As the school year gets busier, completing all your homework assignments on time can be challenging. Plus, if you—like many students—still feel residual pandemic-related learning losses, you might feel like you’re drowning in homework and concepts that you still don’t understand. 

Organize tasks by priority

When you have a lot of items on your to-do list, it can be difficult to know where to start. Organizing all your homework tasks by priority is a helpful way to calm your brain a little and actually get started. 

This may mean different things for different students. For instance, maybe your top priorities are the assignments due the soonest. Or maybe you want to knock out the hardest tasks first, such as word problems. However you view your tasks, this can help you be more organized and consequently, more focused. 

Utilize study tools

Having an organized system for keeping track of all your study materials is useful when you have assignments in different subjects. 

And your study tools can help you devise this system.

For example, you can use a multi-subject binder or notebook to organize materials from different subjects.You can color-code your subjects with different highlighters or sticky notes. If you’re feeling it, you may get crazy and use highlighters to color-code all the different tasks on  your planner. 

Reduce distractions

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’ll make all the difference in the world when you turn off Love is Blind—which you’ve been using as background noise—silence your phone, and get to work. 

A 2018 review on the effect of media multitasking on academic performance found that media multitasking impedes students’ abilities to retain information. And as a result, it negatively affects GPA, test performance, recall, reading comprehension, note-taking, and efficiency. 

Designate a space solely for homework

If you’re doing homework in an environment where your little brother is squealing about the hungry caterpillar, or where your best friend is yapping in your ear about her new skirt she got at a clearance sale, you may not get much done. But really, this doesn’t come as a surprise.  

Research points to the importance of creating a study space—specifically, it’s essential to avoid studying in bed. Doing work in bed can lower your concentration and attention span, since we tend to associate bed with sleep and relaxation. 

In addition, studying in your designated work space—rather than in bed—may even improve your quality of sleep, according to a Harvard Medical School article, “Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep”. 

Give yourself small rewards

If you only think about completing your schoolwork in a negative light, you may find that your work is getting worse and your motivation is dropping.

To reverse your negative feelings surrounding homework, try giving yourself little rewards each time you complete a task. AKA, positive reinforcement. You can give yourself a sweet treat, or you can allow yourself time for leisure reading or your guilty pleasure tv-show. 

Research shows that positive reinforcement can positively affect student performance. Not only does it boost attention levels, but providing positive reinforcement can increase motivation and engagement. 

When frustrated, take a break

Certain tasks have a way of increasing stress—chemical equations, anyone?—which in turn raises cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. 

When you’re in this state of extreme anxiety and/or agitation, it may be best to take a short break and then come back to it—instead of trying to forge on.

Research actually backs this up. In a 2016 study, a psychologist and research team explored elementary students’ attention spans during class. They found that during over a quarter of the class time, the students couldn’t focus on the teacher or task.

On the flip-side, students had greater attention spans during shorter lessons with breaks in between. 

One way you can remind yourself to take breaks is to set a timer to go off every hour; for every hour, take a 5-minute break!

Start major assignments early

You get a major, major assignment a couple weeks before a deadline, and you tell yourself you’ll get started that night. A week later, you tell yourself, oh it’s fine, I still have a week. One week later…the due date is the next day: and, panic time! Sound familiar?

While you maybe never thought you’d be that person who starts assignments weeks in advance, you’ll never know if something works unless you try!

By forcing yourself to do a little bit of an assignment each day, you’ll lower the likelihood of even reaching that panic moment on the night before the due date. Plus, if you get stuck, your proactivity will benefit you majorly. You’ll have the time to phone a friend, email your teacher, or hit the library and come to a solution. 

Work with a friend

For some people, it’s incredibly challenging to work through assignments in silence—if this is you, talk to your friends and see if others feel the same way. You’re bound to come across someone else in the market for a study buddy. 

Note: Just make sure you avoid working with someone who you know will distract you and make it more difficult to be productive. 

Utilize a planner

If you have trouble staying organized and keeping track of your assignments, start using a planner. Writing down all your tasks will help you stay on top of everything and ensure you’re getting to all the necessary assignments. Plus, it’s incredibly satisfying to physically cross off completed tasks.

Plan ahead 

When you’re balancing your schoolwork, social life, extracurricular activities, family time, and job, life can become hectic quickly. If you know you have a major social event coming up, plan ahead and try to knock out some assignments ahead of time. 

Keeping a calendar can help you be forethoughtful and more prepared for your busy schedule. Then, you won’t have to skip out on that pizza date or birthday bash. 

Jot down questions

When you have a ton of assignments, it can become overwhelming to think about all the information you’re learning—especially if it’s new material. 

Noting all your questions—whether on a scrap paper or in a formal document—will help you organize your thoughts around particular topics. Consequently, you’ll be more aware of what you don’t know and as a result, be more inclined to review these areas.

Keeping track of the areas around which you’re a little shaky will decrease your stress and allow you to more methodically get through material.

Author: Lydia Schapiro