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?

Forming Good Habits is Easier Than You Think. Start with These 3!

“Keeping up is easier than catching up.” -Gretchen Rubin
productivity tips, how to start good habits, organization blogs, time management

I love this quote. In her book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin talks about habit formation. In this quote specifically, she discusses how it is easier to form good habits by doing small tasks each day to “keep up,” rather than setting aside all of the tasks for the end of the week and then “catching up.”

Here are some examples:

1. Cleaning out your Purse/Backpack/Car

This is sometimes one of the hardest things to do. Sometimes I let a little receipt or paper go here or there. Then another, and before I know it when I pull out my wallet at the grocery store, a dozen tiny papers come fluttering out all over the floor. This is called the Broken Windows Theory- when we start letting little things go, they lead to bigger things.

To form the good habit of keeping your purse/backpack clean, designate a day week to clean it out. Make it a point to not let anything that would be considered trash or clutter build up in these places! Remind yourself that it is easier to take a few seconds to throw that receipt in the trash, or bring that empty water bottle to the recycling now than it is to set aside time to clean out your purse, backpack, or car.

2. Clothes

A few weeks ago, I wrote about developing a system for keeping your closets organized long-term. It can be hard to form good habits when it comes to our closets! Short-term organization requires a setting aside a day to make everything look neat and orderly, only to have it end up sloppy and cluttered again two months from now.

Long-term organization requires setting up a system and using self-control/habits to maintain it. People often get frustrated with short-term organization, because they can’t maintain the beautiful environment they’ve created. I said all that to say this, put your clothes away (closet, dresser, or laundry) every time you change 🙂

3. Clear to Neutral

Form the good habit of Clear to Neutral and your life will be SO MUCH MORE ORGANIZED!! This is another topic I’ve written an entire post about. “Clear to Neutral” is one of my favorite systems. Basically, it means to leave each space the way that you want to find it next time. When you finish working on your laptop, make sure it’s charged for the next time you use it, close any documents/websites you have open, and put it away (either on the charger or wherever it lives).

This way, the next time you need to work on it, you can get straight to work without needing to rummage around for the charger or getting distracted by the windows you left open on it last time.

productivity tip, good habits, Gretchen Rubin, Gretchen Rubin quotes, productivity

Forming good habits can be hard and it takes time. People used to think it took 21-28 days to form a new habit, but recent research is showing it’s closer to 66!

Baby steps lead to progress. Just starting these three habits TODAY, you can make sure that your life is more orderly and organized. My favorite app for habit formation/tracking is called Productive. It allows you to create a habit, specifying how often and what time of day you want to do it. Then it gives you a recurring to-do list of your habits every day. It shows you data on each habit, and how many “perfect” days you have 🙂

What are some baby step habits that make you feel more efficient and put-together? Share them in the comments below! Be sure to follow @organizedcharm on Instagram for more productivity tips! And if you’re interested in reading Better Than Before, check it out below!

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13 Surprising Statistics About Teaching

Hi Kirsten! I am a freshman in college and am an elementary education major. I am trying to decide which grade I want to teach, and I want to learn more about the whole process! 


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What a great question and super exciting time of life!

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to teach Kindergarten. I had the advantage of working at a tutoring center during high school and getting to interact with elementary students of all grade levels. The Kindergarteners were always my favorite! They were sweet, funny, and happy to be there. I just always knew that, if I became a teacher, that would be my grade.

But it’s not always that easy for teachers. Many teachers take a job teaching a grade they don’t necessarily want to teach, just to get their foot in the door with a school. Lots of teachers soon find out that they love that grade more than the one they thought they wanted to teach! And many other teachers shuffle around to different grades throughout their careers. You just never know how it will work out 🙂

If you’re someone who is interested in becoming a teacher, here are some “real talk” statistics that your professors may not mention.

1 | Teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money on classroom supplies

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This is so true. When I worked in public school, we were given a stipend of $100 for our classrooms. ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Some of the teachers at our school literally spent thousands of dollars over the course of the year. Why? You love your kids. You want them to have an inviting classroom to learn in, adequate supplies, and engaging learning activities. For most teachers, this money is spent with an attitude of love, not resentment. The good news? Almost anything you buy for school is tax deductible, so create a system to help you SAVE THOSE RECEIPTS!

