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As the school year gets back into full swing and homework assignments start piling up, visual tools will help set you or your child up for academic success. Through my research and experience, I have outlined four essential strategies below for utilizing visual tools for a successful academic school year. 

A first step toward using visual tools is to consider the workspace where you will be completing your homework. A great place to complete your homework is somewhere that is quiet, with minimal distractions. If electronic devices such as your phone or laptop are a hindrance, consider using “Do Not Disturb” settings. If you are a parent, you can also use apps to limit your child’s access to screen time or social media.  Your workspace should be organized with any supplies that you might need such as pens, pencils and notebooks nearby. It could also be helpful to color code different subjects or classes using folders or notebooks. 

Another great visual tool to consider is using a calendar. A calendar, whether on your wall, in a planner, or even on your cell phone could be a helpful place to lay out short-term and long-term assignments for various classes. You should color code the assignments by class, using the same system we previously mentioned for folders or notebooks. Being able to see the assignment due dates over the course of the next few weeks or months will help you prioritize what needs to get done first. 

Once you have your homework assignments laid out on a calendar you can organize long-term assignments by breaking the assignments down into smaller pieces. For example, if you had an essay to write you could break the assignment down into smaller tasks such as researching the topic, creating an outline, writing specific paragraphs, and finally proofreading the completed assignment. By breaking down larger projects into smaller tasks, things will seem less overwhelming and give you plenty of time to complete the assignment successfully. It can be helpful to create a checklist with these items and cross them off as you complete them. Take time to reward yourself each step of the way as you finish a task- even if it is something small like listening to your favorite song, or enjoying a cup of your favorite tea in-between assignments.  

“Time blocking” is another great organizational technique that can help plan out when you plan to do an activity or assignment. Using this technique, you will similarly lay out long-term and short-term assignments by class using a color coded system and break each assignment down into smaller pieces. Next, you will look at your daily 7:00am-9:00pm schedule and map out every activity that you need to complete throughout each day. Enter tasks you need to complete including going to school, work, and any extracurricular activities. Then take a look at the open times that you do not have any other commitments and map out which assignment you will complete during each time-window. Remember to consider things like due dates and size of the assignment. Ask yourself if you have given yourself enough time to complete each task or if you need to readjust any other parts of your schedule to be able to prioritize homework assignments over extracurriculars or socializing with friends.

Using these strategies assists with creating boundaries around your day, and in the long term you should have more time to do the things you enjoy because you are able to stay on top of your assignments.