Have you ever wondered why some of your classmates always manage to do all their homework on time and even manage to do something on top of it, while you constantly struggle to complete the bare minimum on time and never seem to have enough hours for anything else? Let us tell you a secret – it very rarely has something to do with a natural talent. In absolute majority of cases it is all about the right organization and approach to the work at hand.
Want to know what it means? Read on.
Keep Track of Your Homework
If you want to be on top of things, you should always know exactly how much homework you have at the moment and when each part of it is due. This way you will always know what your current workload is, which days are going to be especially homework-heavy, what long-term projects you are dealing with and so on.
It is important to keep all this information in a separate location, where it will be impossible to mix it up with something else. A separate notebook, calendar, day planner – anything will do as long as you don’t forget to make the new entries as they come and keep them up-to-date. If you prefer high-tech approach, you may use a homework organizing app – their name is legion, and they are basically interchangeable.
Here are some tips that will make it more efficient:
- Organize homework chronologically, not in the order it is assigned but in the order of deadlines.
- When you are assigned a large, long-term project you are not going to start working on it right away, so make sure you remember about it – stick a Post-It note in a conspicuous place or set a reminder on your phone. This way it won’t come as a surprise that you have a research paper due tomorrow morning and forgotten all about it.
- Write down all the additional information about each assignment: textbook pages, instructions from the teacher, other sources.
- Look through each assignment as soon as possible and make sure you understand it. A teacher may mix up pages or forget to mention some crucial details, you may make a mistake writing the instructions down. You don’t want to find it out the night before the deadline, when it is too late to ask for clarifications.
Choose and Prepare Your Workplace
Working environment is an important factor in your overall efficiency – which means that you should take its choice and preparation as seriously as possible. Generally, you have two choices at your disposal: to do your homework at home or in a public place, e.g., a library. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, neither is ideal and their appropriateness may differ according to the task at hand, your preferences and many other factors.
- Working at home is understandably more flexible – you can take breaks from homework to deal with other things, have full access to your computer and textbooks. Drawbacks come from the same source – home atmosphere produces a relaxing effect on many people, and as a result they tend to drift off to time-wasting activities when they are supposed to be working. If you have a large family in a small living space, there may be many distracting factors as well.
- Many people actually find that they work better when surrounded by others, which serves as an additional motivation to do their homework in public locations. Libraries, for one, are specifically designed for this purpose – visitors are prohibited from making loud noises or talking at the top of their voices, working places are comfortable, and you can access any literature you may need at the moment’s notice. Plus, most modern libraries have Internet access.
It may be a good idea to try out several different places to see where you feel more comfortable and manage to work more efficiently. Also, consider drifting between workplaces from time to time – getting entrenched in your routine too deeply may have an adverse effect on the results of your work, and changing your workplace occasionally is said to be stimulating for your mental activity.
Prepare a Schedule
This is the single most important point in this guide – if you omit all the rest and implement only this one, you are still going to greatly increase your efficiency.
The majority of problems students face when dealing with homework are caused by lack of organization. They put off each assignment until the last possible moment, ignore long-term projects until it is too late to do a decent job of them, neglect revision and practice – and, as a result, invariably suffer from the lack of time, enormous workloads and frustration. All this can be averted if you do two simple things: prepare a schedule and stick to it.
For better or worse, there is no single surefire approach to how you should organize your studies. It depends on your own abilities, your majors, preferences and interests, the kind of school you attend, your academic level and so on. However, here are some suggestions that may help you in inventing the schedule that would suit you best:
- Set aside a specific period of time every day you are going to dedicate to homework. If possible, make it the same time every day – it will make the formation of the necessary habit easier. After you’ve been starting your homework at the same time for a month, you no longer will have to persuade yourself to do it, no matter how disagreeable a task you are dealing with is.
- If you’ve completed your homework for tomorrow earlier than expected, start doing assignments for the day after tomorrow.
- It is a good rule of a thumb to always stay ahead of schedule at least a day. This way, you will have a bit of padding for emergencies: in case your teacher suddenly piles up a mountain of urgent assignments, or you have some personal problems. Besides, you cannot imagine what a gratifying experience it is to have all your homework done three days ahead of schedule and not having to bother about it anymore.
