Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Staying Organized: School Schedules

Happy September! To those in school: welcome back to school, everyone, I hope your first weeks have been wonderful! To those who aren't in school: I hope that your month has found you filled with many blessings and much gratitude.

Courses began nearly three weeks ago for me, but many of my friends started weeks before. (My university is a bit slow on the roll. ;) But I don't mind - more summer!) These past weeks have been a struggle. Running tally:  4 or 5+ break downs, a notebook's worth of paper, a stack of printer paper, a cartridge of ink, all of my free time, and, quite possibly, my sanity. Senior year is proving to be my most trying year yet. It's hard. I'd be lying if I said I staying 100% optimistic, but defeat isn't in my nature. Perhaps I am a bit stubborn. Believe me: defeat has been contemplated. I fancied the idea of dropping courses, of changing my career direction, of tossing in the towel and throwing up a white flag. But, let me be honest now, these frustrated, self-confidence lacking thoughts, they aren't my truth. They're the vain grumbles of an overwhelmed college senior. I mean, look at me!

Playing tourist!
In the week prior to school,
a dear friend of mine accompanied me on errands -
including stopping by my campus to pick up
my semester's books.
So, naturally, we took pictures in my school's
Finding gratitude in the darkest of situations is my specialty. Learning energizes me. (I could do without the homework, though. ;) ) I love my college. I have been entirely blessed with the ability to pursue an education. My professors are consistently amazing. Every hour spent buried in books, assignments, and studying has been entirely worth it. My grades thus-far have been stellar and, more importantly, the knowledge I have procured is pertinent to my everyday life and to my future practice. And no matter how much I might grumble about the studying or the homework or the group projects, healthcare is my passion. My soul is filled with many passions, but there are few I'd do for a career: being a doctor is one of them. Spreading happiness and good health - which is the key to all our dreams in life - is important to me. I love to inspire people to their best selves.

In moments of grumbles and breakdowns, I remind myself of this.

In moments of clarity, I whisper: "I am doing this to be a doctor. I am doing this to be a doctor. This, too, shall pass. The end goal is worth it." And you know what? It totally is.

When you're in college and the going gets rough, you need to focus on what is giving you the drive to get through. Remind yourself of all that is good. Find something in the struggle to be grateful for - there is always something, if you dig hard enough.

Still, to help ease my anxiety and stay on-task, I have a few tricks up my sleeves.

I am energetic, a bit bounce-around-like-a-ping-pong-ball, and simultaneously introverted. I prefer to brainstorm than outline. To-do lists are more suggestions than requirements. Drafting an essay on the first paragraph and ending at the conclusion, rather than wherever inspiration hits, brings anxiety. When I'm overwhelmed, productivity stops. I have to backtrack, find something else to do and regroup when I feel more able. In my personal life, this has served me well. In college, not so much. I have learned to adapt to survive; albeit, not always well. Sometimes it is an up-hill bicycle ride. But a girl has got to do what she's got to do! Make like nature and evolve! ;) (Biology humor for your day ;) ).

Trick #1: Organize your life.

If organizing can be your best friend, your life is made.

Meet my desk view:

I have two white boards, an academic planner, a personal planner, and a to-do list organized by academic and recreational factions. Leave no stone unturned! This is my monthly calendar. Here I can see the big picture, everything that is due in the entire month. When I took this picture, it was before a lot of my assignments were posted. None of my personal appointments or important recreational events, such as Rush, were posted, either. The space is pretty bare as a result - it never stays this way.  All major assignments, weekly assignments, appointments, events, and examinations go here. I color code the days of the week by courses and the weekends are left without color. The color coding helps me memorize my schedule.

Additionally, every course is associated with a specific color. My human nutrition course (online) is in green. My wellness education, blue. So on and so forth. If an assignment for that class were due, I'd write it in with the associated color. Black and Brown are my not-organized category. They fill in whatever my other categories don't cover, such as appointments.

This whiteboard I love because it also has space for additional notes, magnetic information holding, and a cork-board that can be used productively (you know, for things) or for holding mementos.

Add caption

Up close and personal! It was about this time that I forgot to mark down birthdays. I put mine down (shown below) and then began adding in others' - I wasn't able to get a shot of that, though.

