Tag Archives: organization

The *notion* of staying organized: how to effectively manage your time

If you had an existential crisis surrounded by piles of papers during midterm season, chances are you weren’t the only one. In light of the many projects and tests, students were forced to confront their pre-existing organizational habits. If your current strategies aren’t working for you, here are some tips for how to get organized for the second half of the semester. 

There’s no feeling quite like checking off a box on a to-do list, so I use multiple different organizational tools including a bullet journal, a calendar and notion. To standardize my organizational process I’ll start each semester by making a key so that each class has an assigned color. 

As soon as I receive my course syllabi, I write down all of my assignments on a wall calendar on the day they are due so I have a general sense of assignments. To avoid clutter, I write “exam” or “paper” in the prescribed subject color without adding other details. I keep the current month’s and next month’s calendar on my wall so that I can easily access them to see any upcoming assignments. 

When looking at my calendar, I typically start to put assignments on my radar about three weeks before they’re due. When I notice something coming up, I’ll review the instructions on canvas to see exactly what the project entails. Depending on the assignment, I’ll allocate more or less time to work on or prepare for it. For example, I started working on my French midterm well over three weeks in advance, whereas I can complete some of my communications assignments the day before they’re due. 

I’m the kind of person who likes to work on assignments a little bit per day and write multiple drafts of a paper before finally being satisfied, so I always find starting assignments earlier than necessary is helpful. With these upcoming assignments, I’ll start to put aside time to work on them. typically 15 to 30 minutes a day at first, and then larger chunks of time closer to the due date. That way, I won’t have an entire paper to do the day before the due date.

If you have a class in which you do multiple of the same type of assignment, as the semester progresses, you can use your previous experience to determine how much time you’ll realistically need to complete the assignment. For example, in my UGS class we have three research assignments, so for the second one I was able to better gauge how much time it’d take me to finish it. 

For repetitive events like weekly quizzes, I find it helps me to set up a specific time each week to study so that I don’t forget and can also set aside the optimal time to study. For my biology quizzes Thursday morning, I always study Wednesday nights so that the material is fresher in my mind. 

Every Sunday evening, I’ll transfer events from my calendar to my notion page, which I find is a helpful organizational tool. I’ll add any due dates or assignments with time stamps, as well as any other meetings or plans. 

Keeping all of my due dates in one place gives me a good sense of how my week is going to go. Under the events of each day I keep a to-do list. I generally add items onto the to-do list the day of or the night before, because writing things down helps set my intentions for the day.

I tend to do more concrete homework, such as readings, the night after class. Getting ahead on readings ends up confusing me, particularly for classes that have reading quizzes, which is why I do them right after they’re assigned. Most of my classes are on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I typically spend Monday and Wednesday nights doing homework for those classes. Because I have more free time on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I devote time to projects and essays. 

On days where I’m working on more projects, I’ll seperate my time into different chunks so that I don’t get too invested in one project. I’m the kind of person who’ll finish an assignment a month before it’s due to procrastinate studying for a quiz, so I found that these time chunks allow me to balance doing what I like and prioritizing work. When scheduling time, sometimes I have to readjust, which is okay! If I have reading that has to get done, I’ll finish it regardless of if it runs over time, but if I’m working on an essay due in a couple of weeks, I’ll stop after the allotted time. 

Although staying organized is helpful in the long run, being proactive can lead to overworking yourself or burn-out if you’re not careful. Make sure that you’re taking time for self-care, and giving yourself breaks and time to have fun! 

While these tips have helped me stay organized my first semester of college, certain strategies will work better for different people. Knowing your assignments and when they’re due is the most important thing — from there you can decide how you want to tackle working on them. Whether with a calendar, sticky-notes or other organizational tools, it’s never too late to get organized!

Featured image by Alyssa Lindblom 

How to start life planning

What is Life Planning?  

