Read This and Get Better Grades.

Tips on how to stay organized and motivated.

Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash

Let me start off with saying this- I was not always a great student. I would show up to class, do the bare minimum, and then expect my self-perceived “genius” would prop me up when it came to exams or papers.

Needless to say, it didn’t work. This is going to be a short guide on some of the limiting beliefs I held within myself, as well as techniques I used to overcome them.

You have to have a “Why”

This seems obvious, but you have to have a reason why you are studying in the first place.

Perhaps it’s obvious to me now, and maybe to everybody else, but to me it wasn’t. Especially when I was 18 or 19 years old.

I grew up lower middle class. My parents were divorced- though I did see my father on weekends and overall, had a decent relationship growing up. My mother and my grandparents did most of the day-to-day heavy lifting of raising a child.

The reason I mention this is because growing up “disadvantaged” can have an effect on a person as they grow up. One of these mental effects is lack of belief in ones’ self, and that outcomes can change. This belief can really affect a persons’ agency in life. It certainly did mine.

The reason why I bring this up is because when I started school, I never had my own personal “why”. I had no real reason for studying the things I was studying, which was theatre. Looking back on it, I think I studied theatre because it was the only place I got recognition for my aptitude. People had to pay attention to how good I was being on stage or how successful the performance had been.

But it was never in my true nature to do this. I was always a calm, cool-headed rational person interested in philosophy, theology, and the nature of the universe. These things are not things that are applauded or even generally cared about in our society. As such, these limiting, lingering beliefs from childhood were the biggest thwart to just doing well in school.

If I were to go back to that age, I’d get myself a therapist who would tell me that I actually have value and that my life is my life. Not anyone else’s.

This relates to grades because sometimes, these can be an outward manifestation of an inner problem. Solve that inner problem, get better grades.

Get Organized

We live in an age where organizational tools are in abundance. If you go to the App Store, or wherever you get your apps, you can download thousands of different organizers in various formats. I personally just use the stock Calendar App and Google Drive. I’m cheap.

The way I organize my school calendar is as follows;

  1. Mark out the days and hours in which you have classes. A visual reminder is actually pretty good. After the first week or so, you’ll probably be accustomed to it. Personally, it makes me feel more prepared when I have stuff written down.
  2. Mark out the hours of each day you will spend studying. This is a huge one for me because it gives me a concrete goal to work with. I know that if I block off 4 hours a day to just study and read/write, then I will be able to track my productivity.
  3. Track your productivity. This one is a little bit harder because a lot of times, our goals for classwork aren’t concrete. But if you just keep a small bullet journal you will be able to track what you have done or worked on that day. Plus it doubles as a self-accountability measure. I put this in my calendar for the end of the day. A nice end of the day recap is a great thing to get in the habit of, instead of scrolling through Instagram or TikTok at the end of the day.

Before the semester starts, it is important to get a head-start on your organizational processes. I mentioned how I use Google Drive to keep track of my work. It’s easy and it’s free and my method is hardly revolutionary.

Create folders for the classes you are taking. Like I said, hardly revolutionary, but it ends up saving time in the long run.

Create Lecture notes each class and title them with the date/theme of the lecture. Use bullet-points and numbering to keep main ideas organized. When I first went to school I didn’t even know how to take accurate notes. I still remember scribbling things down on multiple, half-used notebooks and it took me forever finding anything relevant in there.

Doing this will also keep things easier to find down the line. You can always easily search your files for any gems you may have come up with while studying. I cannot tell you how many insights I have lost over the years due to disorganization.

Make a schedule and stick to it!

I don’t mean just a schedule for your classes. I mean a schedule for your life outside of those classes.

I actually wrote a little more in-depth about treating creativity like it’s your job, and the same concepts apply here. You need to treat college like it’s your job- which means you have to schedule for it. Some people dread this idea, but as Jocko Willink puts it, “Discipline equals Freedom” and there isn’t a time in my life where I regretted being disciplined, but there are plenty of times in my life where I have regretted the opposite.

Finding the optimal schedule for your life is going to be challenging and take time. But it’s probably the most rewarding hack I’ve discovered recently. In retrospect, a lot of my problems in life just existed because I was living according to a schedule that made no sense for me as a person. But when you actually optimize your routine and make a schedule, you start to really reap the benefits of getting in sync with yourself.

In summary

The three main ideas discussed here are;

  1. Find your “Why”
  2. Get Organized
  3. Make a Schedule and Stick to it

These skills carry over into your life after college as well. I couldn’t tell you how many professionals I meet every day who are not organized, and as a result, are not performing at their peak capacities. At the worst, you start to feel as though you are behind in life and being dragged about by the world around you. That’s no way to live.

And by the way, following these simple steps allowed me to get straight A’s this past semester, and is helping me prepare for grad school.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, give me a follow. I typically write about lifestyle and philosophy. Remember, the unexamined life is a life not worth living!



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Matthew David

Matthew David

Philosopher. Writer. Coffee Addict. I write about Philosophy from the Ancient Greeks to Existentialism. ←Learn more here