How to Organize Your Life in College

“We continue the way we start.” -Gretchen Rubin

Let’s create a time map for your first semester of college!

If you’re starting college next semester, chances are you are feeling INCREDIBLY nervous about this time.

Partly a good, I’m-so-excited, everything-is-going-to-be-so-much-fun, kind of nervous.

And partly an, oh-my-gosh-I-am-going-to-be-Responsible-for-feeding-myself-and-keeping-my-living-space-clean-and- waking-up-on-time-and-getting-things- done-all-by-myself kind of nervous.

Both are normal.

Both are fine.

You SHOULD be feeling this way!

But how DO you make sure that you get up on time every day, have reasonably healthy meals, get all of your work done, do your laundry, and everything else that comes along with being independent and on your own?

Two things: Time management and habits.

Those two concepts are basically married. You can’t have good time management without good habits, and you can’t form good habits without good time management.

So, where do you start? This is kind of a chicken and egg debate, but personally, I would start with the time management.

STEP 1: SCHEDULED TIME COMMITMENTS

Create a Time Map

Start by creating a weekly “time map.” Open Word or Excel and create a table or spreadsheet. If you’re creating a table, you’ll want it to be 8 columns x 33 rows for 30-minute increments or (if you’re a SUPER detailed person like *ahem* me) 8 columns by 65 rows for 15-minute increments. SIDE NOTE: Please check the math on that 🙂 You are just creating 2-4 rows per hour.

Limit Your Active Hours

However, you are purposefully going to leave eight hours out of your day. Try NOT to schedule anything outside of those rows. Of course, there will be events here and there that you don’t want to miss… that’s not what I’m talking about. Don’t schedule SCHOOLWORK for yourself outside of those hours. College is an easy time to work past midnight, but there is a time management rule that “work will expand to fit the amount of time.”

Tell your brain those sleeping hours are not even an option! If it thinks they are, you will get distracted more easily and procrastinate more. I PROMISE this is true. If you need to get it done, you can do it in the 16 hours of your waking day. I’ll show you how!

Add in Your Class Schedule

If you already have your class schedule, or if you have a job and you already know the hours you will need to work, or if you cheer or play softball or are on the golf team, and you know you will practice at a consistent time every day/week, go ahead and add in those times.

Add in Travel Time

Go ahead and block out some time for getting ready and travel time to get to your location. One of my biggest mistakes during my early years of college was scheduling my activities where they bumped right up against each other. Add in time to change clothes, find a parking space, will hit a bunch of red lights on your way there, be REALISTIC about the time it takes to get to each place!

Read: Tips for Balancing Grad School and Real Life

STEP 2: HEALTH TIME

Ok, so now that you have your commitments + get ready/travel time scheduled in, let’s look at what you truly need to live a healthy life. Physical needs come first. It’s hard to train your brain to think this way because there is little accountability for physical needs. No one else really knows if you ate Oreos for dinner, didn’t drink enough water, or only slept four hours last night.

YOU are usually the only one who knows and, a lot of times, the only one who cares. You have GOT to take care of your body. Buy your groceries intentionally. Find a few things that are the perfect balance of cost-effective and healthy, and stick to buying those items consistently.

Eating consistently in college was a HUGE challenge for me and, as a result, I fainted in not one, but two public places. YOU DO NOT WANT TO FAINT IN PUBLIC. I once fainted at the airport from not eating, but before I actually passed out, I was literally crawling on the floor because my body was too weak to do anything else. Talk about embarrassing.

Don’t put your body last. Take the time to eat and drink consistently. Take the time to get outside and walk/run every day, even if it’s just across campus. The more you take care of your body, the more focused your brain will be and the better your grades will be 🙂

Related: What to Carry in Your Backpack for College

STEP 3: “ADULTING” TIME

First of all, let me say that I kind of hate the term “adulting.” BUT I can’t find a better way to describe this stuff, so… “adulting” it is! OK, on your time map, you should now have times blocked out for your concretely-scheduled commitments and anything pertaining to your health. Next up, think about what you need to do to keep your home and life running. These are all the things that fall under the term “adulting.”

For example, paying your electricity bill, vacuuming your carpet, scheduling doctor appointments, taking out the trash, putting gasoline in your car, etc. Schedule these things in so that you can keep your life up and running. They are usually things that don’t take long but are kind of boring tasks.

I love the idea that Gretchen Rubin presents in Better Than Before of having a “Power Hour” once a week. On your least busy day of the week, schedule in one hour to power through your to-do list. This hour should NOT include studying, working, or exercise. It is 100% dedicated to errands, to-dos, tasks, phone calls, and other things that you tend to procrastinate.

