How to Be More Organized in High School: The Student’s Guide

Do you need help finding best-fit colleges or writing essays? You can sign up for a free consult here.

We understand that the day-to-day schedule of a high school student is incredibly busy.

Your days are likely jam-packed with classes, activities, practices, homework, and at-home responsibilities.

You may even have a job that you work in the evenings and on weekends.

In order to manage your busy life and still feel sane at the end of the day, it’s important to be organized,

Perhaps you find yourself digging through your backpack for “that one piece of paper that you know is in there somewhere.”

Are you familiar with the feeling of panic that sets in when you realize that the American history unit test is today?

If so, you’ve found the right article.

Taking control of your life now by becoming more organized is an important step toward being prepared for college. With an increased level of freedom comes responsibility.

Organization will also allow you to feel less stressed and accomplish more in a day.

How to Be More Organized in High School

Click above to watch a video on how to stay organized.

Write It Down in a Planner

One of the best ways to get organized is by keeping a daily planner. This doesn’t mean you have to use colored gel pens or buy a planner adorned with glitter (if you’re into that, we are not judging).

A planner not only helps you to organize your events and schedule, but it serves as a place to write down important information.

While it might seem like a drag to have to carry it around, it will become second nature after a while.

Most daily planners* also have a two-page spread that shows your entire month.

  • Use this section to keep track of big events, like birthdays, tests, project due dates, tournaments, and performances.
  • Then, in the blocks provided for each day, keep track of your daily practices and work schedule.
  • Here you can also write down homework assignments and important reminders, such as “Pick up little brother from after school.”

Jot down notes about social outings, such as “Saturday lunch with Ashley.”

Seeing these fun events coming up later in the week will increase your motivation to get through your other less-interesting commitments.

  • Planners are not necessarily a place for formal writing.
  • You can write in fragments and bullets.
  • As long as you can understand your writing, a planner will be helpful to your organization.

If you want to raise the bar of your organization game, there are also planners that offer daily inspiration and allow you to set long-term goals to work toward. You can also use digital planners available via an app on your phone.

While digital planners are useful because you can schedule reminders to blink or sound on your phone, there are some drawbacks.

It’s possible that your phone will die, and you’ll lose access to all of your important information.

  • There are also times when you may not be able to use your phone, such as during class. This would prevent you from writing important information like homework.

Let’s face it: There is too much going on in our daily lives to keep it all in our heads.

Carrying around a planner will prevent you from missing out on important events or the opportunity to prepare for class.

This preparation will ultimately lead to your success in and outside of the classroom.

Establish a Nighttime Routine

Establishing a nighttime routine aimed at organization is an important strategy for starting your morning stress-free.

Set a time in the evening during which you prepare everything you need to have for a successful day.

  • Pick out your clothes and shoes, and pack your gym bag and backpack.
  • There is nothing worse than waking up to realize that your practice uniform is disgusting and having to beg your parents to wash it and bring it to school.
  • Not only is this unfair to your parents, but it sets a terrible tone for your entire day.

By getting your clothes ready in the evening, you’ll have the opportunity to realize that you need to throw your uniform in the washing machine overnight or that you left your trombone in Dad’s trunk (especially if he goes to work before you even wake up).

  • Go ahead and pack up your backpack.
  • Check your planner for what assignments are due the next day, and be sure that they make their way off of your desk and into your backpack.
  • If you go to a school that loans out devices like laptops, plug them in for the night.
  • This way, you’ll start the first period with a fully charged laptop.
  • To avoid forgetting your laptop and charger in the morning, set them on top of your backpack.
  • Finally, get your lunch together ahead of time. If you buy school lunch, be sure that your account has money or that you have enough cash in your wallet.

If your parents/guardians are still primarily in charge of making your lunch, it might be time to start helping out.

Get personalized advice!

We've helped thousands of students choose a career and guided them along it to success. Here is what our clients say about us:

"Transizion guided and advised my daughter through her essays for great schools, including NYU, UC Berkeley, USC, GW, and Northwestern. My daughter was independent throughout the process and really enjoyed all the feedback and guidance they gave her. They were always available to answer all of our questions rapidly. They made my life much easier especially since my daughter was a Canadian student and the whole application to US schools was very foreign to our family. I highly recommend Transizion for their professionalism and work ethics!"

In college, you will have to make arrangements for your own meals, so it’s good to have some practice beforehand. Drink coffee? Fill up the pot with water, insert the filter, and measure out coffee.

In the morning, you’ll only have to click the button.

Why can’t I do all of this in the morning?

While most days you can do it the morning, rushing to get everything done can be stressful, and you are more prone to forgetting something on your way to school.

  • There are also unplanned events like oversleeping that will likely make you late for school if you also have to get ready, find clothes, pack a lunch, etc.

