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Organize, Focus, Get It Done

Easy as 1, 2, 3

Doing homework can be fun. Especially when it's just the right amount of challenge — not too easy, not too hard. But if you're a kid who gets distracted easily, homework takes a lot more time. And it feels a lot less fun.

Here are three big tips that help you get better at doing homework:

  1. Get organized.
  2. Stay focused.
  3. Get it done!

1. Get Organized

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 binders and folders, and keep your school papers in the right ones. Clean out your backpack every day, so you have only what belongs in there. Keep things 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 where you can spread out your work. Gather any supplies you'll need before you get started — like pencils, papers, or markers. Don't use your bed for homework. That makes it too easy to snooze, daydream, or play instead of doing your work.

Organize your time. Use a planner to help you keep track of what you need to do and when you will do it. Mark the dates when you will have tests, and when you will study for them. Mark the days when you will have sports practice, lessons, or other activities. Write down your homework every day. Look at your homework list and your planner every day.

2. Stay Focused

After you get organized, it's time to focus on what you have to do. This means putting your attention on your homework.

Get rid of distractions. Some people try to do homework while they have music or a favorite show playing in the background. But these distractions make it hard to focus. They will make your homework take longer and keep you from doing your best. Remind yourself that its time to do homework. And give yourself free time after it's done.

Get ready — get started. Pick the first thing you'll work on. Then talk yourself through it. "OK, I'll do my math problems. Let me read the first one." Then go ahead and do it. Ask yourself, "What's the next step?" Answer: "Write down the numbers I have to add up to get the answer." Then add them up. Write down your answer. Check your work to see if it's right. Take each step one at a time. Focus on the step you're doing.

Take breaks. If your attention starts to drift, get up and move around for a few minutes. But don't start playing or doing something else. Just walk around your homework area a couple of times, go 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.

Refocus. After a break, get right back to work. Pick the step you'll work on next. Talk yourself through it. Then do that step. Keep going. Take one step after the other. Check off the things you've already done. Your job is to stay focused long enough to finish what you need to do.

3. Get It Done!

Don't give up when you're this close to the finish line! Stick with it, and finish it up.

Check your work. Make sure your homework is neat. Check for mistakes and fix any you find. If it's a project or a book report, put on the finishing touches. Be sure your name is on it!

Be proud of a job well done. It's OK to admire your work. Give yourself a compliment. "My book report turned out great! And I really like the picture I did for the cover." It feels good to know you put your best into something.

Put it where it goes. Put your homework in the right folder. Make sure the folder is in your backpack. Put the backpack where it belongs. Now you're DONE!

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 all. 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. They can help you 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 focusing on homework or getting yourself started, adults can help you with this too. Soon you'll get better at doing it yourself.

Learning how to do homework well (and make it fun!) takes practice. Be patient with yourself as you learn to organize, focus, and get it done. The more you practice, the better you get at doing it.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: November 2017