Photo by Pedro da Silva on Unsplash
Last week, I read an article about the importance of teaching organizational skills to students and the impact it has on their academic and professional advancement.
Reading up on the subject brought me down memory lane and I began thinking back on how I was in my early school days. I then thought it was the perfect occasion to share with you a bit of my background and how I became the person I am today.
Some students learn early on about the importance of being organized but unfortunately, I was not one of them. For as long as I can remember, I was always a procrastinator believing my best work was done under pressure. In elementary school, I was the type of student who would complete homework while the teacher took morning attendance… I know, I was bad! Luckily for me, my grades never reflected my poor work ethics which further deterred me from changing them. Once I reached junior high, I was thrown a curveball: I had four teachers instead of one! Unfortunately, none of my teachers spoke to each other about our assignments and exam schedules which meant conflicting due dates. After my first week of school, I reluctantly decided to use my agenda, as keeping mental tabs on the things I needed to do became unfeasible. I joined the basketball team shortly after and landed my very first job at a local grocery store in my town which made things worse.
High school came in full force. As I took on more responsibilities, one might think my organizational skills would improve, but on the contrary, I was functionally disorganized. I could fast forward myself from point A to point Z but this technique only worked to keep me above water. I spent countless nights writing assignments until the crack of dawn, wishing I had started them sooner. Luckily, just as before, I was able to maintain a good grade point average, so I continue on until my senior year with the same studying habits. My agenda was something I carried in my backpack, but it was never used for its intended purpose. I opted to fill the pages with doodles of cartoon characters instead of logging important dates and deadlines.
My path led me to college where the common classroom became an auditorium. I was surrounded by unfamiliar faces and my name was replaced by a series of numbers. When my midterms came along, I used the same studying techniques that had worked for me in the past. To my surprise, not only was the content dense and very difficult to memorize but the unthinkable happened: I got a D-! I looked at my exam in disbelief, wondering if there was another student in my class who shared the same name. I went home that night feeling like a complete failure. I started to feel like I did not belong, especially after I ended my semester with mediocre grades. I went into my second semester unmotivated and wanting to drop out of school. The worst part was that my school schedule contained a math class which was my worst subject in high school. Once I got my syllabus and the teacher went through the lesson plan, I felt an indescribable fear of failing knowing that I would be forced to redo it again. That’s when I decided that I had to take matters in my own hands.
For the first time in my life, I started using my agenda daily to the point that it became a habit. Not only did I write my school assignments but also my work schedule, my outings with my friends and any other tasks I needed to remember. My agenda became a part of me and I took pride every time I crossed off a task as completed. When I got final my report card, I gave a sigh of relief when I saw that I completed my math class with a B+. It might not have been the best grade, but I worked hard for it and I was really proud of myself.
Fast forward ten years later, my agenda is now an integral part of my life. It helps keep me organized and ensures that I do not overbook plans. I decided to go back to school two years ago and my grades have never been better. Other students in my class rave on how efficient I am in my work and I smile thinking of how far I have come. At times, I still do things last minute but like many, I am a work in progress. I credit my math class in college for ultimately challenging a behaviour that was not sustainable in a professional environment.
I was lucky to have lived my first setback so early in my academic tenure, but not all students are as fortunate. Many might go through their schooling thinking they lack the intelligence when on the contrary, it all boils down to poor time management skills. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and being able to recognize what they are is the first step towards success. When we pinpoint our weaknesses, we can then learn to allocate our time accordingly to come out victorious.