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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How I Keep My Email Inbox at 0

Today, I thought I would share my email system with you!

Let me start by saying… I am not the biggest fan of emails in general. If my inbox is not always at zero, I feel a tiny bit of stress. 

(I guess that’s better than letting it get to 2,000 and not caring, right?)

When I tell people this, they a) look at me like I’m nuts and b) ask me how I do it. 

So this is how I do it:

1. I Use Gmail

Or “Google Mail”, for those who may be technologically un-savvy (*ahem* my husband). This is one of my favorite apps out there! I keep it front and center on my phone where I can make sure there are no little red bubbles waiting for me! 

2. I Use the Gmail App

I love the app because I get notifications of new emails in real time. I used to use the 5S rule for answering emails (5 sentences or less) and it worked really well! However, at this new job, the emails that we all write are a little longer (and more polite), which is totally fine, too! I just block out a little time to sit down at a real computer if I need to write multiple paragraphs! 

3. I Keep Gmail Accounts Separate

I have been using gmail for my personal account for years. This past year, my school switched over all of our school emails to gmail (haaal-le-lu-jah) and it has made life SO much easier! All I have to do to flip between the two accounts is click on them in the top right corner- no signing in or out! 🙂 

4. I Keep Email Alerts On

I like my emails to be as “in my face” as possible when I look at my phone. I have them set to do the whole “pop up” thing with a snippet of the content. This way, I am forced to deal with it right away. 

(Related: Is Your Planner System Working Best for YOU?)

5. I Star Emails That Require Action

When I get an email that I can’t deal with right away, I star it. If it’s to me personally, I might write the person back and let them know I’ll work on it and when it will be ready. Then it drives me crazy until I can finally complete whatever task was needed. I use these as a working to-do list throughout the day/week and I can’t wait to get rid of them!

(Related: How to Prep Your Planner for Finals NOW!)

6. I Unsubscribe ALL the Time

It seems like overtime you order anything online these days, they somehow use that to wrangle you onto their email list. Every month, I make a point to unsubscribe from a certain number of email subscriptions. Save your favorites, of course! 

(Related: Monthly Decluttering Checklist)

7. I Archive Everything

I learned this when I used to work for attorneys. NEVER DELETE AN EMAIL. After you’ve dealt with it, archive it. Then you can always go back and search for it again in the archive search feature. Exception to this rule: advertisements (unsubscribe then delete)!

8. Inbox 0 is Always My Goal

Goals are everything. I am always working toward reaching Inbox 0 throughout the day. I’ve found that, if I have this expectation for myself, it’s much easier to achieve it! If that’s too stressful, start out with Inbox 10 or Inbox 5 and try to slowly make your goal lower and lower!

(Related: 5 Anti-Procrastination Tips to Improve Your Week!)

Also, if you don’t use gmail at your work or school, you can always use the POP feature (under gmail settings) to forward emails from your other email address to your gmail account. I’ve done that before, too, and it’s way easier than checking three different accounts every day! 

I’m sure there are some real rules out there for keeping up with emails, but these are just the things that have worked best for me! 🙂 

What tips/tricks do you have for staying on top of your emails? Share them below!! 

How I Organize My Google Drive

Google Drive is probably one of my favorite modern-day inventions (aside from air-conditioning and hair straighteners). 

I first started using it when I worked in public school and my team shared a lot of files with one another. Since then, I have become one of those people who uses it for e v e r y t h I n g. And I love it! 

One of the challenging things about using a system like Google Docs or Photos is that they can be difficult to keep cleaned out and decluttered. Especially if you like to use them to backup/store everything. 

Since the point of using these systems is to find things easily, I like to keep them super organized and purge them regularly. They both were also really helpful when my poor hard drive bit the dust a few weeks ago. 

*moment of silence*

If you’ve been reading Organized Charm for a while, you’ll recognize that how I organize my Google Drive is similar to how I organize the files in my computer

That’s because it’s exactly the same system 🙂 

Color Coding

Either this is a new feature, or I’m just not very observant. Because I only recently discovered that I could color code my folders (YAY!). I LOVE this feature because it allows me to extend the way my computer files are organized

Folders & Subfolders

Since I clean them out regularly, some folders only have a couple of items in them, while others have multiple subfolders. Then I really just keep breaking things down by subcategories.

