

Kim signature small

 

 

 

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Free Paper Shredding Event – Montgomery County, Maryland

March 12th, 2012

Ok, who has completed their taxes and now has lots  of papers to shred?  Well folks in Montgomery County listen up, you are in luck!NBC Washington logo

NBC Washington & PNC Bank are at it again.  They have announced their next wildly popular Community Shred.  The spring Community Shred takes place on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at Montgomery College Rockville Campus.

Here are the details…  The event takes place from 8am – 11am.  Cars must be in line by 11am or they will be turned away.  So come early.  You may bring up to (5) five boxes of personal papers for shredding (no CDs or credit cards). Shredding is the best way to recycle (friendly for the environment) your personal papers and is  the best way to protect your identity.

shredded paper

Photo courtesy of NBC Washington’s website

To keep this event safe and secure for everyone, please DO NOT BRING these items: batteries, flammables, combustibles, electronic equipment (hard drives), media materials (DVDs, CDs, Tapes), binders, hanging files.  If you have all of these types of good things to recycle, fear not.  The Montgomery County Transfer Station recycles almost everything and anything AND is only 2.2 miles from the Montgomery College Campus.  Guide to friendly recycling in Montgomery County.  Now that is what I call safe and environmentally friendly spring cleaning!

Community Shred
March 24, 2012
8am – 11am (cars must be in line by 11am)
Montgomery College Rockville Campus
51 Mannakee Street, Rockville, MD 20850

pnc logoMontgomery College logo

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Top 3 Trends in Past 3 Years

September 24th, 2010

Top 3 Trends in Past 3 Years (Part 1 of 3)

I believe there have been three major trends in the past three years that has changed the way we do things.  I will be sharing my insights over the next three weeks.  I’d love to hear your input and experiences.

1.    Reliance on Tech

We now live in a world where we constantly rely on technology to get us through each day.  If you are not a mobile phone user (do they still exist), you still rely on technology when you go to a restaurant, the post office, the bank.

We have all likely been to a restaurant that uses technology – a form of a pager to notify you when your table is ready.  Some restaurants take orders on a handheld device that automatically transmits the order to the bar or kitchen.  You can even place a take-out or delivery order from home without picking up the phone.

You can make calls without picking up the receiver or handset.  You can write checks, pay bills or transfer money via a mobile phone or notebook computer Skype logowithout getting in the car or spending money on a stamp.  While the security of doing any of these still has some vulnerabilities for the most part they are secure.  Some folks still fear banking online, even if you avoid it, the banks stores your information online.  Security online is one part of the equation, backing up the data is the second.

When I work with clients, sometimes they ask to go paperless and store everything on their computer.  I ask about their back-up plan.  Nine times out of 10 they have none or they can’t remember the last time they backed up, if ever.  When I ask why not, they either don’t know how or it’s too difficult or too hard to remember.  There are many options for traditional back-up.  Many folks purchase an external hard drive.  I have one.  While they are a great option, there are some downfalls.

External hard drive 1.    Your computer must be connected to the external hard drive for your back-up to be completed.
2.    You must create a schedule to back-up.
3.    They can get lost or stop working making it difficult or impossible to retrieve the data. (this happened to me, the drive stopped working and I did not know until I went to look for something on the back-up drive).

I still use an external hard drive to back up but I also use one of the the web-based options as well.  The two big ones are Carbonite and Mozy.  Both offer a free month.  Following you free month, their fees vary based on the size of the files being backed-up.  An additional option is Dropbox.  Dropbox is an online back-up and collaboration tool.  DropboxI prefer Dropbox over Carbonite or Mozy.  I like that you can access it from any online device (mobile phone, pda, iPad, iTouch, notebook or desktop computer).  There is an app for the iPhone/iPad/iTouch and Android phones.  From any of the devices you can access anything in your Dropbox as long as you have internet access.  The Dropbox folder does reside on your computer.  As you create or edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations, audio, video or pictures Dropbox saves a copy on to your computer and updates your Dropbox account.  It also allows you to share files and collaborate with other users.  You can configure your computer to save all files to your Dropbox folder.  The free account includes up to 2GB file storage.  You can grow your storage for free by referring friends, family and colleagues to Dropbox.  They reward both the referrer and referee with an additional 250MB of storage.  You can continue to refer until you reach 32 accepted referrals or 8GB of addtional storage space.   You may not think that is very much space but you’d be surprised.  Take a look at the drive where you store your documents.  I am a heavy user.  My Documents folder currently uses 4.38GB of space.  It includes documents, spreadsheets, presentations and pictures.

