Finals Cheat Sheet + Printable Study Checklist

24 short days until Christmas! The music, the decorations, the social events with friends and family, and all of those cheesy Hallmark christmas movies are just waiting for you…

…right on the other side of Finals (dun dun dunnnnnn).

And because I know you’re stressing (because it is literally the most stressful part of the semester), I’m compiling some of my favorite study tips into this one post! (complete with a free little checklist to hang up in your study space to remind you)! READY?!

Planner: SO IMPORTANT! Have a plan before you sit down to study! Otherwise, you’ll just spend a bunch of time trying to figure out what you already have done, what you need to do, and where you need to start! Keeping a planner that is up -to-date cuts down on prep time and boosts actual study time!

Study Materials: Where are your notes? Your textbook? Did you leave something in your car? Do you need to print some PowerPoints from your class website? GATHER everything BEFORE you sit down to study! Nothing is more frustrating than being ready to work and then realizing you don’t have everything you need to be able to work!

Clean Environment: Sometimes, if I’m having a hard time focusing, I look at my environment. Do I have papers scattered all over the place? Are there random things that are out of place that are subconsciously distracting me? Take a minute to organize things and get your study environment as clean and organized as possible!

Productive Time of the Day: What time of day do you work best? Research shows that 9am-12pm is typically the best time for completing cognitive tasks (which is why most businesses and schools are open during this time), but YOU know YOU better than anyone. Are all of your roommates out between 1 and 2 every day? Then maybe that’s your most optimal time!

Minimal Distractions: You love Instagram. I love Instagram. We all love Insta. And Twitter. And Pinterest. But they are a constantly alluring distraction from the task at hand (studying, duh). And guess what? That just makes you want to check your phone even more. Resist the urge! In fact, eliminate it altogether by putting your phone on silent and sticking it in a drawer or in a different room.

And no, sending Snapchats of yourself pretending to be asleep (or crying) while surrounded by your notes does not count as studying! Sorry.

Comfortable Clothes: If there were ever a perfect time for Victoria’s Secret’s entire PINK collection existing, it’s Finals week! This is literally (and by literally, I mean figuratively… obviously) your free pass to live in yoga pants and over-sized t-shirts for the next two weeks! TAKE ADVANTAGE!

Writing Utensils: This is so beyond obvious that I feel silly even mentioning it. BUT really think about what kind of writing utensils you need for studying! Highlighters for highlighting in your text book? Pencils for doing math? Colored pens for editing your paper? Put some thought into what would benefit you the most for studying each subject!

Paper: Same as above. Post-It’s that you can jot notes on and stick in your textbook? Notebook paper for outlining a paper? Index cards for memorizing definitions? Graph paper for practicing statistics problems? (by the way, if you are currently in Statistics, know that my prayers are with you)

Calming Music: A long time ago, we used to have to buy those relaxing CD’s from Target (you know, the one’s where you could select a preview to every single one first?). But these days, we are super blessed with things like iHeart Radio, iTunes Radio, and Pandora. Go to “Add New Station” and then select “Browse Genre Stations”… there are countless choices! And if you need some choices, check out this post!

Timer: I work faster with a time-limit! And I’m guessing you do, too. This really, REALLY helps to cut down on distractions because you know that, if you only have an hour, you better not waste any of that time by Facebook stalking.

There will be plenty of time for that when the timer goes off.

Start: If you’re a new reader to this blog, you should watch the video in this post. It’s less than 5 minutes and the information is INVALUABLE for productivity! One of the most important things that I learned from it is to JUST START! Once you’ve started a project, your brain gets this nagging feeling to go back and finish it!

And if you’re having a hard time starting, maybe check out this post to find out why!

Focus: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: One thing at a time. One day at a time. This is the motto that my super laid-back (no really, like Matthew McConaughey level of laid backness) husband tells me to repeat when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Some other of his favorites: do less and just get it done.

Track Your Progress: WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU DO! This allows you to (1) be proud of yourself and (2) keep up with where you need to begin next time!

Relax: Last spring, I posted a video from Dr. Marty Lobdell on studying. One of the first things he says is to work for less than one hour! In fact, most of our attention spans run out around 30 minutes. So even though pulling an “all nighter” may feel productive, it’s actually having the opposite effect! Your mind (and your body) need sleep, too! Study in smaller, super-intense bursts of time instead!

Update To-Do List: If you want, you can print out the free printable progress tracker in this post to keep you up-to-date with your progress on different assignments. OR, you can just use a regular old piece of paper to keep up with how far along you made it during your “bursts” of study time. When it’s time for you to stop working because your timer went off (or because you came a little too close to throwing your laptop across the room), write down the very next 3 things that you need to do for this project! This will allow you to get straight back to work as productively as possible the next time you work on this project!

