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Learning to get organized, stay focused, and get things done are must-have skills when it comes to schoolwork.

These skills can help you with just about everything in life, too. The more you practice, the better you'll get. Let these skills become go-to habits that make your life work better.

Get Organized

Organize your stuff. Everything is easier when you’re organized. You can get to work faster without wasting time looking for stuff.

Keep your assignments and class information organized by subject. Put them in binders, notebooks, or folders. If you find yourself stuffing loose papers in your bag or grabbing different notebooks for the same class, it's time to stop and reorganize!

Clean out your backpack every few days. Decide where to keep things you want to hold onto. Offload things you no longer need to carry around.

Organize your space. You need a good workspace — someplace quiet enough to focus. It's best to work at a desk or table where you can spread out your work. Have a set place for homework. That way, when you sit down, you can shift into work mode and focus more quickly.

Organize your time. Use a planner or planning app to keep track of your schoolwork:

  • Write down all your assignments and when they're due.
  • Break big projects into parts. Mark the dates when each part needs to be complete. Be sure to schedule when you'll work on each part.
  • Mark the dates you'll have tests. Then make a note of when you'll study for them. One sure way to reduce test anxiety is to prepare by studying (really!).
  • Enter other activities on your calendar. Fill in times for team practices, drama rehearsals, plans with friends, etc. This helps you plan ahead because you’ll see when things might be too busy to get all your work done. Use your planner to schedule a time to do your schoolwork on days you have other activities.

Get Focused

Avoid distractions. When you multitask, you're less focused. That means you're less likely to do well on that test. Park your devices and only check them after you finish your work.

Some people focus best when it's quiet. Others say they study best if they listen to background music. But music with lyrics can distract you. If you find yourself reading the same page over and over, it's a clue that the music is a distraction, not a help. If you need to block out other sounds, try white noise or nature sounds.

Take breaks. Taking a short break between assignments can help your mind stay fresh and focused. Get up from your desk. Move, stretch, or walk around to clear your head. Take some slow deep breaths. Then get back to your studies.

Refocus yourself. If you get distracted, guide your attention back into study mode. Resist checking your phone or device. Remind yourself that now it's time to stay on task.

Get It Done!

Get started. It’s not always easy to get started on homework. But you’ve got to get started if you want to get it done. Sure, you can think of a million other things you’d rather do. But if you procrastinate, you’re more likely to feel stressed — and less likely to do your best work.

To help yourself get started, break down homework into small tasks. Pick one small task to do first. Some people like to start with the hardest thing. Others like to start with something easy. Then do it.

Keep going. When you finish the first task, tell yourself , ‘Alright. I got this done.’ Then move on to the next task. Keep it up. Cross off each task as you do it.

Some people find it helps to set a timer for five (or 10) minutes. See how much you can get done before the timer goes off. Coach yourself to keep going for another five minutes. Don’t rush. Just try to work at a steady pace.

Finish it up. Stay focused as you do the final steps and details. Cheer yourself on — you're almost at the finish line!

Check your completed work. Put your work into the right folder or binder. Pack up your backpack for tomorrow. Now you've got it DONE.

These skills may sound simple. But they’re not always easy. If you need more tips to organize your work, stay focused, or get it done, ask a teacher, school counselor, or a parent for help.

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