Make a list to power through and set a timer for one hour. When the timer goes off, stop and resume with your normal life. During next week’s Power Hour, pick up where you left off 🙂

Read: Best College Habits

STEP 4: SOCIAL TIME

Your time map should have your scheduled commitments, health, and adult life things all scheduled in. Next up, make sure that you have about three social activities scheduled in. You are your own judge of this. If you are someone who tends to blow off studying to hang out with friends, then limit your social engagements so you have more time for studying.

If you are someone who naturally tends to spend more time alone, try to schedule at least three social times for the week, even if it’s just grabbing a cup of coffee and chatting for a few minutes with a classmate after class. It’s obviously not going to happen at the same time each week, but try to make sure you get out with friends 3 times each week!

Social relationships are SO important and you need them in college! Use your own judgment for this because everyone is different, but ensure that you have enough time to study, too! You need to balance both.

Related: How to Stay Organized in Online Classes (Tips from an Expert)

STEP 5: STUDY TIME

Get a “Study Planner”

I bought a cheap planner from Target so that I could completely designate it to study time. I called it my “study planner.” In that planner, I wrote all of my due dates for assignments. This way, you can scribble in all of your reading assignments without feeling like it’s too cluttered!

Plan Backward

Then, I planned backward… two days before an assignment was due, I would write something like “reread and final edit of ___ paper.” Three days before that, I would write “add citations to ___ paper.” I would keep planning backward and adding small, bite-sized tasks for big projects. About two weeks ahead, I would just write something (very low priority) like, “think about a topic for ___ paper” or “jot down ideas for ___ paper.”

By planning backward, I was able to think of the steps that I would need to complete for this assignment and then give myself a deadline to have each individual step complete. This kept me from just writing something broad like, “Write ___ paper” and procrastinating until the night before it was due. This also gave me control over the amount of time I needed to not feel rushed or stressed about assignments.

Plus, this allows you to just open your study planner and see a color-coded prioritized study list in front of you; no thinking about where to start. Set a timer and power through it! Schedule “study time” on your time map, then work from your prioritized list.

Read: How to Get Better Grades in College

STEP 6: HOBBY TIME

Now that you have your health, adulting, school/work, and social things in place, you can include fun on your time map 🙂 This includes any hobbies/interests that you have. Keep in mind that this will probably receive the smallest amount of scheduled time, and will most likely be the first thing that you cut out on busy weeks… but THAT IS OKAY. This is your lowest priority for now.

Include downtime things like reading for fun, painting, social media, volunteering, etc. In my life right now, this would include Junior League, this blog, or Instagram. Those are things that I love, but they’re also just for fun. They aren’t paying my bills, helping my health, or the health of my family.

When there is time to do these things, that’s great… but I’m also not going to freak out if I have to go a week without social media or if I have to pass on a couple of Junior League events. When my life calms back down, I’ll get back to those things. You can’t treat everything like a top priority. Decide now what can be the first to go and follow through on that decision when your time gets limited (which it will)!

Related: How to Prepare for a New Semester

STEP 7: ASSESS & ADJUST

Now that you’ve got everything in place, go back to your time map and look at how much blank space you’ve got in your week! Fill in the white boxes accordingly. I will really, REALLY encourage you to block out boxes for “social media” under “hobby time.”

Did you know the average American spends over 2 hours a day on social media?! That’s a full block of study time! Of course, you can learn so much from Instagram and YouTube… it’s not all mindless scrolling. But try to set boundaries so you don’t feel stressed later!

Read: How to Set and Follow Study Goals

I would love to see your time map once you’ve got it completed! You can share it on Instagram with the hashtag #organizedcharm, or describe it below! 🙂

What time management strategies do you use? What are your priorities 1-5?

How to Organize Your Class Binders

 
 
Reader Question: “What are your suggestions to keep organize for my college binder such as labels on dividers, notes, and assignments? I prefer to use binder instead of the folder. I like to bring everything in the class.” -Amanda
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of opting for class folders over binders. But what if a folder just isn’t practical for your class? Or what if you get really annoyed by the bent up corners and you just can’t take it anymore? 
If you’re the kind of person who prefers to use binders, this post is for you!
 
 
1 | Label your binders for quick access
This may seem really obvious, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes! Make sure to clearly label your binder on the front cover as well as the spine. This way, whether you have them standing in a locker or tossed in the backseat of your car, you can quickly grab the right one! 
2 | Follow the same format in each binder
Make up a consistent system and use it in each binder. What I mean by this is, plan the “layout” of your binders and use the same format in each one. Here’s an example:
-Front Pocket: Upcoming Assignments
-Back Pocket: Graded Assignments
-Back Cover: Class Grad Sheet
Pull out the 3 things you’ll need/use the most over the semester and put them in these easy-to-access locations! In the photo below, I used the first page of my binder as an “actionable steps” list. Just use whatever you need and whatever works best for you! 
 