Active vs. Inactive

When they’re active (I’m using them), they’re a color. When they’re inactive (I finished the project but want to keep it for some reason), I remove the color and keep it gray. This makes it really easy for me to find what I’m looking for even faster! 

Rule of 10

I use the “Rule of 10” for my folders (don’t google that, I just made it up). I try not to ever have more than 10 loose documents in a folder. Why 10? Because that’s how many you can see before you have to scroll down. I just keep sorting them into subfolders to keep things neat. 

Purge Regularly

I only make a conscious effort to clean out my folders and sub folders maybe twice a year (like summer and winter breaks when I have extra time on my hands). I move unused/unneeded/duplicate documents to the trash and merge all the existing files I can. 

That’s how I keep my Google Drive organized!

I know that some of you probably have super efficient systems! If you do, I’d love to hear about them! Share them in the comments below 🙂

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7 Ways to Declutter Your Life This Month

Can you believe it’s already July?

Wait. Was that dramatic enough? Let me try it again…


Is it just me or is time really flying by lately? 

People told me this would happen when I got older

I really like to think of the beginning of each new month as a fresh start and an opportunity to clear a few more things in my life to neutral. 

Since school starts back next month (yay!), I am spending July focusing on habits and developing better ones. A good rule is to have a definite “clear to neutral” action at the end of each of your daily habits/routines. 

For example: After you finish working on your computer, close all of your windows and clear any saved documents off of your desktop. 

By adding that ending task of closing windows and clearing the desktop, you are ensuring that you will be clear-headed and focused the next time you turn on your computer to get to work! (well… at least it’s a start!)

Here are the 7 Clear to Neutral habits I’m working on for the new school year!

After Using Personal Computer…

-Take action on or file any items left on desktop
-Create folders for any lingering documents/photos on desktop
-Go through folders and make subfolders if needed

After Using Wallet…

-File/Toss any old receipts 
-Clear out change
-Throw out old/used gift cards

After Using Home Work Space…

-Clear off desk
-Throw away/recycle any old papers
-Make sure all office supplies have a home (and put them there!) 

After Using Work Computer…

-Take action on any items left on desktop
-Place all documents on desktop in appropriate folder
-Create subfolders for any overcrowded folders

Before Leaving Email Inbox…

-Unsubscribe from unwanted email lists
-Delete ALL advertiser emails in inbox
-“Star” any emails that require action steps

Before Leaving Work…

-Make a “to-do” basket and put work for tomorrow in it
-Put away/toss every other item on desk
-Create tomorrow’s “to-do” list

After Doing Laundry…

-Wash, fold, organize clean items
-Put any out of season items in storage bin
-Clear off hooks/surfaces in laundry area

Those are the habits I’m working on starting in July (so that hopefully they’ll be second nature during the school year)! 

If you need help thinking of what to “clear to neutral”, use this list OR look around and find areas that are stressing you out/causing too much friction in your own life! This is a great way to give yourself a nice, fresh start to the new month! 

And give yourself a head start on keeping your life together (somewhat) once school starts back! 🙂 

What are some areas that you’re going to focus on? By the way, do you have a great system for keeping your computers clean and clutter free? (Asking for a friend). Please share all your organization secrets below! 

How to Highlight Books & Notes in College

Have you ever seen that picture of a textbook completely covered in yellow highlighter that just says, “Highlighting. You’re doing it wrong.”?
I literally laughed so hard at that the first time I saw it because I have definitely gotten those textbooks before! 

(And in all honesty, I’ve also been that highlighting offender.)
Sometimes, it’s just hard to know what to and what not to highlight. Like, what if you need to know this in the future? Clearly, that neon yellow will lead the information right into your brain and let it stay there forever!

Here is my system for highlighting (and reading) textbooks:

First of all, go into your textbook with a purpose. Just reading a chapter start to finish without a purpose is like walking into Target without a purpose (dangerous and costly).
When you know what you’re looking for (either by using a study guide, looking at class notes, or reading the guiding questions that the end of the chapter), you’re more likely to pull out the importantinformation.
Scan the pictures and headings to get an idea of what you’re SUPPOSED to learn from the chapter. Then really focus on learning that thing! You and I both know every chapter doesn’t need to be 30+ pages. Don’t waste your time reading every word.