- Of course, sometimes you will exceed your allotted time and still have some work to do. Make sure to complete it anyway, but note which assignments took you longer than expected to take them into account in future.
- Account for the breaks. Even if you have a lot of urgent work to do, still make sure to find time for breaks. Different specialists recommend different combinations of work and free time: 45/15 minutes, 50/10, 60/15. Try out different variants and choose the one that suits you best, but don’t omit them altogether. As you get more and more tired, your attention will start slipping, memory will weaken and your efficiency in general is going to suffer. Short periods of rest can prolong the period of maximum efficiency. By the way, rest should be different in quality from your work – don’t just sit surfing the Internet. Stand up, do some squats, go for a quick walk around the block.
- If you work on a long-term project, set aside some time to do it every day for its entire duration. It is preferable to spend some time on it before you start doing your assignments for tomorrow – thus you won’t be tempted to skip it “just this once” because you are too tired.
Before getting down to business, you should take care of a few little things.
- Prepare everything you are going to need (textbooks, pens, pencils, rulers, anything else depending on your task – you should have it prepared beforehand).
- Eliminate all possible distractions.
This is one of the reasons to do homework in a library or a similar place – it adds discipline to the atmosphere. At home you are all too likely to start browsing social media, surfing your favorite sites or watching TV. So make sure to eliminate most of these distractions. Turn off your phone. Get as far from TV as possible. Install a browser add-on like LeechBlock that would prevent you from drifting off to distracting websites. Put on headphones and block out the outside noises with some music – just make sure it is either instrumental or in a language you don’t understand, otherwise it will turn into a distraction of its own.
However, as it turns out, there aren’t any magical tricks about actually doing homework – if you’ve done preparatory work, you shouldn’t encounter many problems. Nevertheless, there are some tips that may help you out.
- Sort your homework and start doing the most difficult and/or most important assignments first. This will allow you to complete the most disagreeable parts while you are still fresh and have a lot of time, and spend what time is left on the less crucial tasks.
- It is almost always better to complete assignments one by one from start to finish than to jump between them. This way you’ll concentrate on one thing at a time and use all your attention to solve the current problem without worrying about unfinished business. However…
- If the task takes too much time, and you still have a lot of work to do, you may put it off until you deal with the rest of your assignments. Even if you won’t be able to complete it after all, it is better to hand in 9 completed and 1 partially completed assignments than 1 completed and 9 you haven’t even started.
- We are serious about taking breaks! Even if you feel that you are short on time, you should still take breaks – it will increase your efficiency in the long run. However, you should make them strictly timed and immediately go back to work once the allotted free time runs out.
- Add motivation. Arrange for some pleasant activity immediately after you complete the last of your homework. It may serve not only as one-time incentive, but a useful habit-forming technique – after a while homework completion will get firmly connected in your subconscious with this pleasant activity, making the entire process a lot more palatable.
- However, don’t give in to the temptation of doing homework higgledy-piggledy to get to that incentive – a certain quality standard should be a prerequisite of getting this reward.
- Revision is a must. For many people, going through the entire homework one more time after it is seemingly completed is almost unbearable. However, you will do yourself a world of good if you manage to steel yourself and actually do it – preferably after a break. This is yet another reason to always stay ahead of schedule – you will be amazed how many mistakes you can find in your work if you put it aside for a day or two.
Some Final Tips
One of the biggest problems you are likely to face is the lack of time. However, with a bit of ingenuity you can find just enough extra of this seemingly finite resource to get everything done.
- Start homework immediately after coming home. There are a lot of activities you can easily dispense with – without even noticing it.
- Keep your homework at hand and take stabs at it whenever you have to wait for something. It is much more beneficial than playing with your phone.
- Cram some homework into pauses between periods. 10 minutes may not seem like much, but these things do add up.
- Get some help! There are a lot of people around you who are ready and sometimes happy to help you out. Parents, older siblings, other students, teachers – don’t be shy to address them for some help if you need it.
Homework is an integral part of any education, and the ability to properly organize your own independent work is very important. If you manage to prepare and streamline your work, you’ve effectively halved your problems – it is chaos and disorganization that cause failure in most students.