3 | Get a sheet protector
I love sheet protectors! I recommend using one as your very first page in the binder. I would put a semester assignment spreadsheet for the class in there, just to make sure you’re always on track! You could also use wet/dry erase markers to write on them, like below!
 
4 | Don’t be afraid to rework your syllabus
What I don’t like about syllabi is that each professor uses a different format. I like to take the syllabus, get rid of all of the university guidelines, and re-type the important parts, like assignment due dates and class meeting dates. This keeps is clean and concise. 
5 | Use tabs
The amount of tabbed notebook dividers I find all over my house is ridiculous. I usually just get the ones that have 5 dividers, but you can use more or less depending on your needs! Here are the categories I usually use:
Class Information- Hole punch and save the original syllabus
Handouts- Any handouts your professor gives you, newest on top
Notes- Neatly rewritten notes from class, newest on top
Graded Assignments- Papers/tests that have been graded & returned, newest on top
Blank Paper- If you’re not bringing a separate notebook, bring blank notebook paper 🙂 
Binders are a great way to stay organized throughout the semester! They are a little bulkier and a little more awkward to deal with in class (all that snapping!), but if that doesn’t bother you, then bind away! 🙂 
How do you organize your class binders or folders?!
 

Tips for Balancing Grad School and Real Life

“I’m Managing a full-time job, full-time grad school, and a social life…help!”

Sound familiar? 
Grad school is a pretty tough time in life because you typically have more responsibility than you did in undergrad. 
Maybe you’re paying your own tuition for the first time. Or your own rent. Or you now have a mortgage (or a marriage) or a baby. 
Maybe all of the above! And don’t forget about that full-time job you worked so hard to get straight out of college.
 
Going back to school with the responsibility of adult life can be super challenging! Whatever the reason, the blend of college life and adult life can be a struggle for all of us.

Here are some ways that I learned to deal with it:

Manage your time:

First of all, you are the manager of your time. Your boss probably won’t care about you being behind in schoolwork, and your professor probably won’t care that you’re overloaded at work. It’s up to you to find the balance of your responsibilities. Set limits and stick to them!
 

Read: 5 Time Management Tips for College

Start by prioritizing your time between the two… Yes, they may both be important, but which one is more important to your long term plan? Most likely, you’re in grad school to help further your career. If that’s the case, school is your top priority. 
Don’t be afraid to let your employer know which days you need to leave early for class. But also, don’t try to do schoolwork during work hours! Have the mindset that work time is for work and school time is for school. Don’t forget to leave time for working out and socializing! 
A good planner can really help in this area! Here are a few of my favorites!

Use effective studying skills:

Since you have a limited amount of time to study, you want to make sure your studying techniques are as effective as they can possibly be! Write down what you will work on ahead of time. This way, when you sit down to work, you can start working right away!
The Study Tips page of this website is full of my favorite study techniques I’ve collected over the years! Here is my overall study routine: Have a prioritized and detailed list before you ever sit down. 
-Set a timer for a certain amount of time. 
-Say NO to any and every distraction that comes your way during that time. 
-When your timer goes off, write down a detailed list of the next steps you need to take on this assignment. 
-That will be your prioritized and detailed list for the beginning of your next study session! 
Continue this cycle religiously, even using the same time and location! Consistency is key to creating new routines!

Find a great home organization system:

The final piece to balancing full-time work/school and normal life is to find a quick and efficient home organization system. I like FlyLady’s system because she just says to do a little bit every day. 
She has a free app that works as a recurring checklist you can use on your phone! Plus, you can edit it to fit whatever daily chores/routines you need in your own life (“feed the dog”, “file papers”, etc.). 
 
Also, this simple technique is my Holy Grail of home (and life) organization!
The key to balancing several different areas of life is to make sure you’re maximizing your productivity and not procrastinating
 

Read 8 Anti-Procrastination Strategies

By having these three things consistently in place, you’ll have more time to spend with friends and family (or secretly binging your favorite series on Netflix)! 🙂 

What tips do you have for balancing full-time work and school? Share them below! 

Follow Organized Charm on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for more productivity tips!