Create a routine, just like everything else. You may want to use one color for vocabulary terms and a different color for important ideas. I always, ALWAYS write my notes right in the margins using a mechanical pencil. It just makes it so much easier to have all of the info right there together!
If you use a consistent system, you’ll automatically look for vocabulary words to be pink, or learning theories to be yellow, which would make it a little more memorable!

Also, don’t forget about the wide variety of office supplies that can make your textbook reading more interactive! Use Post-It flags/tabs to save pages where important theories/concepts/charts, etc. are. You can highlight away, but what good does it do if you can’t find the page again?
If you’re not totally comfortable with writing straight into your book, you can use medium-sized sticky notes and stick those in the margins of important pages instead! Plus, sometimes a little extra color makes textbooks a little more bearable.

Don’t forget to bring the information “out” of your textbook.By that, I mean pull out those important terms/concepts/ideas that you highlighted and put them on index cards. Hang them up on your fridge, the wall above your computer, or on your mirror. This brings the information to you instead of you having to do work to get to the information.
Also, Target and school supply stores have that giant paper that you could use to create diagrams, etc. and literally hang them on your wall (provided your husband/roommates wouldn’t mind too much).

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Good Habits for College Classes

Class. To go or not to go? 

That usually seems to be the question. 

I mean, we know that  it’s probably best to go… but the freedom of not having to be there is just so tempting sometimes.  

Plus, there is always so much to do. Occasionally, we’re just positive that we could be more productive if we skipped class and spent that hour by ___ (insert biggest stressor of the day) instead. 

If going to class feels “unproductive” to you, here are some ways to change that and get the most out of your time spent on campus!

Here are my top “good” habits for college classes:
Bring Your Planner
Not only would I never in my life have come to class without my planner. I kept it open in front of me at all times. This just kept  dates in my mind (next class, we’ll be talking about this chapterthat assignment is due a week from today… etc.). I definitely, definitely suggest doing this!

Listen Proactively

For my new teaching job, we’re reading the book Teach Like a Champion. There is a technique in the book called SLANT, which provides an easy for students (or “scholars) to know how they’re expected to sit. Our brains usually take their cues from our bodies, and if your body is saying “Hey, this is interesting and I’m excited to hear it! Then your brain will pay attention, too (probably).
S: Sit up
L: Listen attentively
A: Ask and answer questions like a scholar
N: Not your head
T: Track the speaker

Stay Active

Unfortunately, most college courses are still lecture-style. As in, you’re sitting passively, listening (or looking like you’re listening) for nearly the entire class period. If you struggle with staying focused the whole time, I would definitely suggest writing the whole time. Just start taking notes at the beginning of class, and keep on until the end of class. This does two things: First of all, it keeps you engaged, actively doing something throughout the lecture! And secondly, you leave with some pretty awesome and thorough notes that your classmates will totally envy.
Build Class Time into Your Schedule

Remember at the beginning of this post where I talked about to go or not to go to class? The answer is always the same: GO TO CLASS! Even if you have the study guide, Even if your professor puts the Power Points online, Even if you have a friend who promised to take notes for you. Build class time into your schedule and stick to it!
Keep Your Class Stuff Organized

If you’re going to math class (bless your heart), keep your pencils, calculator, book, graph paper, altogether in the same place every time! The worst thing is showing up unprepared! Try getting some of those $10 canvas bins from Target and making them your “class bins”. This will make it easy for you to grab your stuff and go (and hopefully keep you on time)!
College classes can be annoying, boring, and feel like time wasters BUT they’re also the reason you’re there!

Just show up, take notes, and try to learn something (of course)! 😀 

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15 Things I Learned After Grad School

Oh, hi. 

SO sorry for the awkward silence lately. I started a new job in a new school that TOOK OVER MY LIIIIFE last semester. 

But I am so excited to announce that OC is back on track with new posts every Monday! Aside from acclimating to my new schedule, 2015 was a big growing year, too (responsible-sounding way of saying that I did a lot of whining). 

My first year after grad school reminded me a lot of my first year after undergrad. I guess no matter how old you are, finishing a big project can leave you feeling a little like, “okay, what’s next?”. 

Change can be tough, but it usually always makes us better/smarter/stronger, too! 

Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned in 2015:

1 | Never give up on what you’re searching for- you’ll get there. 

