Organized Charm: December 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How to Get More Done Everyday



There are a lot of things to like about the month of December. Christmas, for example. And Christmas music. And Christmas lights... and stockings and... SANTA! But if I had to choose one December thing that I could do without, it would be the cold weather!

Cold weather and I do not get along. And neither do I and these ridiculously short days... I need sunlight! And warm weather! And to be able to walk outside without putting on every piece of clothing I own. *sigh*

Ever since the November weather took a turn for the freezing (literally, I've already seen ice), my productivity has taken a turn for the nonexistent. Well, that just isn't going to work for me. I need a plan to get my life together, no matter what excuses I may make for myself (and believe me, I am never at a loss for a good excuse)! 

The Plan:


1. Write down everything that happens in your normal daily routine.

WHY: From the time you wake up, you have different little routines throughout the day. A morning routine, an after work routine, a dinner routine. And just because they are “routines” does not mean that they are GOOD ones! For example, I used to have a really *horrible* after work routine of putting my stuff down to “put away later” and spending about an hour on Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest. Once I wrote it down and realized how much time I was WASTING, I was able to clean that up real quick!

HOW: I don't know anyone who feels like they "have enough time"... you know what I mean? Like, everyone feels overwhelmed by the amount of things to do in the amount of time they "have". However, actually writing down your daily routines can really help you find out just why it is that you never have enough time. In this really amazing article by Personal Organizing Expert, Elizabeth Larkin, she discusses how she discovered imbalances in her own time management and the steps she took to fix them!


2. Highlight the unnecessary/useless activities. 


WHY: So, in the above example, my unnecessary activities were obviously all of the time I was spending on social media. And I love social media. But it is the ultimate time waster! Because I feel the need to schedule everything in my life, I created a sort of social media schedule for myself where I don’t get on it between certain hours. This has really been super helpful for breaking my bad routine! Set some rules for yourself to break your own bad habits. After all, no one knows you better than you do!

HOW: You know that saying that hindsight is 20/20 (or 50/50 in Cam Newton's case)? Well, when you look back at how you spent your day, that hindsight really kicks in. "WHAT? How could I have possibly spent 30 minutes staring blankly into my closet before deciding to wear?" And don't even get me started on Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/Tumblr./Twitter... holy cow! Mark up that paper where you wrote your daily routine as if you're grading the worst paper ever written. Be harsh on yourself. This is how you're gonna get some of your time back!

(here's an awesome post on 15 sneaky time-wasters we all deal with!)


3. Create a list of things you would have liked to get done or would like to add. 


WHY: Oh, you're not done with that hindsight yet! Now make a little list of things that you wish you had gotten done! By the way, this is a big part of procrastination, too! Yep, we put off things that would be pretty simple to complete just because we don't want to. A perfect example from my life is calling the dentist. Y'all. I recently put off scheduling a dentist appoint for 2 months. I mean, I just put off making the call to schedule the appointment. Do you have something like that that just gets moved from list to list? Tell yourself tomorrow is the day you call the dentist (or whatever).

HOW: So, once you are aware of where your time is being wasted, go ahead and make a little list of PRODUCTIVE things that you would like to use that newly found time for! You could probably get 3 days' worth of to-do's done in 1 day, if you really tried! Think about your long-term to-do's. Do you need to e-mail your advisor about something? Send a resume out somewhere? Sign up for yoga classes again? Or get your oil changed? ...or call the dentist? Look at that list of tedious, totally procrastination-worthy tasks and get ready to kick its butt!

(you know I love tips on how to make a great to-do list and this post from LifeHacker is perrrrfect!)


4. Tomorrow, try to replace one useless activity with one useful one. 


WHY: Baby steps. I am a big, big fan of baby steps, aren't you? Like, maybe if I just skip the 3 minutes that I would spend taking one of those ridiculous Facebook quizzes that I love so much (according to said Facebook quiz results: the city I "belong" in is San Francisco... the state I "belong" in is Virginia... the country I "belong" in is Italy, by the way. However, that geography has been a little hindering, so I'm still here in Memphis). Anyway, taking baby steps like replacing one activity with another is simple and it will help us slowly build better habits for the future!

HOW: Beginning tomorrow, just replace one of those ineffective activities with something useful and productive! This way it’s not completely impossible feeling… it’s just one little thing! Most people perform cognitive tasks best between the hours of 9 and 11 AM. That's the optimal time for "working", so tell yourself this: Absolutely NO social media (or whatever your vice is) between those hours. Use them solely for producing the thing that you are supposed to produce! Not even a little tweet. That newsfeed will be there after you complete your to-do list! <-- my daily mantra.

(Tiny Buddah has a great post on taking baby steps to achieve your goals, here!)


5. Keep sneaking the productive activities in (one a day) until they become habits!


WHY: This is effective because it allows you to build your confidence in your productivity and keep setting goals to get better. We all fall into bad habits... even the most organized, productive person you can think of is at risk for a bad habit or two. So, we just have to keep working hard to get better and better each day!

HOW: As you move through the days, try to keep replacing that useless time with something productive! Not only will you accomplish more each day, but you’ll feel less rushed while doing it! It’s a total win-win! What if you just look at the weather and pick out an outfit the night before? Would that save some valuable time in the morning? Or even planning out meals so that you aren't spending 30 minutes binge eating on everything in sight the moment you get home from work? (totally not an example from my real life at all...)