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash 

To me, life planning is using a planner to organize all aspects of your life, from academic to social to fitness and more! Anything can be tracked in a planner. I got my first life planner my freshman year of high school and have been life planning every day since. As someone who is always busy, and joins way too many extracurriculars, I have found life planning to be a way to calm the chaos in my life and keep track of everything.  

Different Types of Planners

There are many different types of planners to choose from. My favorite planner brand is Erin Condren. Her stationary company is based here in Austin, Texas, and her store is located at The Domain. I love Erin Condren planners for their beautiful covers and their simple, yet colorful layouts on the inside. The planners are also customizable, so you can change colors, add your name, initials, pictures or whatever you’d like! A basic Erin Condren planner goes for about $60, but every year on Black Friday they have a flash sale where all planners are 50% off! Another popular brand is The Happy Planner. Their planners are similar to Erin Condren but are easier to find, as they can be ordered online or bought at Walmart. But really any planner can work for life planning as long as it fits your needs!

There are many things to think about before purchasing your life planner, especially since it’s something you’ll be writing in for an entire year. Spiral or no spiral? As a leftie, a spiral can get really annoying sometimes. How do you want your planner’s layout to be — Daily? Weekly? Monthly? These are all things to consider. My favorite layout is a weekly vertical layout, where each day of the week is divided into 3 sections. I like to think of the sections as morning, afternoon and night.  

Pens, Stickers, Accessories and More!

I like to use planning as a creative outlet by using a variety of different pen colors, handwriting styles, stickers, highlighting and doodles. What I like most about using a physical planner instead of a digital one, is that paper gives you the freedom to write and design whatever you want all over it. My favorite pens for planning are the Paper Mate Flair felt tip pens. These work well with my Erin Condren planner because the paper is thick, like an index card, so I get consistent lines when I use them. For thinner paper, I would recommend ink pens. I like Paper Mate InkJoy pens because of their vibrant colors.

When planning, having different-colored pens is important so you can color code. At the start of each semester, I match each of my classes to a color, and write down all things pertaining to that class in its assigned color. Not only does color coding make your planner look pretty, but it’s proven to make you recall things faster as well.

According to Kwik Learning, “When we color code things we need to remember, it makes it easier for our brain to associate with it. Our brain reads and interprets colors faster than text. Multiple studies have shown that our brain will recognize a shade of color to an assigned task faster than text alone. This means we have a better chance of remembering an appointment if we color code that information.”  

Besides color coding, I like using stickers to add an extra flair to fun events in my planner, or make important events look more eye-catching. For example, I’ll add a little cake sticker to birthdays in my planner or add a sticker that says “important” on a test date. Even though I am in love with Erin Condren’s brand, I think The Happy Planner actually has better stickers, and they are cheaper too. I like to buy The Happy Planner sticker packs that contain over a thousand stickers. My favorite pack is the Essential Planning pack, which includes stickers like “remember to water your plants!” stickers, birthday stickers, bill reminder stickers and habit tracking stickers.  

Lastly, I would say a planning essential is to have some sort of bookmark to keep track of what week you are on. Nothing is more annoying than flipping through your planner trying to find what page you were last on. Personally, I like bookmarks that attach to the spiral in your planner so they don’t fall out.  

So, Why Should I Plan?

Photo by STIL on Unsplash 

I like to think of planning as something more than just keeping track of things you have to do. It’s relaxing, rewarding, calming — it’s what I believe has gotten me to where I am today. When you have everything you need to do written down, you can avoid that feeling of; “Am I missing something?” I like to use my planner as sort of a guide. I can see what I have coming up for however many weeks I am able to plan ahead. 

My favorite time to plan is at night or right before I go to bed. At night, I tend to scramble in my head and worry about all the things I have to do the next day, and the next day, and the day after that, and next week, and next month, and next year and… it gets to be a lot. Especially when I am trying to fall asleep. Planning at night gives me a way to dump all of those due dates and to-do lists out of my head, and when I’m done, I feel so at peace, totally free of that feeling that I am going to forget something.  

