Ask LH: How Should I Organise My School Work?

Dear Lifehacker, I will be going into year 11 next year and I am wondering what the best way to stay organised is for senior school. The problem with individual exercise books for each subject is that I hate sticking in handout sheets so I just shove them in the back and usually lose them in the black depths of my bag. I have seen people with all their subjects in one binder, but if there is as much work next year as I have been led to believe, then it won't all fit (or at least it will be massive). So what is the best way to keep school work organised? Thanks, Stressed Student

Picture by Joel Penner

Dear Stressed Student,

Back when I was in high school, using a binder was effectively compulsory once you hit Year 11 — we weren't really given a choice. And yes, it did end up being fairly massive, though it's not the case that you need to keep everything for the entire year in there. From that point of view, it's more important to have a reasonable filing system at home to store the older stuff (an expanding file was my weapon of choice).

However, I was in high school a very long time ago, so I'm opening this one up to the readers to get some more recent experience. What approach have you found works best? Let's hear some ideas in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.


    Been a while since I was in high school but was wondering if you're allowed to use notebooks, netbooks and tablets.

    You rarely need all of your work in the one place at the one time. I'd suggest a small binder per subject, and archive older notes/handouts at home in a larger binder. You may need the larger binderaround revision and exam time.

    You could consider scanning all your notes and handouts and storing electronically, but you are probably doing extra work that isn't needed, and it's harder to search for the particular thing you wrote down 6 months earlier than just flipping through the physical notes.

    In 2012 any handout given to a student should also be placed on a website or intranet. In these days of Posterous, Tumbr and moodle there is zero excuse. I am a teacher and it is easier to send an item to posterous via email than try to photocopy it.

    If you don't have laptops in class it does not matter as it is still there for anyone to access outside of school time.

      I know it is hard to get teachers to change but students need to take the initivive and be the disruptive infuence in te class. If you do not have a internal school intranet/LMS. then set up a class posterous page enable posting by email. and simply ask your teacher when they create a handout could they email it there. Also most photocopiers these days also will email you a PDF ask them they can do this and email it to a student that can be in charge of uploading it to the blog. Also I allow a student in my class using an iPad or Mobile Data retrieval device (Phones not allowed in class) to photo important boardwork for posting and class access.

      I thought all schools already did do this? My highschool had an Intranet and that was 12 years ago!

    It takes a bit of extra effort, but I take my notes/handouts/etc and put them up on a pbwiki that I set up. Either they're typed up or scanned in. That way, I can study for a few minutes here and there from my phone or computer. Then I don't need to worry about keeping track of pieces of paper (no matter the filing system, I lose things). Got the idea from Study Hacks and it's worked pretty well for me.

    Last year (yr 10) I used my own laptop rather than the DET provided one, once a week i'd scan sheets into the corresponding subject's folder (if I'd been given a notable amount of sheets). Before they reached the scanner I had a plastic folder divided by coloured sheets of paper where i'd store them in my bag to avoid ruining them.

    When I was given a largish booklet i'd tear out the staples and set the scanner to double side every page. Issue with this now is that the school got a new photocopier that does booklets out of A3 rather than 2 A4 pages.

    I found that It was impossible to have on esystem for all my subjects - some where entirely handouts, some were entirely textbook, others entirely taking down your own notes. To that end, I relied on an intricate combination of exercise books and display folders, matched with regular filing.

    If you use a Windows computer, get OneNote. Scan in your attachments (once you get home) and have everything on the laptop / desktop.

    My wife is a teacher, and nearly all work is digital, including in class room teaching. Rather than carrying around backpacks with books and pens, consider an app such as one note for most of your work, plus it will make things easier to search for down the track.

    Use Evernote to store everything...take photos with your smartphone of handwritten notes/handouts/Board scribblings using the Endnote app (android and iphone). Tag them for easy retrieval.

    The only problem with Evernote for something like School work, compared to OneNote, is that Evernote doesn't do a great job of organising the work. OneNote will organise your work in Books, Subject and Topics.

    Admittedly, Evernote does have a nice smart phone app to take pictures and such, but overall I think OneNote will be a better pick for you. Try both and trying whichever one you prefer.

    If I were to go through school again, I'd use OneNote for organisation, plus a scanner / printer to organise (and get rid of) various sheets that one accumulates throughout the year.

    I was horribly unorganised at school and wish I had trained my organisation and motivational skills a little more.

    If you are like me and are very good at wandering the internet aimlessly, then i would recommend keeping as much of your work away from computers as possible. That way, when it comes to study for exams, you can remove yourself from all digital distractions, sit down with printed notes, trial exams, textbooks etc. and can easily use a combination of study materials rather than flicking through different things on a monitor.