Getting ready in the morning at a leisurely pace because you’ve been organized and pre-prepared for your day will leave you feeling refreshed and ready for school.

Instead of taking your first long breath as you slide into a chair during first period, you will saunter into the room like a champion.

Be Proactive

As a responsible young adult, it’s imperative to practice the skill of being proactive.

This means that you need to anticipate a conflict and work to either prevent the conflict or overcome any resulting challenges.

Let’s look at an example: This year, a student contracted the flu and missed an entire week of school.

  • A student who takes a reactive approach to life will come back to school and act as if he didn’t miss anything.
  • He will not ask for makeup work and, on test day, exclaim, “I don’t know any of this stuff!”
  • This student will be shocked to find out he has missed 14 assignments across his class schedule.
  • However, a student that takes a proactive approach would email his teachers to let them know that he has the flu and will be back in class as soon as he is better.
  • In the meantime, he would text a friend in each class to let him know the situation. He would also ask his friends if they could keep a running tally of assignments and text pictures of their notes.

Sending an email and a few texts are minimal-effort actions, even if you’re feeling extremely sick.

  • Then, once you are back at school, talk to each of your teachers that day.
  • Work with them to come up with reasonable due dates for the assignments you missed.
  • Ask for extensions, if applicable.

When you are proactive about schoolwork, you are more likely to bounce back from your absences with success.

Your teachers will also be more willing to work with you if they see that you are making an effort.

Apply proactive strategies in other ways to organize your schedule.

  • If you are going to miss school for a field trip, talk to your teachers ahead of time and offer to complete work early.
  • If you have to present your graduation project in the evening on May 17th, let your boss know as soon as the date is set and ask for the evening off.

When you are proactive, you take responsibility for your actions and how they might affect yourself and others.

By making arrangements ahead of time and being an open communicator, you will earn respect with both your peers and the adults you work with on a regular basis.

Physical Organization

We’ve touched on one form of physical organization.

Another way you can be physically organized is by being purposeful about paper.

  • Although much of our world has turned digital, there is no question that we still use a ton of paper every week.

You have paper handouts from teachers, paper schedules from coaches, notes on paper from English class, a paper copy of a scholarship opportunity, and so on.

  • You might even have a paper checking account statement or car insurance bill.

When you use this much paper, you’re bound to lose something if you’re not organized.

We bet that if you dumped out the backpacks of an entire class of students, at least half of the students would have a trove of paper balls in the bottom of their bags.

  • If you make organization a priority, you wouldn’t have to desperately search for an important piece of paper or ask for another copy.
  • Buying colored folders is a cheap and easy way to keep track of loose pieces of paper.
  • Use a different color for each of your classes.
  • Keep teacher handouts on one side and your own work on the other.
  • When you have time, hole punch these papers and add them to your binder.

You can also use a folder to keep track of handouts, such as training materials from work and bills.

If you get a car insurance and cell phone bill each month, keep them in the folder.

  • Use one side for bills that have been paid and the other for those that will be due soon.
  • Once you pay a bill, you can move it from one side to another.

Go through your folders, backpacks, drawers, and car on a weekly basis to get rid of papers that you no longer need.

This prevents unnecessary files from building up, and it will be easier for you to gauge your priorities.

Managing Time

It’s one thing to write down your schedule and assignments in a planner, but if you don’t manage your time wisely, your work will be for nothing.

Procrastination is one way we cause ourselves unnecessary stress.

  • If you have a four-part project due in a month’s time, start it early.
  • If you wait until the day before, you will have to cancel all of your plans, feel stressed, and produce work that is not up to par with your teacher’s expectations.
  • Instead, plan to do one part of your project every week. You can even schedule this time in your planner.
  • By the time your deadline rolls around, you will already be done with the project and be able to continue with your plans as usual.

On a daily basis, you should plan how you will use your time after school and on the weekends.

If you know that a new episode of Criminal Minds airs at 10 pm, try to complete your other responsibilities beforehand.

If you do homework and watch TV at the same time, you will not be able to focus on your work, and you will not be able to fully enjoy the TV show.

It’s a lose-lose situation.

  • Try to pair work that you are required to do with a reward. Small rewards, such as a healthy snack or quick walk outside will increase your motivation and break up the monotony of work.

Conclusion: How to Be More Organized in High School 

Organization will free up your time and allow you to tackle challenges without the stress.

Remember to use a planner, write down commitments, prepare for your day the night before, and use folders to organize paper handouts.

Organization creates structure, which is so important for the mind.

All the highest-achieving leaders of the world organize their days, so why shouldn’t you? Pursue success in high school by cultivating your organizational skills.

*As an Amazon Associate, buying products recommended in this blog will help us create more amazing content.

Learn how we can help you with college and career guidance! Check out our YouTube channel!

Click Here to Schedule a Free Consult!