Online learning is well-organized by nature, since most of the necessary materials are accessible through your computer. Still, your classes will probably require some books, printouts, draft papers, and other loose items. Do yourself a favor, and keep all of these items together, in one part of your house. If you don’t have a desk or a file cabinet, you can buy inexpensive folders that fit into a crate. Do not allow your study station to become cluttered with magazines, mail, or coffee mugs. Treat your study station like a serious environment, and you’ll find yourself acting like a serious student.
Colors command instant recognition. Red means stop; green means go. You can use the same principle to organize your schoolwork and your household. Assign specific colors to the different classes you are taking. Buy folders and notebooks that correspond with those colors. That way, when you’re looking for your biology worksheets, you’ll know exactly where they are. You might also wish to assign colors to specific members of your family. You don’t have to buy fancy organization bins to do this. Simple stickers or ribbons can be attached to lunch bags, backpacks, key rings, or any other items that get swapped by mistake. Use color-coded markers on a dry erase board to delegate chores, or to outline different kids’ appointments.
Live Ahead of Schedule
Instead of aiming to complete projects in time for the posted deadline, aim to complete projects 1 or 2 days ahead of the posted deadline. If a paper is due on Monday, tell yourself that it is due on Friday. Apply the same rule to chores and errands. This way, if an unexpected delay arises – like a flat tire or a broken arm – you won’t be stuck making excuses. This is also a good rule to model for your children, since you’re the one who stays up late to help them finish their own, last minute projects.
Breaks are like fuel for a strong work ethic. Whenever you are concentrating, your mind and your body are at work. You need occasional rests in order to stay focused and relaxed. Some students try to motor through a big project – like writing a 10-page paper or reading 5 chapters – without coming up for air. In the end, the nonstop method usually results in exhaustion and sloppiness. Try to divide your projects into one hour sessions. Every hour, step away from your work and go outside or stretch your muscles.
Clean Up Your Inbox
Emails can pile up faster than a sink full of dirty dishes. The more clogged your inbox becomes, the less you want to deal with it. But email access is a crucial part of online education. And a messy inbox can lead to an overlooked assignment – or worse. If you don’t already have email folders, take a few minutes to create some. Folders allow you to categorize your mail, and to access saved emails much quicker. With a folder for online purchases, for example, you can find receipts in an instant. And a folder for each of your online classes allows you to catalog exchanges you’ve had with different instructors and classmates.
Carry a Notepad
Good writers keep a notepad with them at all times. This way, when an idea presents itself, they can capture it immediately. Whether you’re at the mall, at the drive-thru, or at the post office, you may experience a burst of inspiration. Don’t let it get away! Reference your notes every day, and discover how stray thoughts can lead to insightful class contributions.
Create a Folder for Your Financial Aid Documents
If you’ve already begun the process of applying for financial aid, then you know it can get complicated. It’s not uncommon to feel intimidated or frustrated by the process – especially if you can’t find the information that you need. Avoid the hassle by keeping all your tax documents and FAFSA info in one, convenient place. Make sure you keep your FAFSA pin number with these papers, so you’ll be ready to reapply with each new school year. And remember that free assistance is available through the FAFSA website and through your school’s financial aid department, so don’t make the mistake of skipping out on aid altogether.
Use Bookmarks in Your Online Research
There are some sites that students visit regularly, like Merriam-Webster.com or Wikipedia.com. And then there are more specific sites that you’ll discover, as you explore your major in greater detail. In both cases, you can save time by bookmarking these useful pages. Take care to name your bookmarked pages something concise and relevant, so you’ll recognize the title. As you collect more and more bookmarks, you may find it useful to organize your bookmarks according to their subject or the school project they’re informing.
Jennifer Applin is a freelance writer and will soon be the mother of six young children born within a 5-year span. Her writing focuses on strategies for busy parents to juggle it all.