Visual Notes: Crash Course

How much more likely are you to read an infograph than an actual article or research study? Probably a lot more likely, right? In fact, 90% of info transmitted to our brains is visual! “Yeah, so what?” you might be asking. So… have you ever considered using visual notes for studying instead of just writing out a bunch of words? You know, a little like creating your own infograph? I started doing this for two reasons:

  • #1: When I was in high school, we had a teacher who would allow us to create a 1-page study guide that we could use on our tests. I know, I know… sounds so easy, right? And you are right, it was easy. But here is what our teacher knew: He knew that we would spend SO MUCH time analyzing and evaluating what information to put on those study guides, that we would secretly be learning more information the whole time we were creating them! Pretty sneaky, huh?
  • #2: I am a visual learner. And you probably are, too. In fact, 65 percent of us are visual learners! This is why we may get overwhelmed when we open a document/e-mail/textbook that just has dense paragraphs and paragraphs full of words. And I don’t mean for that to sound as bad as it may sound (like we’re too lazy to read a book or something). It’s just that images, like charts or graphs or illustrations or photographs, can make it easier on our eyes and our brains because they improve a document’s readability.
In fact, when I was in my Educational Psychology class a few years ago (favorite one ever, btw), our professor told us that one of the jobs within that field is to create those little images and tables in textbooks! I just thought it was pretty cool… I never even thought about why they were in there! Now I notice them all the time (AND I actually pay attention to them)!
Now, whenever I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed by a topic, I try to put all of the most important info onto ONE PAGE using a mixture of bullet points, charts, drawings, keywords, whatever I think will help! I created a study sheet of visual notes for my most recent certification exam (the last one ever. YAY!). Luckily, I took photos of this one because, as you know, studying is a little like working out: If you don’t photograph it, it doesn’t count.
As you can clearly see, stick people are my specialty. Just look at Jean Piaget’s glasses.
Remarkable talent.
So, how about this: How about if, the next time you’re studying for an exam, you comb through your notes and your textbook and create an infograph-style study sheet. One sheet (or poster) with pictures to quickly trigger certain concepts in your brian with a few keywords or major facts to remember! Then hang it up somewhere where you will see it frequently throughout the day (like above your desk or on your mirror to look at while you’re getting ready).
Maybe you’ll be able to get a little more into studying using a method like this than you would if you had to sit down, pull out your notes, and flip back through pages and pages of your own handwriting! I have included some examples of “visual notes” to inspire y’all! Also, there are links to several different sites that mention them (and other things) as well!
Of course I love this one by Liz Cazaly because it’s about education, too! Win-Win!
This one is by Austin Kleon (of austinkleon.com) achieves what I was TRYING to do in the photo above.
And this one by Guilia Forsythe makes it easy to scan through the categories of the topic!
Here are some links to sites that are
not drawn by Kindergarten teachers
actually informative on this topic
talented at drawing visual notes
…helpful
 
Remember, it doesn’t have to be good to be effective!
Thank goodness! 🙂
 
Do you take visual notes or have you ever tried? How do you typically create study guides? Have you tried that trick of putting them on your mirror (or somewhere in your home)… if so, did it help or not help? 

Back to School Shopping List

This post brought to you by Brita. All opinions are 100% mine.

You know that commercial that was on a few years ago with the dad skipping through the school supply aisle, while his reluctant kids trail behind and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” plays in the background? Every year, when it’s time for back to school shopping, I totally feel like that guy!

And everyone knows that the making of a school supply list is almost as fun as the shopping for the school supplies themselves! SOOO… Here is a list of my essential back to school supplies (alphabetically, of course)!

2014 Fall Semester Essentials:

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BRITA® WATER BOTTLE

I know. I know. I’m like the only person in America who didn’t have a water filter yet. But let me start by saying that I live in Memphis… which is known for having pretty good water… so, I didn’t think it would make a big difference. However, in an effort to keep myself hydrated and feel more energized this summer, I bought my first Brita® filter water bottle (available at Target)! Oh my gosh, y’all… it makes a huge difference!

The filter reduces impurities, so the difference between drinking water through the filter and the faucet is incredible. Plus, I’m saving a TON of money by not having to buy bottles of water all the time while I’m running around (and reducing waste)! Not only that, but I can put anything in it, which is awesome. My husband has literally been filling this bottle up with water then pouring it into his glass before dinner… so I guess that’s a subtle hint that we should get the pitcher, too!

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COLOR-CODED PENS

Last fall, I wrote a post on how I color-code my planner. And I was all about these Cosmo pens from the Write Dudes. Well, I still love those but one of my Kindergarteners gave me the Paper Mate Flair pens as an end-of-the-year gift last year and I have become 100% obsessed! It’s like writing with a super thin, super pretty, little Sharpie. I am just all about these pens right now! If you want to check them out, I’ve seen them at Target, Office Max, and Office Depot!

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FLASH DRIVE

Over the summer, I mentioned that I left my old flash drive in the USB port at FedEx Office. Saddest day of my life. Luckily, I keep backups of important things in my computer and online, so I didn’t really lose anything too critical. Regardless, I’ll need one for this semester and I typically find the best prices on Amazon!

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FOLDERS

Organizing my new class folders is probably one of my favorite parts of the new semester! I just use one 2-pocket folder for each class (here is how I organize them). At the end of the semester, I save the ones that are still in pretty good shape and reuse them for the next semester to save money!