    Through high school and uni i used CFM's method of having larger archives of notes at home in binders and taking a 4 subject notebook with sleeves for handouts to class each day, then tearing out the handwritten notes and putting them in my binder when i got home.

      Also, don't be intimidated by recent high school graduates telling you how much work you have to come. In school the teachers are there for you to learn and when you hit year 11/12 they are more than happy to use their own time to help you get a better understanding.

      Keep up to date during school hours and you will find school life is easily managed.

    Something I do (just completed year 11, starting 12 this year) is have a folder for each subject (kept at home) and a folder to take to school, in the folder you take to school, keep the current topic you are covering in each class and when you complete the topic, put it in the subject folder at home, separating it by topics.

    It works quite well.

      I wholeheartedly agree with this. Doing year 12 this year and am going to be using my system from last year, which is very similar to Seakip's.

      School Folder (Different colour for each subject): or if you're willing to spend a bit more, these

      Home Folder (1 for each subject): combined with sheet protectors for more important handouts

    I'm a fan of the exercise book (just make sure it's not one of those crappy Artrite ones from Woolworths that falls apart even if you contact it) but I too hated how sticking handouts in made it awkward to flick through since it makes some parts thicker than others.

    A system that worked for me was I using my exercise book like normal, but putting all my sheets in a display folder (or if you have a lot you could use a binder). For maths, it makes it a lot easier for revision if you have a separate book for your rules/theory (either write separate notes or just keep 2 books for theory and homework to begin with).

    Evernote is a good idea as well as investing in a digital pen, if they can be sourced. Whatever medium and method you use, repetition and review are key processes. Look at your weekly time-table and create "blocks" in it in which you sit down and go over the day's subjects and their notes - admit no distractions in these blocked times.

    ...oh, and do plenty of physical activity or anything that gets up up and away from the focused learning.

    How about using one of those pens that records what you write such as Livescribe and then transfering to a computer. That way you can search what you write.

    Don't stress. it is possible to be organised for study without spending heaps of cash. (If you've got the cash and want to spend it, then no worries)

    The important bit is to work out how YOU want to solve the problem, and stick with it. Expanding file and plastic pockets. A binder or note books. The important thing is to think about what you want to do and then do it.

    Take it from someone who got into the high 90's ENTER - one subject per day. Do not do everything at once because that will inevitably lower the standard of your work. Moderate and pace yourself.

    I'm going into Year 12 this year and I'm following the same set up as I made for Year 11.
    For the major subjects which are expected to have lots of hand outs (English mostly, this also depends on the type of teacher) I have a lever arch biner with plastic pockets in it for the more resent hand outs, then a display book for the older handouts, also with some lose leaf paper and then two binder books.
    For the 'newer' teachers who understand and allow technology I use my laptop with Onenote for those subjects. But it all depends on the types of classes.

    In year 11/12 I used a system where I had one folder that I took to school [alongside textbooks and such] that I put loose leaf paper and worksheets in, then when it filled up I transferred it to other folders. This was a few years ago, though, so you might want to take technology into account :)

    One binder to take to school, one binder at home per subject. If you type notes, make sure you print them out and put them in your binder at home so you don't overlook them when it comes to study, even though this might seem to make typing them in the first place seem pointless.

    I just finished year 12 last year. I advise an exercise book per subject and a bind per subject. Your school should have a large hole punch with which you can hole punch your exercise books and textbooks so it can all go into your folder. Unless, of course, you wish to spend hours photocopying and scanning. This way, you'll always have everything you need when you need it!

    All teachers should be forced to create electronic versions of any handout. They are disadvantaging those students who can't and won't use the paper versions. The sooner teachers realise that the 'the times they are a changing' the sooner we can allow students to realise their true potential and not be hindered by archaic methods of instruction.

    You should be able to find electronic versions of every text book you own. When you do, you can easily put them on a laptop (the DET issue ones if you're like me and live in NSW) or, in the case of myself and a few of my friends, an ipad or other tablet. Also, a binder will work. I have mine separated into each of my different subjects and only keep the topic that I am currently studying in there - the rest is left at home. Another word of advice, if you are completing a course that requires a log book, this will NEED to be a separate book for when you have to submit it. Do not try and store these notes in your binder.

    Take one folder to school, keep in it all the notes you are currently doing and paper to write new things on. Teachers love to refer to things you covered a week or two ago and to have that stuff handy. Then when you move onto new stuff take it home and file each subject in a different folder, can get away with small ones usually along with your hand written notes and keep them in chronological order. I wound up carrying next to nothing on me while at uni by keeping little on me. Then when it's time to study with friends for a subject you just grab that subject folder and go and it's dead easy to carry around any textbooks or a laptop because you aren't overloading.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now