2 | Teachers work an average of 50 hours per week

Source: National Education Association

Teacher hours are usually coveted by people in the “regular” workforce. The breaks, holidays, and early dismissal. I’ve got to admit, especially now that I’m a mom, those breaks are invaluable! The lines between working and not working are usually pretty blurred for teachers. Even when you’re not in the building, you’re emailing parents, looking up ideas, prepping materials, lesson planning, etc. The great thing about this job is that it is SO personal and SO creative. Because no two teachers are the same, it is easy to feel passionate about what you’re doing! For that reason, work doesn’t always feel like work. It’s always new and exciting and different!

3 | About 30% of teachers have a second job

Source: Brookings

It’s no secret that the pay for teachers is not great. Public school systems typically pay more than independent schools, so if money is a priority for you, you probably want to go public. Not all teachers who have second jobs do it just for the money, though. You have to take into account that selling on Teachers Pay Teachers or Etsy would be considered a “second job,” too. Also, keep in mind that teachers sometimes get bored over summer or on breaks. It’s nice to have a side hustle or something productive to do with your time! Personally, I tutor outside of school hours and host a couple of summer camps. The flexibility teaching provides is great!

4 | More than 91% of teachers report purchasing basic necessities for students

Source: Huffington Post

Depending on where you teach, your students may need financial assistance from time to time. This is 100% NOT expected or obligatory. As you get to know your kids and their families, you may want to step in and cover a field trip admission or buy food for a student to take home over the weekend. Your students become YOUR kids and you never want to see them left out or in need. It’s always a case-by-case basis when you decide to help out a student in need. This sounds so cheesy, but your heart will guide you if you run into this kind of situation.

5 | 88% of people say a teacher had a positive impact on their lives

Source: ING Foundation Survey

Most people you know could easily tell you the name of their favorite teacher growing up. I can’t even tell you how many “I love yous” and “You’re the bests” I hear from my students throughout the day. Your kids will LOVE you and look up to you. They will draw you pictures and value your opinion and pretend to be you on the playground ( well, maybe not the teenagers 😉 ). You’ll talk about your students to anyone who will listen. Your spouse/roommate/mom will know your students by name, even if they’ve never met them! When you send your kids off to the next grade, you’ll tell the new teacher “You better take care of ___, he/she’s my baby!”

6 | Teachers work an average of 400+ hours of overtime each year

Source: EdTech

Every teacher has their own individual work style when it comes to this. Personally, I like to show up 45 minutes early each morning. That gives me time to set up my room, think about the flow of the day, prep, lesson plan, email, and just do anything that needs to be done. At the end of the day, I usually try not to stay any longer than 30 minutes. There’s always more to do, but I set a timer and leave when it goes off. In addition to the school day, there are sometimes nighttime events, like open houses, parent-teacher conferences, and other special events. Weeks with these events can be exhausting, but they can also be fun because they bring you and your team a lot closer!

7 | 75% of first-year teachers say they were well-prepared for their instructional duties

Source: National Institute of Educational Statistics

The Professional Developments can be SO overwhelming your first year! Your district will have you attending so many different seminars, workshops, lectures, orientations, in-services, and classes that you won’t know what to do with yourself. And EVERYTHING has an acronym. I once attended an entire seminar on some new initiative called CLIP, and when I left, I still didn’t even know what CLIP stood for! The good news is, the things that you learned will start to make sense once you have an opportunity to apply them. The bad news is, you will feel like you are drowning in PDs your first year. Just stick with it… it will get better!

The average student-teacher ratio in America is 16:1

8 | The average student-teacher ratio is 16:1

Public School Review

This is actually a great ratio! Where I live, in Tennessee, the maximum class size for Kindergarten is supposed to be 25. However, my roster hovered around 28-30. Be prepared, if you teach in a lower-income area, that several of your students may drop from your roster without warning. This is caused by unstable living environments, where families may move from one relative’s house to another throughout the school year. The size of my class varied from week-to-week. Now that I’m teaching in an independent school, my school’s student-teacher ratio is 9:1. This is one reason many parents choose independent schools when they can.