2 | Hard work gets noticed and it pays off. Remember that when you’re “in the trenches” and wondering if it will ever get better. 

3 | Sometimes you’re already where you need to be.

4 | If you know you can do better, keep working. 

5 | Do what you love. Life is too short to even complete that. 

6 | Not everyone will love or approve of everything you do or how you do it. Forget them. This is your thing, not theirs. 

7 | Jump in and figure out the details later. Not everything you do will turn into a huge success, nor will you want it to but at least you can say you took the opportunity. 

8 | There is something really refreshing about how our personalities evolve over time. 

9 | Promote the heck out of yourself and your work. If you know you’re good, don’t ever question yourself. 

10 | In this day and age, there is no excuse to “not know how to” do something. Google it and learn to be great.

11 | Adult life is not that scary once you start.

12 | Your family will be there even when you and your old friends start to grow apart.

13 | Excess is disgusting. If you can do without it, do without it. 

(Important exceptions: Meiomi and anything from Target’s dollar-ish section)

14 | Invest everything in those you truly care about.

15 | Do what makes you happy and there are no regrets.  

Cheers, y’all! And happy 2016! 😀

What lessons did you learn over the past year?! Share them below! 

How to Stay Organized in Online College Courses (tips from an expert)

Yesterday was Labor Day, which means that it’s officially BACK TO SCHOOL SEASON everywhere! 

And you know what that means! …school supplies, new class schedules, and for many of us, online classes! 

Online classes can be tricky because they’re sooo convenient. However, they’re also sooo easy to fall behind in! Enter: Our secret weapon, Professor Myers! 

That’s right, today’s guest post is actually from an ONLINE PROFESSOR! Who better to give advice on how to keep it together this semester, right? She has some amazing tips (and a book with even more amazing tips) to share with us! Ready?! 😀

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

Even college students who live on campus take online courses because they are convenient. You know, like you don’t have to get up at 6 am to get to a 7:30 class. But what many students don’t understand is that online college courses are not an easy way to get through a class that they aren’t necessarily looking forward to. 

Yes, they are convenient because you can “attend class” anywhere, anytime, but that doesn’t mean they are easy. The professors who teach online courses must teach the same amount of material in the same amount of time, so even if you don’t have to physically show up (dressed) for class, you do have to show up and do the work. 

Students new to online college courses often buy into the common myths that:

1| They will save time
2| They are self-paced
3| They are a breeze

Every college student needs ways of staying organized and keeping their stuff together, but for the online student, this is paramount to success (or just passing by the skin of your teeth.

Here are some ways I recommend you do that:

There’s an app for that—Students love apps, and they are a great way to keep organized and keep on top of things. I’ve gathered a bunch of the best ones for online students, including scheduling and grade trackers, as well as distraction-free writing tools and motivational apps that help you keep on-task and get stuff done. You can find these must-have apps here.

Schedule time—To avoid forgetting about reading and assignments, schedule time into your week to “attend class.” Online courses require you to read/watch/listen to lectures, post in discussion boards, read the textbook and complete assignments. Set up several hours at the same times each week—a couple of times each week—just like you would if you had to get dressed and show up in a particular classroom. This will help you keep on top of assignments and ensure you don’t forget about the class.

Print the syllabus and calendar—I know you may be thinking that since this is an online course you shouldn’t have to print anything. But, if there is one thing you will learn in an online course, it is that technology isn’t foolproof. Servers go down and students can’t access their class. Does your professor have a policy for how to deal with that? What should you be reading in the textbook to make sure you don’t fall behind while the class is unavailable? See what I mean? Semester classes move at the speed of lightening, and just a day or two of lost time can mean a great deal of stress trying to get caught back up! Printing a few pages is worth it!

Log in often—Check your class, even when there isn’t something due. This is important because things change. For example, there have been times when I have pushed back an assignment due date or eliminated some required reading because of unforeseen events. Logging in several times a week, even when you don’t need to, will make life much easier in the long run.

Want to learn more strategies for being successful in your online college courses? Check out my new book, Your Online College Course Survival Guide

You can learn more about it at
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 
  Jacqueline Myers has been improving writing skills since the 1990’s and is still hard at work, struggling to put an end to comma splices and stamp out accidental plagiarism. 

She is an online college English professor and a freelance writer & editor, as well as the owner & writing expert at Nitty-Gritty English, a site dedicated to providing academic writing tips to the reluctant college writer. 

