03/02/2014 11:05 am ET Updated Mar 02, 2014

4 Ways Disorganization Affects Your Grades & How To Fix It

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By Avianne Tan

It’s the middle of the school year, and let’s just say things are starting to get a little messy... literally. Slowly, the crisp clean notebooks, binders, and folders you started out with are turning into untidy heaps as you stuff them with all sorts of miscellaneous papers. History worksheets are now somehow haphazardly tucked into your math notebook, while your old math tests are feeling a little out of place in an English folder. Oh, and the planner that you wrote every single little “to-do” in at the beginning of the year? Long gone and forgotten, sadly—probably crying in the dusty corners of your cluttered locker.

But disorganization isn’t your biggest problem—your grades are at stake here! Those homework assignments you decided just not to submit because you just couldn’t find are totally taking hits at your grade. Let’s not even mention that research paper you completely forgot about and how many points your teacher said would be taken off for every week late. Worst of all, it just keeps adding up!

It’s time to break free from the cycle of chaos that disorganization creates and get back on track with your grades to end the year with a nice GPA. Her Campus has the four ways you’re letting disorganization affect your grades as well as what you can do to stop them:

Messy Habit #1: You’re constantly losing things you need!

Cue Britney Spears’s most famous single: “Oops, I did lost it again!” Just kidding. But you probably do feel like you want to scream and shout (and let it all out) every time you can’t find a darn pencil or when you lose that handout you just got.

The Solution:

Mid-semester cleaning: Take all your notebooks, folders, and binders and start organizing what subjects go together. Organizing them into piles on a table makes this a simple task, and after you’re done, you can sort within each subject much more easily. Anything that you don’t necessarily need at the moment but you might need to refer to later should stay in organized, labeled folders at home.

Labeled folders: Peggy Men, a a recent grad of Niagara Christian Community of Schools suggests using an accordion folder that’s divided into tabs with each of her subjects and a homework section. She says, “I have all my poetry stuff in my English tab in my accordion folder [for home]. After I have my poetry test, I’ll transfer all my poetry papers to the binder, and my [in-school] folder will be empty for the next unit, which is Hamlet. This is a great way to save things such as for finals later on, but not have to carry overwhelming amounts of papers in school.

Make a commitment: After you’ve sorted out everything, make it a point to always put and write things in their properly labeled folder, notebook, or binder from here on out. Even if it takes an extra 10 seconds to put the math worksheet you just got into your math folder instead of into the black hole of your backpack, do it. It won’t be time wasted, and you won’t have any reason to misplace or lose things anymore!

Stylish supplies: In terms of school supplies such as pens, pencils, and erasers, definitely invest in a cute pencil case. This way, you won’t have to keep bugging the person sitting next to you for a spare pen.

Let’s get digital: When working on your computer, Page Sheffield, senior at Mason High School, recommends creating separate folders for each class that you’re taking. And since you can create folders within folders, you can also organize the content within those folders by quarter/semester and by units in class. She added, “I always make sure to save my work to my personal computer and a USB. Sometimes, just to be sure, I even email the document to myself. Saving documents in more than one location takes seconds, and it’s definitely worth it.” Google Drive is also very helpful if you’re typing up a document because it has an easy-to-use interface like Microsoft Word and it auto-saves everything you type as you type it.

Messy Habit #2: You’re lost in your own notes and you can’t even read your own handwriting!

Do your notes read like hieroglyphics to you? Are you having trouble figuring out what stuff is notes and what stuff is homework? Do you find yourself lost on exactly what to pay attention to when you’re trying to study because your notes are so confusing? If so, then you’ve been found guilty of being a disorganized delinquent. Your offense? Binder blunders and notebook neglect.

The Solution:

Create your own shorthand: First, make sure that when you write notes, they’re legible. Your handwriting doesn’t have to be printer perfect, but at least make sure that at least you can read it. Remember that notes are supposed to be your shorthand version of what was said that was important – not an exact transcript of what your teacher said in class! You can create your own abbreviations for words you might commonly use. Think texting abbreviations. This is the one of the few exceptions when it’s okay to break grammar rules!

Color-code: This is another fun idea and especially helps in memorization. Different colors, either by highlighting or by using different colored pens, can be used to emphasize and organize certain things in your notes. For example, in history, you might write dates and names in pme color, and your bulleted details in another color. In English, you might highlight different literary devices in respectively different colors. You can use sticky note strips to mark and section out different topics/units covered in class or to note your most important notes.

Notes don’t have to be just words: Webs, charts, and graphs can be really useful in math and science, while outlines are great for subjects like English and history.

Dates aren’t just for history class: Always date your notes and give them a heading. Keeping your notes in date order will help keep you from getting lost when you go back to them, while giving them headings allows you to go back to specific topics covered in class.

Click here to read the full story on HerCampus.com.