Below is my weekly calendar. Every Sunday I organize my week based upon this. I write down everything that needs completion throughout the week and when everything is due, recreational and academic. This schedule was from Labor Day week, to show a basic idea of set-up, but the vastness of assignments and responsibilities has easily doubled.

I try to organize this as best as possible so that I have what needs to be done in an order of how I want to do it, or what is most urgent and pressing. Additionally, I try to clump together assignments for courses. That way, if I say "what do I need to do in Chemistry today?" I look for the chemistry group each day to see what I have left to do.

As I said before, to-do lists are often suggestions to me. I still struggle with them. (They are really important and helpful, though!) For example, I had a to-do list for this weekend that wasn't half-way finished by the end of it. Some assignments take longer than others which means you cannot always be Superman or Supergirl!

Starring important tasks the night before helps keep me on task, at least a smidgeon more.

My academic planner! Arguably the most important of them all. I always use the huge At-A-Glance planners. These have tons of space in their calendar sections at the beginning of the month, as well as tons of space for week-by-week use.

All of my assignments, to-dos, course times, and events go here. I write time-frames from 7am-on on the weekly sections. I then color code my classes (i.e. chemistry is orange, statistics is purple) with highlighters. For the first few weeks I block off 2-3 spaces per time period for my classes to make sure I get in my brain my course times. After that I just highlight the course name itself. Following every course name are assignments due and homework to be done for next class. Anything after the highlighted sections is extracurricular (or "recreational").

Here is the calendar portion! In order to remember when I have exams and what classes they are in, I highlight the exam #1 with the associated course number (i.e. orange for chemistry, purple for statistics). All of the major projects are written here, plus project deadlines, exams, and school vacations.

My personal planner. This is a moleskin given to me by a fellow writing buddy, but it needn't be so fancy. (Though, goodness, I adore this one so much I might splurge on myself next year.) This is small and convenient to stick in my purse and keep with me on-the-go. On the Notes side are things to do while I'm out or other to-dos (rarely homework, but sometimes!). The weekly calendar side has events for that week so that I know what to plan appointments around while I'm out. Here I include examinations and study-group sessions, because those are important to plan around.

Finally, my last portion: the to-do list. I always separate academic and recreational so I can prioritize and have clearer vision. As I complete an assignment or "to-do" I check it off or scratch it out. If I have something left to do on it after it is done (say, a question) I write it in color next to the list item. Being in color while everything else is black will assure that I do not forget it!

I haven't been able to take pictures of what my whiteboards and planners look like (honestly, I haven't had the time to); however, I managed to snag a quick picture before Recruitment of what my to-do list looks like now. It shows a good transition between beginning of semester and the heat of it. Plus, it serves as my case for future absences from this blog. I'm in over my head, guys, but I'm still swimming!

As soon as I get the chance, I will take a picture of my current whiteboards and make a new post.

For reference, I thought I'd show how my
to-do list has grown as the weeks continue on.
I've gone from a mini notepad to a large one,
in order to fit it all in. Between all of my classes,
I've easily exceeded 40 items. (For example,
there are 4 courses listed on the front sheet you see.
Another ten items are on the back, for another class.)

Keep in mind, this is weekly assignments, mostly.

And note how tiny my "recreational" list is.

Trick #2:
Take everything in small chunks. Do not let yourself stare at a long to-do list and freeze. You will cause an anxiety attack this way. Strip it down bullet-by-bullet. Peel away the layers. You can do this.

Trick #3: Do NOT think too far in advance, too often. Sometimes it is important to think about semester long assignments and it is easier and more beneficial to study a little each day for an exam, than cram the night before. But be weary! It is very easy to get stuck in this future-focused mentality which causes immense anxiety.

Be mindful in the present. Remember, as a professor of mine told us all today: "wherever your buttocks are, so should be your brain."

Trick #4: Take that mountain. Take a page out of another professor's book. Chemistry is absolutely terrifying. Studying for it makes me nearly hyperventilate. Other times I want to take my textbook and throw it across the room.  My professor is not naive to this. The first day of classes, as we were sitting there sweating buckets, she had us write a list. It was a list of great challenges we have overcome in life. Any moment that felt it was going to be impossible to achieve or overcome or get through, but in the end we did. Something that took great work and in the end we succeeded in. Anything. We're more capable than we might think we are. If we can do that, we can do this.

