Get it Together
Sophomore year is busy, dear lordy is it busy -- every moment of free time I have, I'm too exhausted to do much else but lay in a heap on my bed. As I mentioned in my last post, I've got a lot going on, from two internships, four classes, Model UN, sorority activities, attempting to maintain a social life, and various other things, sleeping and eating are now the last of my concerns. The last month has been a complete blur. A girl's best friend in times like these? Organization. We all know its value, we know that staying organized is key to getting everything done, but most people are just not great at keeping their lives together. Trust me, I sympathize -- though I've always been a very organized person (to the point of OCD, sometimes), it can be very hard to keep from tearing my hair out at all the things I need to do. I'm here to suggest several ways to help that I've found make a huge difference from jumbled-brain to stressed-but-managing.
Buy (and maintain) a planner
I cannot stress enough the value of a good planner and actually sitting down to logic through your schedule. When you have it all written out in front of you and you pencil down when you will do things, when things are due, what classes you have, when quizzes are, when you need to go to the doctor, when you need to eat lunch with a friend, or any number of other events; when you write it out you'll automatically feel stress lift off your shoulders because suddenly you know what you need to do and when you need to do it. You'll also be able to be more reliable -- you can tell your friends and teachers and coworkers when you're available and actually follow through rather than telling three people you'll do something at a particular time and overbooking yourself. No one likes a flake, this way you won't be one.
Some great planners (that also happen to be really pretty) include:
- Kate Spade 17-month Large Agenda
- Whitney English Day Designer
- Emily Ley Simplified Planner
- Lilly Pulitzer Large Agenda
- May Designs Maybooks Customizable Agenda
When you have a lot going on, it's easy to forget some things or let things slip through the cracks. Make a To Do list and rank each thing based on priority. For example, if classes and work are your priority, put those things at the top of the list, and the extraneous things towards the bottom. Further than the help of having everything laid out, you'll feel more satisfied as you cross things off the list. You'll say to yourself, wow I crossed five things off my list today and only added one more thing to the list, I should reward myself with some ice cream and Netflix. I recently downloaded a great app for my iPhone called Errands, which allows you to make various lists and folders of lists and set priority, due dates, and more. Of course, a good old fashioned legal pad or large sticky note can do the trick if writing on paper helps you remember things.
This goes hand-in-hand with making lists -- when you make your lists, make sure you allow for some rank of what the most important tasks are and what things you can put off until tomorrow. I recently have gotten very into crafting as a procrastination technique, telling myself that Big Little week is coming up and I have to get these letters to look perfect and this pattern just right on the jewelry box… I have homework I should be doing, applications I should be writing, books I should be reading. We all do this, we all like to do the easier things first. But truly, if you get the more difficult stuff out of the way, the easier stuff will seem that much simpler. Plus, the things that we procrastinate are often the things that take more time, AKA much harder to do at the last minute. Painting a box is much simpler to do last minute than writing a 10-page paper, it just is.
Set goals and plan
Don't lose track of the bigger picture. It helps to set goals for yourself, some big and some small, but go the extra step and actually make a rough plan of how to reach those goals. If you said to yourself at the beginning of the year that you want to lose five pounds then track your calorie intake with a handy dandy iPhone app and set aside time everyday to exercise. If your goal is to make new friends, then find time to go to lunch and spend time with people and join new clubs. Long term goals as well can make you feel better -- when you know what you're working towards and how you're going to get there and you set benchmarks along the way, you'll begin to feel much more accomplished when you see progress.
Consistency and routine
Set time aside for yourself that you will always study or always do homework for certain classes. Once you make it a routine, it becomes more natural to spend the time doing that thing rather than sporadically trying to get things done whenever you feel like doing them. Humans are habitual beings, for the most part we like when things are reliable -- if you always do homework at 4:00 on Tuesday for your Wednesday class, then you'll always do homework at 4:00 on Tuesday for your Wednesday class, self explanatory. Study and homework time should be allotted in your planner as if it were another class, not done whenever there is a spare moment here or there.
Stay focussed and take breaks when needed
One of the hardest things to do, at least for me, is to stay focussed. There's always a show to watch on Netflix or a party to go to even though I haven't started my homework or online shopping to be had. It can be hard to get motivated, so make yourself tiny promises. Do an hour of homework and you can watch 30 minutes of Netflix. Go to the party only once you've finished writing the paper due Monday. These little promises can help you see an endpoint and thus make you want to power through the work that much more efficiently.
But when you've been working for too long and you start to see the words blur in the textbook before you as tears come to your eyes…Well the point is, stop before this happens. There is no logic in having a mental breakdown and you will retain information much more readily if your brain is not overworked. Take a five or ten minute break every so often, just veg and look at Facebook and drink some water and chill then go back to working feeling much more relaxed.
Ultimately, of course, you have to figure out some combination of what works for you and you have to convince yourself to stick to a responsible level of organization. Otherwise, stress gets really messy really fast.