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
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:
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.
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.
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
Update: 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.
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.