Have questions about college writing or online courses? She’s all about answering them. Send them to her at jsm@nittygrittyenglish or post them on the Nitty-Gritty English Facebook Page

Pop & Store Document Boxes

I have really been working on streamlining our home lately. My goal at the beginning of July was to get rid of anything in our house that we did not use or specifically cite as one of our favorite things. So far it’s been working pretty well! 

Since we don’t have a designated office space like we used to, all of our office items are out in the living room… books, chargers, notebooks, papers, writing utensils… and ever since we moved in, it has been driving me absolutely crazy! 

I have searched and searched for a system, and I believe that I finally found one! Pop & Store Document boxes! They really streamlined the look of our living room. I love to keep all my old planners but I didn’t love seeing them on the living room bookshelf every day. 

Some of the coolest features of these boxes are that they have scratch resistant surfaces on the bottom, that they are so durable, that the foldable aspect of them makes them reusable and super easy to store, and that the metal-enforced corners keep them from getting frayed!

Having a sleek way to hide those items has really created a more cohesive and zen little look in our living room. I also love these boxes because they are so sturdy and durable. They are perfect for stacking and storing heavy items like books or hiding stacks of paper. 

I went with document boxes because I have ridiculous amounts of paper to deal with. However, the Pop & Store system comes in several different sizes in order to help you store whatever it is that you need to store! Think: crafting supplies, magazines, electronics, etc! 

I recently made the transition from teaching in private schools to a public school and the thing that has just blown my mind is the amount of paper public schools use! Daily attendance, rosters, flyers, questionnaires, memos, reminders, schedules…

The list is literally endless (probably). I have  a nice little stack of paper that I’m so excited to get organized into these boxes. If I were using them in a dorm, I would probably create little “class kits” and keep unsightly textbooks, rough drafts, syllabi, folders, etc. in them! 
Additionally, these boxes come in a variety of (very collegiate) colors. I chose white since that goes along with the very bright and neutral theme of our living room. However, there is a blue that would have been perfect for my college! 

If you’re interested in grabbing some for your dorm room or office this fall, you can find them here: 

Introducing, the OC Academic Planner!

Y’all! I am so excited about this! I have been working so, so hard to get this together for you and it’s finally happened. I have created THE academic planner that I wish I had in college. 100% ideal! 

This will officially be available on Friday, June 26th. I’ll have a limited quantity of paper copies available for $25 and PDF downloads available for $12! Plus a giveaway next weekend, too! SO excited! 
Ok, let’s take a tour, shall we?  

First of all, I like to plan big to small. That’s why the year at a glance is here in the front… It covers the entire academic school year: July-June! Use washi tape or post it’s here for tentative planning! 

Next up is the daily routine page! You know all those OC posts you read on daily productivity and routines? This is where you put them into action! There are two of these sheets: fall and spring! 

Next is the weekly routine page. This is so perfect for planning out your weekly schedule during the semester! Use post-it’s to switch things around until it just “fits” (read: Time Management System)! There are two of these pages: Fall and Spring! 

Then come the weekly views! Each one has the month name and year, as well as a “Do This” section for monthly to do’s or goal checkpoints. (You know I LOVE those!) Plus plenty of space to decorate! 

You can also write in your own dates to go along with whatever color scheme you choose for each month! I like to use the Feng Shui seasonal colors, but you might like to do something different! 

Here is a Birdseye view of the weekly layout! There are two “anti-procrastination” days or “just get it done” days: Wednesday and Sunday. They are subtly marked with darker lines to remind you! No excuses! 
Finally, my favorite, the weekly spreads! 52 of them! From June 28, 2015-June 25, 2016. Each week has correlating OC study tips and even tells you which posts to read when! Yay for school organization! 
There are 4 designated categories for each week to use however you want! You can make one for each class, designate them for different times of day, one for each area of life. This is where YOU really make this planner work for you! 

Finally, not pictured here, is a 2016-2017 school year planning section for your goals and plans for next year! And even a little place to write what you did well this year and what you’d like to improve for next year! 
I’m actually writing this from the Atlanta airport on my way to Mexico (so please excuse allll those autocorrect errors I know my phone “fixed” for me!) so everything will be available on Friday, June 26th! WOOHOO! 🙂