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HIGHLIGHTERS

I have literally been using the same brand of highlighters (Foray) forever (probably longer, actually). My most-used colors are yellow and pink. When I begin an assignment, I highlight it in yellow on my Semester Spreadsheet and in my planner. When I complete it, I highlight it in pink. This way, I can see what I’m finished with, what I’m currently working on, and which projects I need to start!

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INDEX CARDS

I used to just use index cards for making an assignment timeline but I have gotten SO into making flashcards lately! I don’t know why I never really made them before. I started over the summer when I made some to learn the menu items of the restaurant where I was working. After that, I used them to help me study for my certification exam. And right now, I’m actually taking a break from making some for my next certification exam. Less than $1 at Target? I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner!

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MECHANICAL PENCILS

Year after year, these are one of my main staples of the semester. I use them for taking notes. This makes it a lot easier for me to not freak out when my professors give us things out of order, get sidetracked, or leave things out only to add them at the end of the lecture.

Plus, it keeps me focused instead of worrying about whether I should make this heading pink or that bullet point purple (which is exactly what I will do if I try to color-code notes as I write them)! I can do all of that when I REWRITE my notes later. I also use these when I’m on-the-go and writing tentative plans in my planner, because they can just be erased and replaced with more permanent plans later.

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MINI-STAPLER & STAPLES

Speaking of “staples”, it seriously never fails that every time something is due in class, about 34 people start to ask “Hey… does anyone have a stapler?”. How people show up to class ready to turn in an assignment that isn’t stapled, I have no idea. But it is always awesome to be that person that saves the day! Also, by having your own stapler, you won’t have to worry about ever being that person (or using the germ-y one in the library). Plus, Target has PINK staples (of course they do)! And why use silver when you could use pink?!

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NOTEBOOK

Notebooks are another thing I’ve received some questions about lately. Some of y’all have asked whether I get a different notebook for each class, or use one multi-subject notebook for every class. I’ve tried both but, for the sake of simplicity, I just get one notebook and use it for every class.

When I first started college, I kept looseleaf paper in a binder, which was just too bulky. Then, I began to buy a separate notebook for each class. However, some notebooks would get completely used up 8 weeks into the semester while others barely had 8 pages of notes by December! Now I just keep everything in one notebook and fold down pages, write in the corner of the page, or use Post-It tabs to find what I’m looking for.

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PLANNER

And here it is: The Holy Grail of school supplies. Erin Condren? Kate Spade? Lily Pulitzer? MayBooks? You know, you can’t just rush into a big decision like this. It really takes a lot of research, trial and error, and maybe some modifications to make a planner totally work for YOU.

Here is a list of some of my favorites and here is what I use. Plus, your school bookstore will have some and so does Target (seriously, what don’t they have?). Make sure you check out all of your available sources before committing to one planner for the next year of your life! I mean, choosing a good planner is practically as important as choosing a good husband, right?

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POST-ITS

I have to admit that I am a little Post-It crazy. I have the 2×2 ones, which I usually write my to-do list on each morning and stick to the back of my phone before I leave for the day. I have the smaller Post-It tabs which I use to mark pages in my notebook/textbooks while I’m reading/researching/studying for school. And I also use these to mark important dates in my planner.

We could all always use more Post-Its!

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PRINTABLE PROGRESS TRACKER

I’ve had a few people ask about the weekly task pads that I sometimes get from Target’s Dollar Spot. The tricky thing about that little section of the store is that you just never know what you’re going to find! I might walk through there 10 times and not see any to-do lists at all. Then, I’ll go in there and there are, like, 20 different choices!

If you’re looking for something like that (but a little free-er), then check out this printable that I made last semester! Same concept, plus there is a place to write down what you actually accomplished each day, too! It also prints out 16 sheets (each with a different quote)… 1 for each week of the semester!

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TEXTBOOKS

Well, obviously, textbooks are a pretty essential part of back to school shopping! I always, ALWAYS recommend checking out Slugbooks to make sure that you’re getting the best price! If you’re thinking about getting an e-book, you should really check out McGraw-Hill’s SmartBooks, too! It’s an interactive e-book that quizzes you throughout the chapter and assesses your learning of the chapter!

Ahhhh… listmaking AND organizing AND an excuse to buy new school supplies?!

It really is the most wonderful time of the year! Until all of the post-Christmas organization sales, that is. 🙂

What are some of the essentials from your shopping list this semester?! 

Where are your favorite places to get your school supplies? 

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5 Time Management Tips for College

One of the most frequent requests that I get is to do a post on how I manage(d) my time in college. Since we’re about a month away from the beginning of a new semester (and the very first semester for some of y’all!), I thought this would be a perfect time to address it!
College is kind of a difficult balancing act because, whether you’re in a sorority, working part-time, playing sports, or interning, it always feels like you’re being pulled in a million different directions! That’s why it’s so important to learn how to tell people “no” in order to successfully do it all (which I still struggle with on a daily basis)!