Clear Computer Desktop to Neutral: Clear to Neutral is a beautiful concept. You can read all about it here, but the basic idea is this… Leave everything exactly the way you want to find it next time! Instead of leaving 14 windows open on your computer when you go do sleep, name every file! Close every browser window! And straighten up all those loose documents into neat and organized files. You can leave your most frequently used documents and folders on your desktop but that’s all!

Clear Actual Desktop to Neutral: So, no one looks at a super messy desk and says “ooh, I could get so much work done there!”. They just don’t. Keep your environment organized. Put papers away… even if it’s just into a drawer for now. Your study space should be a place where you actually enjoy being!

Reward: Um, hello? You just checked a few things off of your to-do list? GOOD JOB! It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to get it all done right now. There will always be more to do (believe me, always). Every time you work on schoolwork, you’re more prepared than you were before. So, celebrate that! Give yourself permission to mentally check out while mindlessly scrolling through Tumblr. or watching a silly YouTube video or having cookies or champagne (or all of the above).

Yes, Finals are coming. But you are ready! 🙂

Here is a printable version of the checklist (if it works)!

How are you preparing for finals? Are you feeling overwhelmed or do you feel like you’ve got it together? Can you think of anything to add to this checklist? If so, add it below! 

Holiday Planning Timeline

Y’all. It’s here. The holiday season! I am SO, SO excited! I am one of those really strict people who chooses to ignore the Christmas decorations/music/lights in Target or on the homes of my neighbors until I see Santa rolling down the streets of NYC at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade… like, he’s giving the green light to move forward with Christmas… and yesterday around noon, I saw what I had been waiting for!

And even though, I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with the Christmas season, I am ALSO one of those people who is always so caught up in whatever I’m doing at the beginning of December (aka panicking over finals), that the holiday season totally catches me off guard every. single. year. You would think I would be more prepared because, you know, it literally happens annually on the same day. But I always end up being one of those people out searching frantically for something on December 23rd.

You, too? Oh, of course not. You probably have your life together like a normal person. But just in case you don’t… and we’re in this crazy love/hate relationship with the Christmas season together, here is a little holiday timeline that can keep us on track this year (maybe)!

November 28-30: Decorate for Christmas

Get your decorations out of storage (or the holiday aisle at Target) and decide where you want everything to go! Last year, we literally had no good place to put our tree. For whatever reason, whoever designed our living room felt the need to put something on every single wall so we had no choice to put the tree in a high-traffic area. This year, however, we have the perfect corner in our living area and I am SO happy about that! It’s just easier to decorate anything if you go in with a plan!

December 1-4: Finalize Gift Ideas

So, because you are SUCH a good daughter/friend/girlfriend/mom/wife, you’ve probably been thinking about what to get for all of the sweet people in your life while pinning a few thousand gift hints for them, right? Take the first few days in December to go over your Christmas gift budget and to finalize all of those gift ideas! Some people make it really easy by asking for super specific things (like my husband), while other people (mostly girls) are just happy with anything pretty and/or thoughtful!

December 5-7: Order Gifts Online

Every year, I vow to only do my Christmas shopping online. And every year, I end up fighting a Christmas-crazed crowd at the mall because I waited too long to order online gifts. However, this is the year for me to accomplish my 100% online shopping goal! I just know it! I feel like 20 days out is sufficient time to order something and not be sweating two days before Christmas, hoping that it arrives on time! Plus, if we do enough planning ahead of time, we can probably catch some awesome deals, too!

Most places ship pretty quickly around the holidays. They know that you’re busy. And they know that they’re busy. And they know that everyone wants what they ordered as soon as possible! Plus, sometimes that 3-day shipping is just worth the extra few dollars! Also, if you have a significant other who loves to snoop live in a place that’s difficult to deliver packages to (like an apartment or a dorm), consider having your deliveries sent to a friend/parent’s address and just pick them up when you’ll have time to wrap them!

(And if you already have all of your Christmas shopping finished… I can’t hear about it. I just can’t.)

December 8-11: Pick Up Remaining Gifts

If you have to physically pick something up from a store, use these days to do it! They are weekdays but school isn’t out yet (here, anyway), so the holiday-retail-chaos should be at a minimum. Also, pick up all of those little stocking-stuffers now, too! One less thing to do closer to Christmas! 

December 12-14: Wrap Gifts

I don’t know how the gift-wrapping process will work for us this year. At our old house, my husband and I would lock ourselves into our spare bedroom armed with a wide variety of wrapping paper and Pandora Christmas stations when it was time to wrap each other’s gifts. This year… living in a loft with no walls (and no doors) will be a little more of a challenge. If you’ll have to secure a secret location ahead of time (like I may have to), then go ahead and set that up now! Or maybe a gift-wrapping party would be a fun excuse to drink wine get together with girlfriends and finally try out some of those cute gift wrapping ideas you’ve been seeing on Pinterest all year long! 