With midterms coming up and as the semester starts to get busier, planning can be a tool for you to stay on top of your work and manage your stress!  

My Method of Planning

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash  

Step 1: The first thing I do when planning each week is put down my base schedule. What I mean by this is putting down your weekly schedule of things that are consistent and are not going to change, like my class schedule. 

Photo by Morgan Severson

Step 2: Once I’ve done that, I have a basic outline for my week, and I start to add in due dates, events and stickers.

Photo by Morgan Severson

Step 3: I like to write a little overview of my week on the left side to-do list, listing things by priority of what I need to get done first. If there is something going on for the entire week, I like to write it above the dates at the top of the page, making the words span across the page. 

 Photo by Morgan Severson

Step 4: From there, I use the empty spaces to get an idea of when I am free throughout the week. The empty spaces leave me room to plan things that come up on short notice, so I will write them in the day before or day of, like a trip to the gym!

Photo by Morgan Severson

VOILA! You are all done planning and ready to conquer your week ahead!

Featured Image by Alyssa Lindblom

Why Every College Student Needs Notion In Their Life

Let’s face it, staying organized in college is hard. Especially when most classes are online through Zoom or in some cases, completely asynchronous and self-paced. 

As a first-year college student, I was struggling with finding a way to organize my academic and personal life. Then I stumbled upon a productivity app called Notion. Those unfamiliar with this app are probably wondering what exactly is Notion and how exactly it works.

Released in March 2016, only available on web browsers and macOS, Notion works as a fully customizable interface described as an all-in-one workplace. From a daily journal to reading lists, creating a vision board, a budget tracker, or my personal favorite, a school semester planner, the app works for just about anything.

Also, one major bonus is Notion’s Personal Pro plan that is free for students and teachers who sign up with their school email account with no credit card required! Check out this article from Notion Official to learn more about setting up your personal workplace.

Along with free access, Notion’s Personal Pro plan offers users unlimited file uploads such as images, videos, audio, embeds, web bookmarks, and more. As well as unlimited guest collaborators on pages, and access to the version history of any page for up to 30 days. 

If you are new to the app and unsure where to start, I recommend checking out Notion’s templates available for users to duplicate and customize. Some popular templates include class notes, weekly or daily agendas, personal course schedules, meeting notes, and tracking job applications.

When I was first experimenting with Notion, a YouTube channel called Janice Studies was especially helpful in my journey to find out what works best for my needs.

Last year, she posted a video tutorial for a school semester template that included a weekly course schedule, a master schedule with assignments and due dates, as well as course pages with class information and topic lists. It was a lifesaver and I am forever grateful I found her channel before my first semester at UT.

Then, earlier this year, she posted another video tutorial for a new and updated version of the previous template. Similar to the last one, this is currently saving my life this semester.

This template features a master schedule and weekly course schedule. I found this one to be much more detailed with course pages now including lecture notes, learning objectives, and a grade calculator.

Another helpful resource for users new and old is the Notion Made Simple Facebook Group, which has nearly 34,000 members. In this group, users are allowed to share their workspace, templates (most of them are free but some cost money), tips and tricks, as well as ask questions if you are ever struggling or confused about something.

The most recent resource I have found from the Facebook Group is a website with free templates from Pranav – NotionSquared for a reading tracker.

Screenshot by Thalia Menchaca

Working as a digital library, this template allows readers to track their progress for multiple books based on the number of pages read. It also has the option to click on the title and start a new page for taking notes as you read. The website also has templates for goal tracking, efficient to-do lists, and spaced repetition for working or studying.

Though it may sound dramatic, I don’t think I would have survived this year not only without Notion but also these incredibly helpful resources that are free and available to users. Although there are moments when I struggled to customize a template to my liking (and also because I am a perfectionist), it gets easier as you get more accustomed and play around with it.

