Organizing Tip: Getting Organized with the Original Back-To-School Cheat Sheet

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Want to be more organized this school year/semester?

If you are a student (or a parent of a student) do you have your back-to-school cheat sheet in hand?

Wait…huh? Back-to-school cheat sheet?

Okay, here’s a hint: it is probably already in your possession.

Still puzzled? Think back to the first day of classes.

Still can’t figure it out? I’ll give you another hint, the word starts with the letter “s.”

All right, no more guessing. The word is “syllabus.”

Ahh, the wondrous and mysterious syllabus. You know, it’s that elusive sheet of paper or file that the teacher/instructor/professor hands out at the beginning of the year and that most people end up ignoring, losing or misplacing, often without realizing what they have done.

Here’s a few tips to make the most out of syllabi and help you become better organized for the school year/semester.

Read and review.

Now that you’ve located your syllabus or syllabi (if you haven’t yet done so, please do), read the document(s). Do you understand the scope and approach? Are there any special materials, requirements, appointments or items that you need to secure/make for the class or course? If you have any questions, now’s the time to ask your teacher/instructor/professor.

Mark key dates.

Using your favorite planner or calendar, mark down key dates for special lectures, quizzes, exams, laboratories, reports and trips/excursions. You’ll probably see a general pattern emerging as you do this — quizzes more frequently than exams, exams every week or every few weeks, reports every month or so — and by doing so you will already have a better idea of knowing what to expect as the weeks pass.

Plan out personal due dates.

To make sure you aren’t “surprised” when a report or presentation is due (and end up pulling an all-nighter or two), start at a due date and work backwards planning out your own personal due dates. For example, if you know a paper is due in a month, count backwards and give yourself time and mini-due dates giving for you to do such items as: research, write an outline, write a first draft, second draft, proofread, and do a final revision. (You might want to check out my previous post, Think Backwards to Better Your Future).

Save in a prominent place.

You’ll refer to this document throughout the school year/semester so be sure to keep it at your fingertips. If you have an electronic copy, save it to your desktop for easy reference, create a tag or mark it in your email program, save it in an electronic folder; if it’s a paper copy, staple it to the inside of your notebook or get one of those protective plastic-sleeves and place it in your binder.

Follow Rashelle:
Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.