Here are my 5 biggest tips on managing your time in college!

Schedule in “Study Time”

It is very important to give yourself time to complete your schoolwork. Whether you’ll need to spend a few hours researching in the library, quizzing yourself over your textbook, or writing all of your super long papers, you WILL NEED this time for something. Every single week.
So, don’t pick up shifts at work during these times. Don’t plan lunch dates with your friends during these times. And schedule those times realistically, don’t make it a Friday or Saturday night because you know that there one billion things to tempt you away from your schoolwork!

Schedule in “Friend Time”

Equally as important as scheduling in time for your schoolwork, make sure to schedule in time for your friends! Of course, every college student has to make sacrifices, but you definitely don’t want to go MIA just because school started!
Because I worked in a restaurant in undergrad, my “friend time” usually ended up being after work on Friday and Saturday nights. We would already be together and have a ton of energy from running around like crazy all night. So, I just knew that I had the time built in to hang out with all of my favorite people!

Schedule a Designated “Day Off”

Tell your boss you have a class if you need to. What I found out during my first semester of college was that if I let my boss know every time that I was out of class, he would schedule me to work every time that I was out of class. You need to account for time to study at home, too!
This day off is basically like your safety net. It’s a day to do laundry, to finish up assignments, to clean out your car, and to just recover from your crazy busy week (or prepare for the next crazy busy week). Since you schedule your own classes, you are responsible for giving yourself time to unwind!

Work “High Priority” to “Low Priority”

So, when you’re working during your “Study Time” be sure that you start with your “high priority” (or most quickly approaching due dates) first. Just because you never know what could come up before your next “study time”. Sure, I said not to schedule anything during study times, but what if your long-lost best friend comes in town, or it’s your dad’s birthday, or you need to visit someone in the hospital, or meet with your advisor?
We can plan and plan, but life still finds a way to things sneak surprises into our plans all the time. Make sure you always take care of your most time-sensitive material first.

Remember to Have Fun!

College is, of course, an important time for working hard and making good grades. BUT at the same time, that isn’t what you want to spend all of your time doing, or you’ll miss out on all of the fun memories that it has to offer! You want to look back on this time and remember how much fun you had, not how you spend every night locked in your dorm with a textbook. You just have to find your own line between discipline and flexibility!
“I’ve learned one thing, and that’s to quit worrying about stupid things. You have four years to be irresponsible here, relax. Work is for people with jobs. You’ll never remember class time, but you’ll remember the time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So stay out late. Go out with your friends on a Tuesday when you have a paper due on Wednesday. Spend money you don’t have. Drink ’til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does…”
― Tom Petty
Just remember that time management is all about excellent planning! 🙂 
How do you balance your class time, social time, and study time? 
What tips do you have for time management in college? 

How to Make a Daily Prioritized Study List

It’s almost time to start preparing for the fall semester! Who’s excited?!

Today, I am going to try to explain something that is super helpful to me

I’m not sure how effective it will be to translate this into a blog post but I sure am going to try!

Let me know if y’all still find it difficult and I may end up making it into my first video ever! (eek)


I recently received a request from one of my most charming readers asking how I utilize the Semester Spreadsheet. Which I have decided is an absolutely brilliant question. Immediately, I realized that I left out the step between How to Create a Semester Assignment Spreadsheet and Organized Study Time.

And that step is this: How do you decide what to study and when?

Here is what works for me:

FIRST: 

Create your Semester Assignment Spreadsheet. This is a single piece of paper that contains all of your assignments for all of your classes in chronological order. Kind of like a checklist for the entire semester. It keeps you on track with your next due date. Your next assignment.

And it does it all without forcing you to check multiple syllabi on a daily basis. Once you have created this oh-so-helpful step, you will be ready for step 2! (or you could skip this altogether… toootally up to you).


SECOND: 

This is something that you’re (hopefully) already doing! Go through your planner and write down all of your due dates for all of your classes (I told you it was something you were already doing)! The only thing that’s special about this is to use the same color for all of your due dates (I use pink because it grabs my attention the most easily). I write my due dates into my monthly view in pink, then I move on to the daily view of my planner…

THIRD:

So, I’m just going to use this Content Exam as an example. I would go to the date that the Content Exam is due and write it in pink. Then I would go to the 1-2 days before it’s due and write it in purple. Then I would go to 3, 4, and 5 and write it in blue.

Then I would go to 6, 7, 8, and 9 days before and write it in green. Once I see an assignment written in green, I usually know it’s time to start on it (think “green light”). The 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 days before something is due, I write it in orange. When I see something written in orange, it just reminds me that it’s in my queueon deck, or upcoming.


