If you are in high school, college, or in a demanding job or career, you need to be able to manage your time. For some people, time management seems to come naturally. They never need to write anything down, yet they always know when something is expected and get it in on time. However, the rest of us need help, and help is easy to find.
Start by focusing on the day-to-day and get a daily-weekly planner, essentially a personal calendar that lives in and out of your backpack or on your phone. Use your syllabi to write down all major requirements for the semester for each course. You should also use the academic calendar to write down important dates (semester breaks, exam periods, class registration for the next semester, etc.). Knowing the heavy work-periods will help you make more realistic decisions about how to allocate time. I even recommend some social planning. Most institutions have an events calendar or all inclusive calendar that lists concerts, performances, lectures, games, and so. Getting organized might be the way to get tickets to the best concerts and events.
Time management tools are only one way to help planning and organization. Being physically organized is also important, especially for students with LDs. Many persons with LDs have to arrange their living space in precise ways. If anything is out of order, they are thrown until they can get their space organized again. Some people with LDs have difficulties with their visual memory. If they put something out of sight, they will not remember where they placed it. As a result, they keep everything they need visible.
I once spoke with a successful professional woman with LDs about her kitchen. It was beautiful. Every kitchen appliance you can imagine was hanging neatly on the walls or placed on the counters. The cabinets all had glass doors. The silverware, cutlery, etc. were not in drawers but rather in open containers. I could see virtually everything in her kitchen. She explained that she had to see everything; if she put anything away, she would not remember where she had put it and would never find it.
Telling my kids to pick up their room has never worked well for me, but I do recommend that students with LDs keep their class material – books, notebooks, etc. in one, easily accessible area. A well-organized work space in a dorm room need consist of nothing more than a computer, desk, small bookcase, and small file cabinet. The class materials must be organized. Most students use an individual notebook for each course; some use an all-in-one. I personally prefer and recommend individual notebooks. Among other things, they make it easier to separate the materials of one course from another. On the other hand, the all-in-one notebook does reduce the number of things to keep organized.
Getting Organized for Each Class:
- Don’t throw away handouts, readings, papers and tests!
- Use folders with inside pockets to organize them.
- Use different folders for different types of paperwork. Put tests and papers in one, handouts in another, and readings in another.
- Label each folder.
I admit that even when I get my paperwork into labeled folders, I sometimes leave them lying around… and lose them. Do better than me! Use shelves, a file cabinet, desk drawers, whatever makes for good storage. The key is consistency – a place for everything and everything in its place. Once you are physically organized, you are better positioned to develop routines and take control of your life in school and career.
You can find these tips and more in Henry’s book, Self-Advocacy for Students with Learning Disabilities: Making It Happen in College and Beyond, available from most online retailers. Email Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at 410-857-2525.