Autumn Organization: Use Organizational Tools You Already Have

In organization on September 24, 2009 at 10:00 am


Okay. I admit it. I have an office supply problem. If you get me in a Staples store, you’ll probably find me looking longingly at the different styles of Post-It notes, gazing through the binder supplies, or eying a label maker in the third aisle. I love pens. I love bulletin boards and dry erase markers. I love pouches designed to keep paper clips and other things organized. I love hooks. There’s this website online, See Jane Work, that has the coolest assortment of fancy file folders and file carriers. It’s a real problem for me.

The truth about organization, though, is that we don’t need new stuff to be organized. We don’t need color-coordinated post-its and tabs. We don’t need fancy computer programs. Usually, all we need is the stuff we already have: a place to write stuff down so we don’t forget it, a calendar, and a place to keep syllabi and other class materials.

A place to write stuff down: a notebook, index cards, a little reporter’s notebook, those cute little half-index cards, a binder. If you can’t seem to remember to carry these things with you, you could use your cell phone to leave messages to yourself, use a service like jott.com to send emails from your cell phone, send a text message to your email address, or (one I learned from a particularly creative student my first year of teaching) use your phone to take a photo of whatever it is you need to remember.

A calendar: you could get a paper calendar, or you could use your cell phone’s calendar, yahoo calendar, google calendar. You could also print out a free calendar from D*I*Y Planner.

A place to keep class materials: A folder, notebook, binder, a plastic sheet cover; anything that can corral your papers into one place.

The system isn’t the important thing. The point is to use the system regularly, so you don’t lose track of anything. I know this is easier said than done. I go through phases myself of getting a little out of hand, but if you have some kind of system in place, you’re less likely to let all hell break loose once November and December roll around, when you’re finishing two research papers, studying for four final exams, and baking cookies for your club’s holiday party.

Try it. Write down your dentist appointment, the date your visa needs updating, the flight information you need to check on for your visit home. Write down what your teacher says about the test next week. Write down if you need to buy toothpaste next time you’re at the store. Write everything down. Put these notes in the same spot every day, and look at them every so often. Then forget about it, and keep your memory free for stuff that you really should try to remember: what will be on the midterm or new vocabulary. If you do this, I’m guessing you’ll be a lot more organized than you were before, no matter how messy your folders or notebooks look.

*     *     *


Starting this week, I’ll be posting twice a week. One post, like this, will include longer articles with tips on school, writing, etc. The second will be less formal, include a tip for grammar, as well as a little update on how I end up using (or not using) my own advice on writing and organization. Those of you who receive the email notifications will still receive only one notification per week (I don’t want to overload your inbox!). Please let me know if you find the new information helpful.

Also, since this is the last post in the series on autumn organization, here is a list of previous posts that might help, as you work on establishing an organizational system for the start of the year:

Give Your Brain a Break

Using a Syllabus Wisely

Hate Taking Notes? Try These Tools

Links to Help you Start the School Year

Super Cool Organizational Tool

Getting Ready for Fall: Using a Calendar

Getting Some Kind of Organizational System


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