Don’t be bullied by disorganization |

Don’t be bullied by disorganization

Evan Zislis
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

When I was a kid, going back to school was like getting gut-kicked into ice water. The transition from summer to the classroom was a disaster.

Antics for missing the school bus were strategic and executed with imposing precision. Shenanigans designed to confuse and enrage first-year, substitute and retire-ready teachers were honed from an early age, effectively securing a permanent seat for me in the study-free confines of the principal’s office.

During autumns of my youth, there was no limit to the obscure illnesses and stress-induced infirmities that could keep me safely at home and away from a gauntlet of problems waiting for me at school.

It is appropriately ironic that I would go on to receive a master’s degree in education and become a school teacher myself.

Looking back on my youth, it’s easy to see why I resisted.

I struggled with reading, writing and arithmetic. I had difficulty concentrating and was easily distracted. I was ruthlessly bullied by older kids. I had no organizational sense for academics whatsoever.

For nine months out of the year, my chaos festered. Despite emotionally and academically supportive, well-intentioned parents, I had no strategies, no coping skills and no incentive for catching up.

I clearly lacked the natural abilities of my classmates. I felt hopelessly behind and unable to catch up. While the pretty girls with perfect braids and pristine penmanship pulled tidy notebooks from their immaculate book bags, I sat distraught with incomplete homework – a disheveled, below-average mess, eager to be sent out of the room.

I’m here to tell you, redemption is a wonderful thing. With a little direction, I got over myself and re-discovered initiative, determination and talent. At some point, I looked up and I was okay.

Shockingly enough, these days I work with households, students, businesses, nonprofits, and people in transition to help them simplify, get clear and stay inspired to take purposeful action with strategic resolve. It’s the only thing that ever helped me to pick myself up, dust myself off and move forward with intention.

Like most of us, students thrive when tools, spaces and systems for learning are void of clutter, confusion and distraction.

I have worked with students of all ages to find organizational solutions that maximize clarity, confidence and self-efficacy in and out of the classroom. There are a few tools and a few specific systems I recommend for everyone across the board.

1. A day planner is like a map of time. It shows the topography of what is ahead and helps plot a course of action for successfully reaching immediate goals.

2. Three-ring binders, spiral notebooks and file folders help organize studies into categories and subcategories. When I was a kid, these materials and subsequent assignments were reduced to shreds in a crumpled mess at the bottom of my book bag before Thanksgiving break.

Boys especially wear these things out quickly. Keep them replaced with durable back-ups throughout the school year. When one dies, it’s a good time to review its contents, label it, file it, and start fresh with a sturdy replacement for the next lesson.

3. Maintain an organized work space at home where students can spread out and focus on lessons without distractions. These clutter-free spaces, ideally, should be stocked with easily accessible materials required for typical assignments, including the full assortment of office supplies and electronic accoutrements.

As we experience incremental tastes of success, we develop a sense of ability, pride and independence. With every success, we develop our confidence and enthusiasm for life-long learning.

Going back to school can be fun for students who maintain control of the minutia required for organized learning. A few simple strategies go a long way when it comes to inspiring success for the long-term.

– “Life. Simplified.” appears on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Evan Zislis is founder and principal consultant for, offering hands-on organizational solutions for households, businesses, nonprofit organizations and students. Contact Evan Z. at 366-2532 or .

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