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6 ways to stay ahead at school

Sep. 25, 2017
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The past week has been the start of a new academic year in schools around the world—a new beginning for freshmen in high school and college, and a fresh start for second-years, third-years and seniors. The first week is always important, especially for first time students, because you would want to make a good first impression to your teachers and to your classmates. The two keys to this are staying organized and showing eagerness—both things that are easy to do at the start of the year but harder to keep up as school goes on. So how do you maintain those first-day-of-school vibes throughout the school year?   

In this piece, I’d like to share a few tips and tricks to keep up on top of your schoolwork without sacrificing your social life. 

Bullet journaling

This is something I’ve done for almost a year and it is an absolutely incredible and simple way to not only organise yourself but to ooze out a little creativity in your planning. 

Bullet journaling uses a system of keys—or “bullets” —that designate events, reminders, notes, to-do lists and so on. This method is most effective in the peak of your productive weeks as it helps keep your priorities straight. During exam seasons, I tend to use this method to help me balance studying and schoolwork with having fun. Plus, if you’re a creative dud, the flexibility of the format will maintain your creative energy and keep you motivated!

Examples of fill-in bullets you could use for your journals are: squares which could represent your to-dos, circles to depict your events, or asterisks for your reminders. And you can cross off those bullets with X’s, dots or dashes to mark their completion. Bullet journaling is an ambiguous activity—use your vivid imagination to make it as creative as you want or simply keep it low-key and comfortable enough to use everyday. Use some examples on Pinterest for some inspiration if you’re a visionary geek or you love illustrating!

Write down goals you want to achieve each month

If you’re already using your bullet journal as an agenda, why not take it to the next level? I like to use my bullet journal to write down my objectives for the month. Doing this drives me to be more productive and sustains my focus on the tasks I want to do. Some examples of goals that I usually like to write down are “finish reading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov”, “update website” or “finish chapter 6 of Art History textbook by end of September”. Giving myself a push each month helps me maintain my motivation and productiveness—and gives me a way to achieve my goals in life one baby step at a time! 

Clear your mind

The bullet journal is a very versatile system, and there are lots of ways to utilise it—for example, by using it as a place to cathartically write down your thoughts. Or, if you’re more of a visionary type, you can express yourself through drawings. You could argue that this is a form of meditation: you are de-cluttering your mind and removing any unnecessary thoughts or worries so you can have a clearer focus on your task at hand.

Plan your week ahead

I do this pretty much every week, and mapping out what I need to do has helped me to accomplish almost everything on time—from turning in my work to purchasing my books and meeting deadlines. 

Before the start of a new week—during my day off on Sunday, or else during any other available time I have—I like to sit down and write down the things I need to do in each day of the week. I don’t often set specific times for my tasks (unless I have a strict deadline), since I know that something will come up and it will mess up my schedule, but simply writing down my task in each day allows me to work around it so I won’t have to stress too much about time. 

In my journal, some of the things I write down include “plan next blog post”, “complete Module 2 in Emporium” and “buy new notebooks”. Doing this keeps me up to date with my schoolwork and outside projects. 

Have a separate folder for each subject

This is something my teachers stressed us about during my time studying A-levels. It was mandatory to store your work in a folder specifically for that subject, even if you didn’t think a dedicated folder was necessary. I’ve found that keeping one for each subject is truly a lifesaver, especially when exam season comes round. 

For my classes, I always slipped my paperwork into my folders after every lesson. Keeping them in order will allow you to look for them when you need to refer back to something or when you’re looking over what you studied. I used to be a very messy and disorganised person, but after following my teachers and getting myself some binders, studying has never been so easy. 

If you don’t want to buy a binder for each of your twelve classes or so, what I used to do was keep one large binder and divide it into sections according to my subjects.  

Have confidence!

A lot of times, I notice that my friends and peers are always complaining about how unorganised they are or how much they procrastinate. Putting yourself down with these negative thoughts will inhibit you from staying motivated and attentive to your goals. Stay positive! Positivity is a key thing, not just in school but in life in general. 

So keep your head up, stay focused and have a good school year!