Hopefully, this will {at least} get us moving in the right direction for some MORE PRODUCTIVE HOLIDAYS!!! YAY! :)



What are some tips for productivity that you have? Or something that you would like to start doing? And how do you deal with the loss of our dear Daylight Savings Time? 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

7 Tips for a Productive Finals Week



If there is one things I’ve noticed “trending” on all of my social media news feeds, it’s stress. Or a lack of productivity. Or procrastination. Or sleep deprivation. Or despair. If only I could combine all of those into one word… Oh, wait; I can: Finals.

Let me tell you how so many of my Finals weeks went during undergrad: I would set out all of my schoolwork and then procrastinate well into the night. Maybe I was sitting at my desk, but I was scrolling through Facebook or articles or I would suddenly decide that I needed to rearrange my office supply drawer. THEN around 11 PM, I would realize that I actually had no choice but to do my work. By then, my energy and focus were long gone and I was feeling resentful towards my work.

I would stay up way too late until I finally fell asleep surrounded by my books/notes/etc. I would wake up around 2AM with all of my lights on, read another paragraph or go over vocal words again and then fall back to sleep. THEN I would wake up around 6 and complete the entire paper/study for the test on the morning that it was due. What?! Who does that?! Oh, and then there was the crying. You can’t forget the crying during finals week. It’s an important part.

Finals in both semesters are challenging, but there is just something about the end of the fall semester that adds this extra layer of anxiety. Christmas, maybe? Or the cold weather? Or the shorter days? Or even, all of the football games. So, I thought this would be the perfect time to set out some helpful productivity tips! And most of all, just remember that you’re almost there!



1: Plan Each Day on the Night Before
I can tell you right now that I can tell a HUGE difference between days where I wake up with a plan and days when I try to make my plan in the morning. Like, it’s the difference between me getting 1 thing done and getting 39 things done. Really.

I love this whole article from Underground Success but my favorite tip is “set out your super 6 the night before”. So, tonight, look at your crazy finals week schedule and choose your 6 biggest things that need to be accomplished tomorrow! Write tomorrow’s to-do list tonight!



2: Set Aside Sleeping Hours (and Stick to Them!)
So, as time has gone on (and I’ve gotten older… shhh.) I have learned that there really is something to be said for good sleeping patterns. This is going to make me sound like the oldest person in America but I literally go to sleep every single night at 10pm. I know, right? 

We also wake up at our house at 5:30 every morning (and by "wake up", I mean lay in bed and listen to the alarm). One can’t happen without the other. So, I told you that to tell you this: Set aside a specific time to go to sleep and follow that every night but especially during finals week! You need sleep! Your brain will be more focused, your memory will be better, and you will feel less stressed if you get enough sleep! As tempting as it is to skip sleeping during this time of year, don’t do it !



3: Hit the Ground Running
When you wake up, start working right away! Make the bed and have breakfast! Take a (quick) shower and get dressed! Then start on that to-do list that you made last night! Start working before you even have time to get distracted by anything or before you can even think about how much you don’t want to do!

Set a deadline for yourself and work like crazy to meet it! I always, always choose to work high-priority (things that are either due the soonest or worth the most points) to low priority. Life will happen, so keep in mind that you may not make it to that 6th thing!



4: Always Know What Your Next Step Is
I recently read this article on productivity and it said to make sure you finish every conversation (e-mail, text) by knowing what the next step is. For example, if you’re trying to make plans with someone, rather than just saying “let’s get together” say “let’s get together on Saturday”. Things are more likely to actually HAPPEN that way!

Well, I loved that advice so much, that I’ve started thinking of everything like that! So, when you shut down your computer after spending time working on a huge paper, stick a Post-It on it with where you need to begin next time!

For example, “3 more citations, 2 more examples, 2 more concluding paragraphs”.

That sounds more manageable and less vague than “finish paper," right?



5: Block Out Social Media
I know I literally talk about this all fit time, but I just always, always read all these articles about how social media has a negative impact on productivity! I mean, really… you don’t even need me to say that because we all experience it every day! For finals week, try these tips:

—> Hide your social media apps on the second screen on your phone
—> Set aside a 20-mintute time limit for social media
—> Turn off your alerts/push notifications

Just use these tips until you’ve turned that final assignment... But who knows, you may feel so much less-stressed that you keep them that way!



6: Remember your “Big Picture”
So, it may be totally true that making a passing good grade on your Landforms final seems completely pointless when you’re studying English. Believe me, as a Legal Studies major I was always like, when am I ever going to need to know about the layers of dirt? And I was right. No one in my adult life has ever asked me about where the Humus layer is.

BUT think of it as a tiny little stair step that is leading you to your dream career! We must be required to take some of these silly classes for some reason. Just think of all of the people who have done this before you! And listen, if I can do well in pass classes like Finite Mathematics and Political Statistics, then you can, too!



7: Keep a "Distraction Notebook
Oh, hi. I just gave you a justification for heading down the notebook aisle at Target (at least, that’s how I would read that). But it’s really completely true! Nearly every time that I have some huge project due for someone else, I all of a sudden have a brilliant idea for something that I want to do! Um… that’s how this blog was even created in the first place (I was avoiding do an Educational Research project).

And guess what? You don’t want to forget those ideas because they may turn out to be amazing! Grab a cute little notebook and every time that you feel distracted by some big, great idea, write it down! When Finals are over, you can open it up and use your break to work on those amazing and creative projects you came up with!



If all else fails, just spend your 20 minutes of social media time scrolling through #finalsweek on Twitter.

I promise, it will make you laugh :)



What are you doing to get ready for Finals week? Are you super stressed or do you feel like you’ve got it under control? Any tips that we could all use to get more done?! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

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! 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...