FOURTH:

Use different colors to prioritize upcoming assignments. This is the color-coding system that I use. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may recognize these colors because I also use them to organize my personal planner.
That’s the main reason that I usually like to keep a separate calendar/planner somewhere for my schoolwork. Those little dated notepads from Target’s Dollar Spot are pretty ideal. Because, even though the big, important dates are in my personal planner, I don’t want to clutter it up with mundane things like “read chapter 3”. 

Is that too obsessive-ish sounding? 

Let me draw you a little picture (literally)!

Let’s just say that the picture below depicts the “life cycle” of an assignment on my calendar. It first shows up in my planner two weeks in advance, as a low-priority task (orange). If I get started on it then, I have a head start. If not, it’s still in my subconscious… beginning to create that nagging “I need to do this” feeling. By the time it “turns green”, work on the project definitely needs to be underway.
 Most (not all) assignments can be thoroughly completed in a week or two!
 Any Normal Person: “You seriously write each assignment into your school planner 15 times?”
Me: “Yes. Yes, I do.”
Any Normal person:But why on earth would you waste your time doing that?!
 
Me: “Because I know it’s the beginning of the semester and there isn’t much else to do. I also know that there will soon be a time (mid-semester) when there will be everything to do. All at once. And on those days, it is so incredibly helpful to sit down, open my school planner, and know exactly where I should start!”

THE FINISHED PRODUCT: 

Eventually, every day of your schoolwork planner should look something like the picture above. You will have every day’s study time planned out and will be ready to get started. You will open the planner and know exactly which assignments take top priority, what takes second priority, and what is in your “queue” for the next couple of weeks. There are no surprises this way. And you’ll totally forgive me for making you write it all out at the beginning of the semester (hopefully)!
Now, don’t think that I haven’t noticed that this is completely obsessive and insane. Oh, I have noticed. But it is so incredibly helpful to me that I couldn’t imagine starting a new semester without it! 🙂

How do you keep up with what you need to study and when? 

Do you keep a separate planner for school assignments or just put everything into one? 

Follow Organized Charm on Pinterest for all. of. the. of study tips! 

Class Folder Organization

I used to go really overboard with my school binders. I would go to Office Max/Target and spend tons of money on brand new cute binders, color-coded tabs, laminated dividers, and labels for every class. I made sure I had a place for EVERYTHING and I kept EVERYTHING in them.
And, although it was helpful to have all of that information in one place, a lot of the sections actually just went unused. As time went on, I began to appreciate simplicity a little more. And now I am 100% certain that simplicity = efficiency!
 
The way that I organize my wedding folders now, I actually learned while I was wedding planning! When it comes to wedding planners, there are some that are huge, excessive, detailed, and expensive. But honestly, all you need is a list of things left to do and a list of things that are done.
A list of things to do and a place to keep receipts of things that are complete? Sounds a little like coursework, doesn’t it? I thought so, too!
Here is my newer, simpler, efficient-er way of organizing schoolwork!

Buy Folders

Buy a simple 2-pocket folder for each class. I like to assign a color to each class and buy them in those colors, but obviously you should buy whatever you think you will want to look at everyday! The main idea here is that these little folders are amazing for the following reasons:
They are easy to fit into your bag/backpack/purse
They are light to carry around campus
They are easy to keep organized
They make it easy to use
They are cheap!

 

Place Syllabus on the Right Side

Once I get my syllabi for my classes, I open it to the page with all of the due dates and place it into the right side of the folder. This makes it super easy to check what chapter I need to read this week, or when that next big project is due. As the semester goes on, I highlight the current week in yellow and re-highlight it in pink when the its complete.

Print Out All Assignment Instructions

At the beginning of the semester, I go to the campus computer lab and print out the directions for every project. Then I put these into the left side of the folder and order them according to their due dates. If I have a physical copy of my current work-in-progress (presentation outline, rough draft, study guide), I keep that on the left side along with its instructions.
OCD SIDE NOTE: I also like to use index cards to keep track of individual assignments because I can paperclip them into my class folder, into my planner, or hang them on the wall. It’s just a quick reference for the when, what, how much, and basic instructions of each assignment.

Keep Graded Papers Behind Syllabus

Once graded assignments are returned, I place them behind the syllabus on the right side of the folder. I only keep my graded assignments. And actually, thanks to the semester assignment spreadsheet, I could even do without keeping those papers (but I just like to).

Create a “Handout Folder” at Home

Create a folder at home for class handouts. Ending the semester with a ton of miscellaneous handouts that you may or may not use in the future is inevitable. Just create a little file folder at home for those types of papers so you don’t have to carry them around all the time!
Of course, there are classes that require more thorough folders (like research projects) but this system works pretty well for basic, “lecture classes”! SUPER simple. SUPER efficient.

