Some students make school look so easy. This article is the third in a series of five examining the habits we see in organized students. Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at the magic of writing things down and the need to break big projects into small steps. Today, we look at the young person’s  Bermuda Triangle…the bookbag.

Empty the bookbag every night

For some students, the bookbag is a big black hole into which papers go and are never seen again. When the student finally cleans out the bookbag in May, one can only imagine what lurks at the bottom. That permission slip he never could find, the homework paper she was sure she did, and that half-eaten banana are among the treasures waiting at the bottom of the bag.

To avoid the problem, empty the bookbag upon arrival at home. It’s a must. Empty everything. Nothing gets a free ride back and forth day after day. After all, everything in there is something thought to be in need of transport. If not, it would not have been put in there in the first place.

The organized student empties the bag and can stack the items in the order they need to be handled. Just the sight of each book or piece of paper serves as a reminder of what needs to be done with it.

The problem so many students face is they put things in the bookbag that don’t need to be taken home. They load the bookbag with every book in their desks whether they need them at home or not. Emptying the bookbag and then handling every item in the pile quickly identifies anything which has gotten a free ride home.

Correspondence for parents has always been a part of school communication. Permission slips to sign, newsletters to read, and notes from the teacher are but a few of the items which need to be “handed off” to Mom or Dad and then retrieved before going to school the next day. Unfortunately, these items wind up being placed on the first available flat surface. In a flash, they’re lost.

Executives know the importance of an “inbox,” that one place which corrals all incoming paperwork. The same concept works at home. If Mom and Dad have designated one spot for school papers, there is no doubt in Junior’s mind where to put them. At the same time, Mom and Dad can look one place and retrieve everything. No more searching Junior’s bookbag or performing a “pat-down” to find papers from school. No more finding last week’s math test in a pants pocket after coming out of the washer.

The grown-up version of the bookbag

What about that briefcase or purse? We all know people who can’t find anything in there because everything is in there. I prefer a briefcase that has its share of compartments. Anything that needs to live in the briefcase permanently has a “place.” Everything else gets emptied as soon as the briefcase arrives at home.

Whether it be the briefcase, the purse, or the bookbag, keep it lean and mean. Make everything earn its spot. It’s a habit that can start young. Empty the bookbag every night.

Do you have a young person in your life for whom the bookbag is like the “Bermuda Triangle.” SPent a few minutes in the late afternoon helping him or her empty everything and make decisions about what each item means. WHat needs to be given to Mom or Dad? What things represent assignments to be done? What items represent information to file for later?

If you liked this post, check out the next one in the series.

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