Featured Image by Lauren Breach

Apps & Extensions To help you with Zoom University

As we begin the first few weeks of Fall, it can be a difficult time to resume online classes. College is typically stressful, so being stuck in the closed confinements of a Zoom screen can be much worse. The tiring eyes, the awkward video lectures, and lack of Vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin,” are many factors that can lead to procrastination and additional stress. Well, fortunately there are many apps and extensions that are extremely helpful at this time. From time management to studying, here’s some (FREE) resources that can assure a efficient and productive semester:

Photo by Lauren Breach

Time Management

Tide

Tide app is the epitome of relaxation and focus. It provides a timer for focus, naps, and mediation equipped with scenic backgrounds as well as natural, soothing sounds. 

Flat Tomato

This app not only shows stats of your study progress but also syncs with other devices. Similar to the famous pomodoro method, Flat Tomato provides intervals between working and taking a break, ensuring more productivity. 

Routinery

Routinery is as if you had a personal assistant in your back pocket, as it curates your own routines. It also includes stats/feedback of your habits and progress.

Photo by Lauren Breach

Notes

*Evernote , *Google Docs, *One Note, & Notion

Now, the wondrous world of note taking is so simplistic yet overwhelming that these four apps are very interchangeable. Although writing notes by hand is a powerful tool, these note resources are equally effective, depending on one’s aesthetic as well as one’s usual extension. 

If one prefers using google chrome, Google Docs is preferred while the same goes with Windows and One Note. Yet, if aesthetic and separating more notes/projects is more essential, Evernote & Notion are the perfect tools.

Tips for Creating a Work Environment at Home

Classes at UT Austin are back in session, but unlike ever before they are commencing amidst a global pandemic. For many students, this means a semester full of uncertainty and adaptation especially when it comes to classes. Students are spending more time at home then ever before and the adjustment can be challenging. 

In the comfort of your own bed, you can attend lectures, talk with your professor and even take a test. It sounds like a dream come true, but in reality students are struggling to find a routine, become productive and manage their mental health. It is easy for your home to become a place of stress and responsibility instead of relaxation and nourishment. 

Regardless of if you are living in a small West Campus apartment, or a large family home, creating a work environment where you live is essential for success this semester. Here are some ways to create a space that promotes productivity, encourages rest and allows for growth and learning. 

  1. Finding your Space

Privacy is a luxury when it comes to staying home and it can be really hard to focus with families and roommates all around. When picking a place to work here is what to consider.

Assess the environment in which you like to learn. Do you like a lot of noise, some sounds, or no sound at all? If you like peace and quiet it might be best to pick a bedroom or a closet, but if you like a lot of sound and movement pick the living room or a kitchen island.

 It’s also important to note that having more than one study space is a great way to break the monotony of online school. Try separating certain tasks into certain settings. For example, when you attend class and want a quiet setting move to a small bedroom or maybe even a patio or backyard, but don’t be afraid to sit in the living room with other roommates while filling out your planner or copying notes from a powerpoint slide. 

  1. Setting up your Space

Truthfully, the way you decorate and organize your desk can be more important than its location. A cluttered desk often reflects in the quality of your study time and work. Similarly, the more organized and personalized your desk is the more likely you are to have a productive and motivated study session. 

The best way to avoid a cluttered desk is to not keep too many things on your desk. A storage organizer for your notebooks, pens, pencils and folders will help to contain the clutter. The more blank space you leave on your desk, the more room you have to spread out your study materials 

Secondly, it is important to make your desk a welcoming environment. Not only does a personalized space encourage you to study, it can also make studying more comfortable. Here are some ideas on how to personalize your desk:

  • Add pictures of your friends and family
  • Switch out your LED lamp for a warm-lit salt lamp or Christmas lights
  • Add a fuzzy blanket or pillow to your desk chair
  • Brighten your desk with a plant or greenery
  • Place a vision board above your desk
  • Add small knick-knacks or fidget toys to your desk
  • Add a candle or a small essential oil diffuser
  • Get a small weekly or monthly desk calendar