Why do I love Dropbox?  Because it is mindless.  I don’t have to do anything.  I work on a document or download pics from my camera as long as I am connected to the web … voila after a few seconds, it is saved on my notebook and it is updated on Dropbox.  I don’t have to schedule anything.  If thinks for me.  I love that it is intuitive and costs me nothing (at this time).  If my storage needs grow faster than my free Dropbox grows, the cost of purchasing Dropbox storage space is very reasonable (All three online back-up systems mentioned do offer a discount if you pre-pay for a year vs. month to month fees).  I love that my documents folder looks identical regardless if I am looking at it on my computer, notebook, smart phone or a computer of a friend or at a hotel when I am traveling.  I don’t know how it could get any easier.  I only recommend it because I use it and find it is the best product available that meets my needs.  Feel free to check out Dropbox and get a free 250 KB of storage space.  I’d love to hear your feedback.  How do you protect and back-up your information?

Are you reliant on technology?  Share with us how technology shapes your life and has changed the way you operate on a day to day basis.

Stay tuned for #2 and #3!

Kim Oser

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Get Prepared for the 2009 Holiday Season – Tip 3

December 6th, 2009

On December 8, 2005 I was fortunate enough to be featured in the Home Section of The Washington Post. The article highlighted my tips for an organized celebration. Four years later as I re-read my tips, I am happy to say that my tips are still relevant. So here are my tips on being prepared for the holidays.

Stock up on the basics the sooner the better, before lines get longer and parking lots fill up.

  • Batteries – Consider what batteries are necessary all of your needs.  Think of which size is needed for everything from the games the children are receiving and the digital camera to the flashlights, mp3 player, remote controls and hearing aids.  Consider using rechargeable batteries whenever possible.  Reminder to charge them before the holidays.  (BTW-  do not store batteries in the fridge.  According to Energizer, To maximize performance and shelf life, store batteries at normal room temperatures with moderate humidity levels.)
  • Food storage – Pick up inexpensive food storage containers (like Rubbermaid TakeAlongs, Ziploc or Gladware) for freezing and sharing leftovers.  By having inexpensive containers on hand you won’t have to worry about someone taking home your good Rubbermaid or Tupperware.  Also – grab zip top bags in multiple sizes while at the store.  They come in very handy when sending home leftovers and take up little space.
    • Decor storage– Get wreath, ornament and artificial tree storage now!  They tend to sell out quickly.  This year especially, stores can’t afford to get stuck with seasonal items so they are keeping a lower than normal inventory.  (Don’t want to spend money on these uni-taskers or trying to preserve the environment?  Stop by the local liquor store and pick-up liquor or wine bottle boxes.  The dividers help protect your ornaments and the stores are happy to share the boxes.  Another option – Did you receive a gift of fruit?  Hang on to the shipping box, they usually come with padding which helps protect your decor.)

    • Last Minute Gifts– Have you ever been in a situation when some unexpected fives you a present?  Be ready to reciprocate with a unisex and consumable gift.  Think scented candles, a bottle of wine, fancy maple syrup, gourmet olive oil or vinegar, or a gift card to Starbucks.  I buy generic wrap in one solid color (white or silver) and have ribbons in many colors.   I customize the gift wrap for specific holidays, gender or individual by using a different color ribbons.  I buy clear cellophane wrap for odd shaped gifts.  Attach a blank tag and keep a pen nearby for quick inscribing.

    I hope this preparation helps you have a more enjoyable holiday season!

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    Get prepared for Holiday Season 2009 – Tip 1

    November 5th, 2009

    Can you believe we have already flipped the calendar to November?  Where did time go?

    I am sure many of you will agree,  it seemed a little pre-mature when the stores and malls had all their Christmas decorations up at least two weeks ago.  So you are thinking, I have a month before I can pull my decorations out of the closet/attic/garage, right?.

    Well – now is the perfect time to pull out your decorations  and go through them.  Yes, now.  Prior to the seasonal rush is the time to make decisions on which items you no longer like, no longer have meaning or is the lousy gift you received in the office Sneaky Santa exchange last year.   Now is the time to donate or resell these decorations or gifts.

    Often we don’t take the time to go through these items and store them year after year. Or we realize that we have just been holding on to something we don’t like, just in case the giver stops over.  You’ve been storing it for six years and the giver hasn’t been over for five.  Before you take it out to display or store it for another year.  Think about who will appreciate it more.  Holiday decorations or ‘seasonal’ gifts  have little value to donation sites and is of no value at a consignment store once the holidays have passed.

    So this weekend-

    1. Schedule some time to pull out your boxes of decorations
    2. Separate the items.  Start thinking now about how you want to decorate this year.
    3. Make sure the decorations you want to display are easily accessible, the ones you want to store are packed well and the others are packed to donate or sell.  You might be surprised to find you have forgotten about some of your favorites or may find that family heirloom that was misplaced years ago.
    4. Take to decorations that you no longer want or are just taking up space to a shelter/charity or consignment shop.

    A little prep time now will make the holiday decorating a whole lot more enjoyable.

    Please let us know what’s the most interesting thing you have found while going through your holiday decorations?  We’d love to hear (we’re just curious).

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