56% of teachers have a Master's Degree or higher

9 | 56% of teachers have a Master’s Degree or higher

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

I am represented by this statistic, as well as most of the teachers I know. In my job search process, it seemed like the #1 thing administrators cared about you having was a certification. Even with a Master’s Degree, it was virtually impossible for me to get hired until they knew I had taken all of my certification exams. BUT if it comes down to two certified teachers, having a higher education degree will likely put you ahead. A lot of teachers choose to attend grad school WHILE they are teaching. It’s important to remember that teachers are lifelong learners who are always looking to improve and grow!

43% of teachers sleep less than six hours a night

10 | 43% of teachers sleep 6 or fewer hours per night

Source: Ball State University

If you follow a lot of teacher accounts on Instagram, you’ll see that there is a LOT of talk about being tired and a lot of love for coffee! Why don’t teachers get enough sleep? According to a recent Gallup poll, the average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep… so none of us are doing a great job of sleeping. For teachers, there is work that comes home with you. Factor in commutes to work, and the responsibilities of home and kids, and it’s easy to see how it can be hard to get enough sleep. In fact, only 48% of moms sleep 7+ hours per night (regardless of their career). We’ve just all got to learn to prioritize our health, regardless of our circumstances.

the average public school teacher salary is $58,000

11 | The average public school teacher salary is $58,353

Source: National Education Association

In Tennessee, it’s about $10,000 less than that. But you can make more depending on your test scores, seniority, and observation scores. According to Chron.com, the average for private school teachers is $36,250. The decision between public and private is one of time vs. money. Private schools aren’t held to the intense state-testing standards that public schools are. As a private school teacher, you can usually leave work earlier, have more control over your content, and there is far less paperwork. Personally, the work-life balance and positive relationships with admin that private school provides are worth the pay difference for me.

83% of teachers teach for 10 years or longer

12 | 83% of teachers stay in the profession for 10 years or longer

Source: Washington Post

It’s very rare that you run across an educator who hates his/her job. If this job is not for you, will find out in the first five years. Teaching is too demanding for someone who is not passionate about it. Most teachers are happy to spend their own money, work the long hours, sit through the PDs, and all the other things that come along with teaching. It’s hard to explain because it sounds crazy! But when you love your job, you love all the hard things that come along with it. You embrace it, make light of it, and find teammates to encourage and be encouraged by. It’s kind of like how college life is exhausting but fun at the same time. There is so much joy in teaching. Just make sure to keep a positive attitude!

98% of Americans believe a good teacher can change a student's life

13 | 98% of Americans believe that a good teacher can change a student’s life

Source: ING Survey

This is something that keeps a lot of teachers running. There is so much appreciation felt by Americans toward teachers. When I tell people what I do, the first thing most of them say is, “It takes a special person to be a teacher. I could never do that!” Guess what? They are right! It is a difficult job that requires a lot of patience, perseverance, and passion. If you are called to be a teacher, YOU ARE A SPECIAL PERSON. You are willing to care for other people’s children like they are your own. You think about them on the weekends, over breaks, and even years later. You will maintain relationships with some students and their families for a lifetime.

75% of job success depends on your optimism levels and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat

As you think about your future career as a teacher, know that it is one that requires a lot of heart. BUT most teachers couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It is not a career driven by money or status, but it is a career driven by passion. Most educators feel that teaching is truly a calling, and that is why it’s so hard to “turn it off” at home. Teaching is personal. Your kids are YOURS for a whole year, and you do whatever it takes to help them succeed 🙂

No matter what grade you end up teaching, you find the perfect grade, school, teaching team that works for you. And once you do, you will know why people say that teaching is the greatest job on the planet!

What advice do you have for education majors/first-year teachers? Or, if you are an education major/first-year teacher, what questions/concerns/worries do you have?!


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