The internet is full of back-to-school tips — some of them good, and some of them straight up weird. (One list I saw suggested that students add “hot glue gun” to their school supplies list. Even the crafter in me is thinking whyyyyy!?)
Most of the back-to-school tips below are actually solid school habits to use all year round. But if you’re like me, then September has a New Year’s Resolution vibe to it — so that’s why the start of the school year is a good time to kick off some new routines. And remember: new habits take some time before they feel natural, so stick with these back-to-school tips until they click — maybe by mid October or so.
8 back-to-school tips that will start you on top
1. Get a planner. The options for paper planners and digital apps are endless — but the best ones are always the simplest. I recommend an old-school paper planner even if you’re a hardcore techie. Your paper planner should contain at least two sections: a daily calendar for your daily tasks and assignments, and a monthly calendar for your long-term assignments. I’ve used this Arc by Staples planner system for years and am still obsessed. Another good and simple one is this. Oh, and use the darn planner!! Use it every single day — even if you don’t feel like it — until it becomes a habit.
2. Set up your study space correctly. If you don’t already have one, find or create a nook somewhere that’s only for studying. Not your bed. Not the kitchen table. You don’t need a lot of space, but find or create a spot with a flat surface, a chair, and some way to store basic school supplies and other study essentials. Match this space to your learning style. Here are study space tips for visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners.
3. Use scholar.google.com instead of plain old Google. This back-to-school tips is pretty straightforward, and it’s awesome. Using Google’s Scholar browser instead will give you results that are research-based, academic, and, well, scholarly! It’s a great resource when you need primary sources for school papers and projects.
4. Get interesting but simple school supplies. I swear no one gets more excited about new pens and notebooks than I do. Seriously – “back to school” is basically my favorite holiday. But the back-to-school aisles at Staples or Target can be insanely overwhelming, even to me. My advice is to keep it simple. Sure, get cool colored index cards, but not 4 packages of varying sizes. Sure, get fancy new gel pens, but maybe don’t buy a set of 300. (Who writes in yellow??) Figure out what you need, and then get cool versions of that. (Cool stuff = motivation)
5. Set up a Limbo Folder. I fully explain how to use a Limbo Folder here, but basically it’s a folder where you will temporarily store papers that don’t have an obvious place to go. When your teacher hands back a test and you don’t know whether to keep or toss it, put it in the Limbo Folder until you can make a better decision. Same thing with worksheets and other papers that you’re unsure how to handle in the moment: put them in the Limbo Folder until you know what to do with them. This will keep your backpack and other folders so organized!
6. Start brain dumping. Nothing ruins focus and productivity (and your health!) more than stress does. Enter the Brain Dump. Every day or every few days — morning or night, whatever you want — write down every single thought that’s on your mind. Write until you have nothing left. Use a list format to keep it simple and quick, and jot down thoughts, to-dos, ideas, feelings, all of it. I recommend using a special notebook for brain dumping, although you could write these lists in the back of your planner if you want. Once everything is written down, not only will you feel less stressed, but you’ll also have a better picture of what needs to get done and what you can let go of. This strategy isn’t only a back-to-school tip: it’s a life tip!
7. Use Sundays for planning and prepping. Each Sunday, take some time to sit down with your planner and calendar to map out the week ahead. First, fill in non-negotiable appointments, sports practices, rehearsals, your job hours, and other time-sensitive commitments. Then look at the open time you have left and actually schedule in time for homework and studying. If you’re reading this tip and thinking nooooo way, then you’re the one who probably needs this tip more than anyone. Good students don’t think twice about scheduling in time for homework and studying, the same way they’d schedule in a doctor’s appointment. When you’re a full-time student, it’s your actual job to get your work done.
Also – use this Sunday planning time to mentally and emotionally prepare for the upcoming week. If writing down all yours tasks and commitments begins to stress you out, let that be a sign that a) you have too much on your plate, or b) you might need to ask for help.
8. Do a Friday Dump. (Ha, I know that sounds weird.) But if you’re one who struggles with organization, this back-to school tip is for you. We all know that the weekdays can get crazy and messy, and we don’t always have time to keep our materials and paper organized. (For starters, see tip #5.) So on Fridays, take five minutes to sort through your backpack, binders, folders, locker, and study space: put things back where they belong, and throw away trash and old papers you don’t need anymore. When you take this little bit of time on Fridays to organize your materials, you’ll have a cleaner and fresher start on Monday. That’s a win.
The start of anything new, especially a new school year, can bring on all the feelings — from excitement to anxiety, passion to dread. Let these back-to-school tips inspire you to try something different this September — it just might change the whole game.
Don’t go yet! Looking for more back-to-school tips? Here’s a back-to-school hacks video where I give you a bazillion more hacks for crushing it.