Mountains are not scaled in one leap.

Write yourself a list.

It is easy to get bogged down by what is going on in the now and forget what greatness lies within us. While struggling through problems and concepts, or, heck, any other life difficulty, it is important to look back and remember you've overcome challenges before and you can overcome this one. Even if the mountain feels insurmountable, it can be climbed - one step at a time.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Throne for Her Royal Queen of Fluffdom

This was almost labeled: "Peaches and the Pea." ;) I'm keeping that arsenal in my back pocket for a future post.

I have been on a weekend-long date with my recliner. It's been pretty swell. It's treated me well - hey, it even treated me to an all-you-can-eat homework buffet! This afternoon I looked up from some quality recliner-date time and my chemistry buffet to find this in front of me. Curled up on top of a bag, on top of an emptied shoe box, was Peaches.

On top of a box!

This is a first....but probably not the last.

The box was supposed to go to recycling, but now I feel obligated to keep it around. She really likes her new perch. (I wouldn't think it'd be that comfortable - I guess it is!) Hmm...How to make this more aesthetically pleasing...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Green Drink

Salads are wonderful. As a gardener and vegetable lover, I love salads. In fact, if I had to write a list of favorite summer things, salads would be on it. (The rest of the year here is just too cold to eat large, fresh salads!) But I have a not-so-secret secret: my favorite way to eat my veggies is to drink them.

This past week has been unseasonably warm. Normally we're approaching fall here, which means cool, crisp September days. Our current highs have been in the upper 80s and 90s, full of humidity. In order to avoid turning on the stove - and to get cool refreshments into our system - we've been enjoying smoothies galore.  Mom doesn't usually measure quantities so gathering recipes can be difficult. (She is a master in the kitchen, an intuitive food genius - a talent that I did not inherit, except, perhaps, for pasta dishes.) But, consider yourselves lucky! I managed to get this homemade recipe off of her.

Since we use a Vitamix, I cannot promise how this drink will come out in a regular blender. Odds are, it will not be as smooth and well-blended. (Hopefully just as delicious. though!)


3 large leaves of organic kale. (Remove the leafy greens from the spine and stem. Do what you will with the stem and spine of the kale - composting is great! - but you'll want the greens for this).
1 handful of organic baby spinach
1/2 organic pear juice
2 cups water
3 cups of frozen organic mixed fruit (mango, pineapples, and strawberries).

Yield: ~32oz (4 8-ounce glasses)

My family and I are used to some pretty green smoothies. We started off with berry smoothies and progressively migrated to green, vegetable-filled ones. For us this is sweet enough as-is; however, others might find it is not what they are used to. Sweetness can be added by putting in organic honey  or increasing the quantity of berries and fruit. 1/2 of a frozen ripe banana (one that was allowed to sugar) can also be used as additional sweetener. Keep in mind with more frozen fruits used, it might become necessary to check the consistency of the drink after blending in order to thin it with more water.

I also do not recommend this drink as a meal. Often we drink this as a side to our meal for our vegetables, or the precursor to our meal, to get the digestive system going in the morning before protein. We never drink our smoothies without following with a protein of some kind. Protein is hugely important in preventing blood sugar spikes, including ones caused by natural sugars in fruits.Another thing we often do is drop in 1/2 an avocado for healthy fat. Healthy fats also decrease blood sugar spikes and help satiate you. Plus healthy fats in a diet help to maintain good nerve health. With a family history of nerve disorders and Alzheimer's, and more...I want to keep myself like a well-oiled machine. (Pun not intended, I swear! ;) ) In case you're interested in trying avocados in the drink, know that avocados will give the drink a smooth consistency and may give it a "greener" taste (although we haven't experienced this). If it is too much, add in more fruit. Eventually you'll accustom to it. My suggestion would be to try the drink without the avocado first, with any other adjustments, and then add in the avocado. It's easier to not-add than to take-away!

Happy drinking!