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By Aya Khalil - The Independent Collegian - University of ToledoJanuary 18th 2007
It's 2 a.m. You sip your coffee to stay awake, and you start panicking. The only thing written in the document for the major research paper that's due in seven hours is your name and date.
Sound familiar? For some students, their New Year's resolution promise to manage their time well and become more organized has quickly become tricky. Students can get sidetracked over the semester and find it more difficult to organize time around studying, homework, work and extracurricular activities.
"At the beginning of a semester, I always set up goals and tasks that I plan on getting done," said Justin Rogers, a senior majoring in political science. "Unfortunately, I often get sidetracked under the weight of outside projects and things get done late or do not get handed in."
However, there is good news: everyone can learn how to get more organized.
"Getting organized is a learned behavior - it's not an inherited trait, and the biggest reason people have difficulty with it is because they were never taught," said Barry Izsak, president of The National Association of Professional Organizers, an association with more than 4,000 professional organizers who help people and businesses organize and manage time and space. "If [students have] never really been taught how to develop good study habits, some are going to be able to develop them on their own, but some are going to have difficulty, and the same thing is with organizing their space and organizing their time and … managing themselves when they go away to school."
Other students just leave things to the last minute out of laziness or just procrastinate.
"I try and study every day," said Matt Butters, a freshman majoring in international business. "Some things are just more fun to study, so sometimes, I put off studying something boring for the weekend. I don't set too many goals when it comes to improving my study habits, but I do get lazy. I have ADD, and when I run out of my medication, I get really lazy."
Every student manages their time and organizes their work differently. Izsak, a professional organizer in Austin, Texas and popular national speaker on time management, advises students to plan out what needs to be done and stick to that plan.
"Give yourself some structure and come up with a plan," Izsak said. "Map out when your classes are, map out when you're going to study and don't just sort of leave it to chance. You should save time in your schedule to devote yourself to your studies just as you would devote yourself to going to class, going to the grocery store, or eating dinner."
Rewards work well, Izsak said, but make sure studying is still in the schedule. Students often find it helpful to write down what they have to do for the day or week. "I keep track of what I have to do by following a planner I have on my Internet Explorer desktop," Butters said. Others prefer using Palm Pilots as a means of keeping track of things to do.
"[I] set benchmarks and then work towards them; I [also] use the task feature in my [personal digital assistant] and in Outlook," Rogers said. "I set up task features and then set up blocks of time on the planner to get the task done.
Izsak said that each student needs to find a system that works for them. "I'm not telling every student to use a PDA, absolutely not, because some people like them, some people don't and they're not for everyone," he said. "You need to choose a simple system that is going to work for you and stick with it."
Staying on track and planning will help you become more organized and manage your time more properly.
"If you've got a research paper, don't save it for the night before but plan it out and break the task into small manageable pieces," Izsak said. "You can't sit and write a research paper in one night, so you need to plot it out and devote a little time to it each day over a course of time and … break the project down into smaller components."
Izsak said that students need to stay focused and on track because the best system in the world will not last if one does not stick to it.
He said, "We can give all the best advice, but the biggest thing is stick to the program and don't deviate, and you have a much better chance of achieving that level of productivity that you desire."
The Arranging it AllSM team is mentored and trained by a Certified Professional Organizer.
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