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Setting Up Your Organizational System: Filing Edition

Updated: Feb 5

Hello again! The start of a new school year comes with a lot of nervous jitters on normal times—and this year is anything but normal. Whether you’re in person, fully remote, in a learning pod, or any other unique 2020 combination, getting and staying organized is a key part of conquering this school year. With a good system in place, acing your exams and assignments can be the main focus, instead of remembering what version you saved where.

It may seem boring, but having a system for how and where you store and label documents (both on paper and on your computer) will save you a ton of time and avoid a future last-minute frenzied search for where you saved that draft!

Organizing Your Printed Documents

Many students find printing things out helpful for reading and note-taking, or it may be what your teacher prefers.

Create A System That Works For You

  • If you’re working with paper documents, this author highly recommends using physical folders or binders for each class to keep things in place. Although you’re not walking into a classroom every day with your backpack if you’re working from home, you still need a good way to keep your assignments and readings in order.

  • Label sections of your binder, just as a teacher may have had you do, and keep your papers sorted that way. You may want to sort by type of task, such as “assignments, weekly quizzes, readings for class discussion, etc.” or by project or unit. The latter system works well for a class like English that progresses through the semester book by book, or math, where each unit is chunked out clearly.

Don't Forget About Digital

If you work best entirely mobile, have teachers or professors who require all online submissions, or don’t have access to a printer—never fear. Organization is just as important and just as doable on your device.

Use Desktop File Folders

Create a folder on your computer or tablet for each class you’re taking, and make sure to save every document in this folder. Just as you would do with an actual binder, make sub-folders for categories such as assignments or units.

  • If you’re nostalgic for the simpler days of picking certain colored school supplies for different subjects, feel free to color code your folders by class.

  • If you’re really an organizational freak like me, you can match your color-coded folders to the colors on your calendar—I know you all definitely read my previous article and made a well-organized planner or computer calendar ;). The same color that you set aside in your calendar for the hour you’ll spend studying English could match the color of the folder in which you store your English materials.

Name Your Documents Consistently

If you’re working with multiple drafts of a paper, make sure to save each one and label them in a way that makes sense to you. There’s nothing worse than opening up a document and not remembering where you were on it, or worse—submitting the wrong version online because your file had a confusing name.

  • Consider using a similar format to save each document, such as starting with “draft #” and then the name of the document, or adding the date you last updated it.

  • If you are utilizing sub-folders on your computer, make sure you know whether a document was saved under “projects” or “assignments,” for example. This will save you time and stress from having to search for versions later.

Making Sense of Group Project Documents

If you are working on a group project using software such as Google Docs, make sure to download and save a version to Microsoft Word or Pages before you upload and submit.

  • Sometimes Google Docs formatting looks different from how it will look on Word, and you’ll save yourself the potential of losing points for messy or unclear formatting.

  • Make sure you know who in your group is responsible for uploading the paper or presentation, or whether you all are, and that each person’s name is on it. Easy organization saves your teacher time and likely earns you more points on the project.

Good Luck!

Sarah Tibbitts, a 2020 graduate of The Ohio State University, currently works as a

Social Justice Fellow at Stanford University’s Hillel.


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