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Organize, Focus, Get It Done

Medically reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD

Homework takes time. But it doesn’t have to take too much time. You want time to play, relax, and do other things, too. If you learn how to get organized and get focused, then you can get it done in a lot less time and with a lot less stress. 

You can read these tips with your parent or teacher. Then pick one tip you’d like to try. After you try it out, try others too. Soon you’ll be doing homework like a pro. And having more free time. Here's how.

1. Organize

Being organized means having things you need and knowing where to find them. When you're organized, you don't have to spend time looking for things and getting sidetracked.

Organize your stuff. Label your notebooks or folders and keep your school papers in the right ones. Have one folder for papers you need for homework (pick a bright color that’s easy to spot). Keep another folder for homework you have finished (pick a different bright color). Put your papers where they go right away. That way, you always know where to look. You can quickly find what you need.

Clean out your backpack every day so you have only what belongs in there. Keep a clear plastic zipper pouch in your backpack to hold all the small stuff you need for school. That way, things won’t get lost at the bottom of your backpack. Your parent or teacher could show you how to organize your backpack and keep it neat. They can help you at first. Then you can do it on your own.

Keep everything you take to school in the same place every day. That way, it's always easy to find your backpack, shoes, and coat.

Organize your space. Have a place for doing homework. It’s best to use a desk or table. Don't use your bed for homework. That makes it too easy to snooze, daydream, or play instead of doing your work.

When it’s time to do homework, gather the things you’ll need. Take them to your homework space. If you use a tablet or laptop, make sure it’s charged. Keep your charger in the same place so you don’t need to search for it.

At school, clean out your locker and your desk. You might need to do this once a week if these spaces get messy or too full. If you’re not sure what to keep, what to get rid of, or how to make it neat, ask your teacher to help you.

Organize your time. What’s the best time for you to do homework? Everyone’s different. Sometimes you can get some homework done while you’re still at school. That’s great — and there’s a teacher to ask if you need help. But you might also have homework to do at home.

Some people like to get started right away after school. They can get finished early and have free time when it’s done. Some want a little free time before they get started on homework. But it might be hard to stop playing and get to the homework. And you might be too tired if you wait until after dinner to do homework.

The best time to do homework is when you’re not too tired. Figure out what’s right for you. Make it a habit to do homework in the same place — and at the same time — each day.

2. Focus

When it’s time to do homework, it's time to focus. This means putting your attention on your work.

Put away devices. Some people try to do homework while they talk to a friend. Some people have music or a video playing in the background. But these distract you. They take some of your attention away from your work.

Remind yourself that it’s time to do homework. Promise yourself free time after it's done. That way, your homework can take less time and you can do your best.

Slow down and take your time. If you rush through homework, you’re more likely to make mistakes, leave things out, or do messy work. You don’t learn as much when you rush. That’s because your mind isn’t really on what you’re doing. Your mind is racing ahead to get finished. If you take your time, homework can take less time.

To help yourself slow down, take a few slow breaths. Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out s-l-o-w-l-y. It can help you feel focused. And it helps you slow down to take your time.

Look over your homework list. If you write down your homework in a notebook, read over your list. If your teacher posts the homework on a learning platform, check it to find out what you have for homework. Then make a list of all the assignments so you see everything you have to do. 

Get started. Pick the first thing you'll work on. Then talk yourself through it. For example: "OK, I'll do my math problems. Let me read the first one." After you read through the task, ask yourself, "What's the next step?" Your next step might be: "Now I need to write down all the numbers I have to add up." Then add them up. Write down your answer. Check your work to see if it's right. Take each step one at a time. Keep your mind on the step you’re doing. Then go to the next step.

Keep going. When you finish one part of your homework, check it off your list. That feels good. You can see your progress. Then pick the next thing from your list. Some people like to do the hardest things first. Some like to do the easiest things first. Or you could just do things in the order on your homework list.

Notice when your mind wanders. It’s natural to get distracted. But when it’s time for homework, your job is to notice when your mind drifts away from it. When you notice that you’re thinking of something else, don’t be mad at yourself. Just guide your attention back to your work. Ask yourself, “What am I supposed to be doing?” Answer: “Oh right, my homework.” And then just go back to it.

Take breaks. Try to work for 10 or 15 minutes. Then take a 5-minute break. You could set a timer to help you. To help your mind stay focused, you can get up and move around. But don't start playing or doing something else. Just walk around your homework area a couple of times. Get a drink of water or stand and stretch. Do some jumping jacks or walk up and down the stairs. Moving and breathing keeps your mind alert and ready to focus.

If you start to feel bored, you could do some of your work standing up. Read out loud. Work on things you need to memorize while you stand or walk around.

3. Get It Done!

You're close to the finish line! Don’t give up! Stick with it and get it done with these final steps:

Check your work. Make sure your work is neat. Check for mistakes and fix any you find. Put on the finishing touches. Is there anything you forgot to do? Check your list. Be sure your name is on your work.

Feel proud of your effort. Take a moment to notice some things you did well. For example, maybe you worked hard, tried your best, or fixed a mistake you found. Maybe you didn’t give up, or you asked for help. Maybe you kept working, even though you didn’t feel like it. Maybe you noticed that some things were easier than before. Maybe you feel prepared for tomorrow’s test. These are good reasons to feel proud of your work and good about yourself.

Put your work where it goes. If you are doing homework on a learning platform, be sure to follow directions for how to submit it to the teacher. Put any homework papers in the right folder. Make sure the folder is in your backpack. Put the backpack where it belongs. Now you're DONE (awesome!).

Ask for Help When You Need It

Being organized and focused seems easy for some kids. But for others, like kids with ADHD, it's not easy at first. Everyone can get better at these skills. Sometimes, it just takes a little more practice and a little help from other people.

Ask a parent or teacher to help you learn to organize your things. Together you can set things up in ways that work for you. If things get disorganized again, ask for their help to clean up. With practice and help, you will become more organized.

If you have trouble staying focused on homework, getting yourself started, or finishing your work, adults can help you with this too. Soon you'll get better at doing it yourself.

It takes practice. Be patient with yourself as you learn to organize, focus, and get things done. Give some of these ideas a try. Start by picking one thing to try. The more you practice, the better you get at doing it.

Medically reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: October 2022