Now that The Academy at Penguin Hall is in its third week of distance learning, we’ve learned it’s more important than ever for high school students to find ways to stay organized virtually! Many schools are also now doing distance learning, and we want to share our top five tips for creating a more organized distance learning environment.

While staying organized comes more naturally for some than others, it’s a skill that can be learned and practiced, because keeping organized is for everyone! Focusing too much on perfection can minimize productivity, just as not keeping a pulse on the details of your day can leave you feeling scattered and deflated when you forget something.  

Have fun trying out these processes. In the end, you’ll only have better organization and increased productivity to gain — both now as we continue to power through remote learning, but also when we’re all back on campus!

1 – Organize your Digital Files

Keeping all those digital files organized can seem like a monumental task, but luckily there are tools and strategies that can help! Organizing files is best done daily, so that you don’t end up with a mound of files scattered across your desktop or piled randomly in your Google Drive. In most cases, simple is better. 

Try creating a logical folder/file system in Google Drive or Evernote that works for what you need. For students, organizing your documents into folders for each class may be the easiest and best approach. Don’t forget to come up with a file naming system that is easy to remember and that you can keep consistent. 

For example, you may want to name all files according to the following naming guideline: Class Name/Type of Assignment (Homework, Test, Project Outline, etc.)/Topic. Here’s a concrete example: Biology/Homework/Evolution Models. Find a system that works for you (it’s okay to try more than one), and then stick with it!

2 – Organize your Internet Tabs & Windows

This one is a lifesaver, especially if you’re one of those people who accumulate lots of open tabs and windows during the day! Session Buddy is a great tool for saving your tabs, windows, and bookmarks, leaving you free to exit out and return to them at any time. No more forgetting which resource you had open a week back that was so useful! Session Buddy allows you to name each saved window however you like; try organizing by class or project.

3 – Control Distractions

Controlling distractions is more about finding ways to keep your mind “organized” so that you can better focus on the task at hand. Are you distracted by the Internet and trying to get work done offline? Try using a timed Internet blocker like SelfControl

Are you a person that obsessively checks social media or email on your phone? Set aside specific work blocks during the day and turn off your phone and put it in a drawer or another place where you won’t automatically reach for it. Forest App, which allows you to create a forest and grow trees for time spent away from your phone, is another engaging option.

Need to block out surrounding noise (or, need some white noise to calm your monkey mind?) Plug in your headphones (if you have them) and stream some focus music. While music tastes will, of course, vary by person, ambient and classical music tracks designed for work and study are often a great choice.

4 – Track Your Time

Tracking time can be a good way to help you organize and keep track of your homework or project times. This is a common strategy for professional writers too, many of whom will tell you they’ll open themselves up to every distraction before actually getting any writing done. There are a plethora of timers available to choose from on the web. 

Have some fun with themed timers, or keep it simple with the timer function on our phone. Set your interval and then sit down and get to work. For those whose mind wanders to all the other things they could be doing, keeping a blank piece of paper and pen by your side is a helpful way to get those thoughts down. Then push it aside and return to the task at hand. Focus, jot, repeat.

5 – Clean up your Computer Desktop

A messy desktop is kind of like a messy bedroom floor. At first, you might be able to live with it and know where things are (or at least, their relative vicinity), but after a while, the mess will slow you down and leave you wondering where to start.

If your desktop is already a mess, that’s okay; now’s a great time to clean it up! Cleaning your desktop is a great practice to do weekly, at the end or start of a week. Keep most documents and other media in your Google Drive. If there’s a document or an icon on your desktop screen, make sure it has an everyday purpose! Once you can see your clean desktop, you might also rethink your desktop wallpaper — is it an image that’s conducive to getting things done i.e. calming (or energizing) and distraction-free? Try a solid color, simple pattern, or image of the natural world that makes a great backdrop but is not the main focal point of your attention.

Yes, there is a level of self-discipline and forming new habits that’s required, so remember that the above tips are suggestions and they don’t necessarily need to be followed to a T! The first “rule” in organizing is to try different approaches to figure out what works best for you. Remember, just because something doesn’t work for you on the first try, that doesn’t mean you should give up. You know yourself best, so take some time at the end of a week to reflect on what’s not working so you can use those learnings to tweak your strategy to better meet your organization needs.

 Are you a student who has other tips and ideas for how to stay organized virtually? Share them with us on our Facebook Page!