Have you developed a system for organizing school binders/folders? Does it work well? What parts of organizing classwork are the hardest for you?

How to Create a Semester Assignment Spreadsheet

So, a few months ago, I posted about my study habits in Organized Study Time. I shared all of my deepest, darkest, OCD-iest secrets (and I thought I sounded like a completely crazy person). 

But, as it turns out, some of y’all are just as crazy as I am because you wanted to know how to make the Semester Assignment Spreadsheet

I never even realized that I just glossed over how to make it until you asked, so THANK YOU for bringing it to my attention!

It really is one of the most important ways that I keep my schoolwork and study time organized! 
What is a Semester Assignment Spreadsheet? you might ask.

It is one single list that combines the due dates and important info from all of your classes. 
Ok, but why is that important? 

I think it is really helpful because it allows me to see which class should take top priority at any time during the semester. I also like to put the total points available for each assignment so that I can keep up with my own grades. 
And here it is… How to Create a Semester Assignment Spreadsheet!
{It will save your life during midterms and finals, seriously.}

1. Gather the syllabi from all of your classes

Flip to the part with the due dates (you know, the only part of the syllabus that we actually read). I like to highlight the due dates just so I am 100% sure that I don’t miss any. No, seriously, I read, reread, re-reread it like 20 times to make absolutely sure I don’t skip over something.

That would be completely catastrophic. 

2. Open a Spreadsheet in Excel

Excel is my favorite. My absolute favorite! I’m pretty sure there is nothing that I couldn’t make into a spreadsheet. I have an Apple computer but I bought the Windows package just so I could have Excel. If you don’t have Excel, you could try Numbers from Apple. Also, most computers on campus have Excel (and free prints!) or try a local library or FedEx Office.


(Read: How to Organize Your Class Binders)

 

3. Create Columns

Ok, so in the top of the spreadsheet, the columns are labeled by letters. Just click on one and start typing. Make individual columns out of whatever information is most important to you. 
 
I made 4 columns out of the following: 
 
-Due Date
-Class
-Assignment
 

4. Put in every assignment due date

Now, just go through each syllabus and create a new row for each of the assignments. You can enter them in chronological order or you can enter 1 whole syllabus at a time and sort them out later. It’s really just up to you.

Be sure to fill in all of the information across the columns. When is it due? Which class is it for? What is the name of it? How many points are available?

Then, check it (23 times, if you’re me) to make sure you didn’t skip over any.

5. Sort by due date

There are two ways that you could do this: 
 

A. Select the Due Date column

(click the top of the column one time with your arrow… the whole column should turn light blue)
Then hit AZ Sort on the toolbar. It should sort the items by date.

B. Order the list the old fashioned way

And by the “old fashioned way”, I mean just cut and paste the dates until they are in order.

Also, I included tuition deadlines (can’t make an A if I don’t pay) and since I am nearing graduation (yay!), I am also adding the deadlines for things that need to be submitted to my advisor, exit exam dates, and other administrative stuff that’s required.(Related: How to Balance Grad School and a Full-Time Job)
 

6. Format it so that it all fits onto one page

This is just kind of your preference. I like to choose the clearest, easiest font for me to read (which is Century Gothic) then I just keep minimizing (or maximizing) it until everything fits perfectly onto one page in a nice neat fashion.

Last semester, I went back and split up the spreadsheet by month, which was actually pretty helpful… but it’s totally not necessary.

7. Print it out

And there you go! I encourage printing it out instead of leaving it as a computer document because I love crossing things out! Like, I really love it. Plus, I can put it in my planner or a folder and carry it to class with me.
If I need to discuss a grade with a professor, I have my own running list of all of my grades on that handy little sheet (because, you know, sometimes they act like looking in their grade books is the biggest inconvenience anyone has ever asked of them).
If a classmate asks when something is due or how many points it’s worth, I don’t have to spend time flipping through the syllabus… it’s just all right there together!

(Related: Your Ultimate Back to School Checklist)

8. Track your progress

I feel like this is the way that I close out every post. But seriously, tracking progress is one of the best ways to stay motivated and productive!

Here is what I do:

On the sheet, once I start working on a project, I highlight it in yellow. When I complete it, I re-highlight it in pink. And when I receive my grade, I fill it in with a pencil/pen.

(Related: 5 Must-Know Time Management Tips for College)

No more “We have a test today?” or “When was that due?” or bursting into tears while everyone else in the class hands in the assignment while you sit there in a stunned state because you forgot about it. 
(And yes, all of those ridiculously irresponsible examples are from my past self)
 
Having (and checking) this one little piece of paper frequently will make your school life feel so simplified. And all of these assignments will not seem so daunting. And the world will be filled with rainbows and butterflies. 
 
And who wouldn’t want that? 🙂
 

What are some ways that you keep track of your assignments? How do you prioritize your projects?