December 15-18: Prep for Holiday Parties

Because this is the week of the weekend before Christmas, it is prime-holiday-party-time! So, be prepared! Even if you aren’t planning on doing anything, put together a couple of perfect holiday party outfits and stock up on a hostess gift or two… just in case! Best Case Scenario: You won’t show up to any party empty handed. Worst Case Scenario: You end up with a new outfit and some extra cookies/ flowers/ wine the week before Christmas. Hmm… whatever to do with that? 

December 19-21: Be Ready to Party

Hello! This is the weekend before Christmas! You will have friends in town! Or YOU will be the friend that’s in town! You don’t want to spend that time trying to finish your last minute errands or wrapping presents. You’ll want to have all of your “work” done so that you can celebrate stress-free!

December 22-25: Savor the Season

If you’ve read more than 2 posts on this blog, I’m sure you’ve seen me mention Happify. One of their 5 components to happiness (and that’s according to science) is savoring the random, regular, imperfect moments throughout your days! So even if you didn’t get every perfect gift for every person, or things didn’t turn out quite like Pinterest said they would, or you didn’t have time to complete everything on your to-do list… IT’S OKAY. 
Things are things and one day they’ll probably end up in a yard sale anyway. Beatifully wrapped presents are nice to look at but all that paper will eventually end up in a trash can (or in my family’s case, in the fireplace as I stand a safe distance away, cell phone in hand, ready to call 911). No one will judge you 10 years from now if you showed up to their party without a hostess gift (or if you drank all the wine you brought as your hostess gift. Guilty.). But they will remember how you acted, what you did, and most importantly: How you made them feel! 
Holidays are about spending time with who you love! So, put your phone away for a few hours and just do that! 🙂 
SO, what about you? What kind of timeline do you follow for the holiday season? Are you one of those people who has all of your shopping done by early September or are you a last-minute shopper? Are you going home for the holidays? If not, what are you doing instead? 

Note Organization Checklist

Keeping up with class notes can literally get a little messy sometimes. I didn’t start rewriting mine until my junior year of college when my Landforms professor mentioned it… but ever since then, my newly-rewritten, color-coded notes have acted as study guides for upcoming quizzes, tests, and exams! 

So, knowing exactly where to find what information is super important! And obviously, it required a system! The way it looks has transformed over the years, but the main idea stays the same!

Every semester, there are a certain number of quizzes and exams. They are almost always on the syllabus (I don’t think I’ve ever had a college professor give a “pop quiz”)… so there is pretty much NO reason not to be prepared for them! 

When I rewrite my notes, I try to make them look like a study guide… or an infograph… or something else remotely interesting to look at! Hence, all the different colors, silly doodles, and bullet points! Try to fit as much important info as you can onto one page!
Then keep all of the notes from every class together and in chronological order! Last year, I tried out a filing system. This year, I’m using a binder. Some years, I just put them in a designated side of my class folder

Different things will work for different people (and different professors’ teaching styles), so don’t be afraid to change it up! Just be sure to be consistent with whatever system you choose to use! Keeping all the notes together is the most imperative part of keeping them organized!
Be sure that each page of notes is labeled with a date and topic header. This will help you quickly flip through the top of your papers as you look for particular chapter notes or notes from a specific time frame! 

Since tests are usually organized by a few chapters at a time (Chapters 1-4, or 5-8), it’s helpful that these notes are all back-to-back wherever you choose to keep them. If you’ve been writing page numbers in your notes, you probably know exactly which pages the questions will come from, too! 
And if you used a graphic organizer to help you rewrite your notes, definitely don’t leave that out! Date and label them just like you would any other page of notes! In my opinion, these are some of the most helpful “study guides” because they are just very visually-easy to read. 

A good combination is to outline the actual textbook chapter and rewrite your class notes using a system that works for you! Between those two documents, you should have all info you need for the exam!
Once I finish with a particular section of notes, I either put them in the back of the “notes” section or I paperclip them together to let me know that I’m finished with that information. Don’t throw them away! 

It’s always nice to keep them around just in case you need to revisit something in the future… or if you have a (*DUN DUN DUN*) comprehensive exam at the end of the semester! (aka: how you know your professor really hates his/her life and wants you to be miserable, too).

If that’s the case, better start those flashcards now!

Finally, don’t be afraid to use some “mixed media” to help you quickly identify useful information in your notes! Post-It’s, Sharpies, Washi tape are all awesome ways to draw attention to information that you’ll need to find quickly again (…and again… and again) throughout the semester! 

At the end of the day, “organization” is a pretty subjective word, so you need to find out what it means to you and implement the best practices for yourself to keep up with the information in your notes!
And even though I joke about comprehensive exams, don’t let them stress you out either! Because so much information is covered on them, nothing really gets too in-depth so I actually think they’re easier than exams that cover more narrow scopes of information. 

If you don’t take away anything else from this post, take away these two things: 

Everything else is just the compulsive-freakishness-icing-on-the-cake! 🙂 

How do you keep your notes organized throughout the semester! Do you tear them out of your notebook or just flag the pages? Or if you keep notes on your computer/iPad, how do you save/study them?!