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.


  1. I love your color-coding system. I wasn't quite THAT organized when I was in college, but keep lists and calendars definitely helped a lot. Taking things in small chunks is good advice too because it's so easy to get overwhelmed!

    1. My color-coding and course material is about the only thing I keep very well organized. Everything else goes down the tube. (The space around me, for instance, is piled with clothes, books, an unmade bed, and paperwork.) It's easy to walk in my room and tell what I prioritize. Hahaha.

      It is so easy to get overwhelmed!! I am currently taking Chemistry , its lab, and statistics, plus my other courses. Those three courses have a ton of material coming at me fast and deep. It's easy to get buried!

  2. I like how positive you are when you write about your education! I feel like some students don'trealize how lucky they are and you're definitely not like that!

    1. Thank you. :) I try to be grateful and positive as much as I can be! Sometimes it is a struggle. But it's better for me than staying grumbly. Plus, it gives me a means to pull myself out of those breakdowns that happen on frequent throughout a tough semester.

  3. WOWERZ, I think you might be the queen of organization. I'm not an organized person at all, so this post was extremely useful and actually inspired me! For some strange reason, you make organization sound actually fun, lol. I usually dread it :P.

    1. I try! My brain bounces around all over the place so much that I really need the organization to help me get stuff done. The way I normally would like to operate is by going with the flow and what my heart wants to do. (Such a freedom lover!) I hope it does help you a bit - and make it more fun! I have to make things fun (color coding, listening to music while I do it, or whatever else I need to trick myself into finding it a blast). If I don't, I will never do it, lol Trust me, from one dreader to another, I don't come by loving this naturally.

  4. I am always looking for ways to be organized. I use my Lilly Pulitzer agenda so much in college. I color code each aspect of my life!

    1. Lilly P agendas are amazing! Great taste! I don't have one, but a friend of mine does. They're so great for staying organized!

      Color coding makes life so much easier, doesn't it?

  5. You are so organized!! I love all those colors :) I'm sure this will come in handy when things get hectic in school-- good luck:)
    <3 Daisy
    Simplicity Relished

    1. It has been so helpful this year. This is, by far, my craziest semester yet. I wouldn't make it without my planner and all of this "excess" organization. It may be a pain in the moment and seem like a hassle sometimes, but it really pays off in the long run.

      Thank you for stopping by! Your blog is absolutely lovely. I love your recent DIY post and Handle with Gentleness; I am very much looking forward to reading more!