Organized Charm: June 2015

Sunday, June 28, 2015

May & June Reader Questions

Here are some reader questions that I received in May and June that I think might benefit you, too! Enjoy!! :D

Q: Through last few years I've been constantly coming back to idea of starting a blog... I did read through your post about how to start a blog.. and I know my content, I also know what I want my label to be and almost decided on a platform... 

the part that I'm struggling with is that what if nobody's gonna read my blog at all.. what is normal and what is not, I know that I will not get tons of people as I start, but how do you promote your blog and if you could share how did it go for you, how many people read you when you just started, how many people are reading now? 

I guess I wanted to ask you to please share the story of your blogging with me. 

Things like how did you start doing it, how did you decide that that is what you want to do, what did you struggle with what were your mistakes?

A: At first, I was having about 15-30 readers a day visit OC. I had think I hit 1,000 pageviews around my first month or two of blogging. Just watch your stats in the beginning: What are people reading? What are they not reading? Keep refining your content to fit your specific readership. 

Additionally, always check where your traffic is coming from! One of my tumblr posts was lucky enough to be reblogged by the Organized College Student (who had many more followers than me). This helped OC grow a lot very early on! As far as promoting posts, most of my traffic comes through Pinterest! 

So building up your Pinterest account is one of the best things you can do for your blog! Another great thing to do is to share smaller amounts of content and more photographs on Tumblr. Because Tumblr. uses hashtags, you can get your content in front of people who are already searching for it! 

Pinterest and Tumblr are great resources because they're easy to build up even if you don't have a ton of your own content yet... so you can kind of build your brand by reblogging and repinning content that's relevant to your niche (just be sure to always link back to the original content creators)!

Finally, for mistakes- I still don't promote each post as much as I should. Blogging is not my full time job, you know? So, it's hard to justify taking the time to share every post across every social media channel every time. You can never promote your content enough! 

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Q: I am going to be a sophomore in high school next year and I was wondering if you had some tips on my organization of my notes and handouts. This year I took six classes and did 1 inch binders for each class. It was a bit bulky to have all of those binders along with textbooks in my narrow locker and then into my backpack when I had to take them home.

A: For notes and handouts, I would suggest following the systems in this post:

And for note organization, I would suggest following the system in this post: 

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Q: Most of my classmates do a folder and notebook for each class. I like that idea but I like to go home and rewrite my notes in colorful pens. I am afraid I would run out of pages in my notebook quickly and it would be unorganized because I would have the class notes and then the notes that I rewrote at home. 

A: Get a folder and a notebook for each class. Keep the handouts on the left side of the folder and your graded assignments on the right side. Take "sloppy" notes in mechanical pencil in the notebook. When you go home, rewrite the notes the way you want them to look. Then put them in a "study binder". Save all of your neatly, rewritten notes in this binder, use tabs to divide the different classes, and refer to this organized notebook when you're preparing for a big test! 

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Q: I am entering college as a freshmen in 2 months, and Im terrified. I need amazing grades to get into graduate school, and amazing grades come with organization. 

A: Don't even start worrying about grad school until your senior year! Once you get into the rhythm of semesters, college won't be scary at all! Just have fun, relax, and work hard.  

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Q: I noticed your post on Top 10 Semester essentials, and I was wondering if you could elaborate on your "4-calendar" "color-coded" "obsessive organization" system. 

A: For the sake of "college life", I would only suggest 1-2 planners. 1 for normal everyday life and one for schoolwork. I like to be veeeery detailed when planning out my study time, so that's why I have an academic planner just for that! My husband and I also have a calendar in our house (the Post-It one), where we keep track of each other's schedules and social commitment, etc. The 4th one I use is my lesson planner for teaching.  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

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! :) 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

4 Tips for Organizing Your Finances in College

Over the past few weeks, I have received FOUR requests for tips on budgeting in college! If you requested this post (or if you're just trying to get your financial life together) this post is for you! If you're feeling a little overwhelmed or underprepared to deal with finances, let me assure you that you are most definitely not alone! 

In fact, read these statistics from a recent survey of college students: 

  • 47% are concerned about their financial situation

  • 50% say that the cost of impacted their choice of college/university

  • 75% wish there was more helpful financial information available to them

  • 80% report they were unprepared and do not have a plan to pay for college

Let me tell you that in grad school, I definitely fell under each of these statistics. It was my first time paying for school by myself and there was a LOT that I had to learn in a short period of time. Here are 4 of the most helpful pieces of advice that I can give!

1 | Don't be afraid of smart debt. 

I kind of grew up being terrified of debt and assuming that it was all bad. I paid cash for everything in high school and college. My parents gave me a credit card for "emergencies" but I really only used it when I was out of cash and it was my turn to buy the next round of drinks needed something important. The word "debt" just sounds scary, doesn't it? No one wants to be in debt! 

It wasn't until I got married and saw how my husband handles his credit that my fear of "being in debt" went away. It's pretty necessary to understand and be comfortable with credit and debt in adult-world and we need to learn how to navigate our way through it confidently. Our unofficial rule is that any acquired debt should have a long term benefit. For example, 

Student Loan = College Education = Job Opportunities = Long Term Benefit = Smart Debt

Cute Dress = Gets Worn Out = Gets Given Away = Short Term Benefit = Not Smart Debt

(Side Note: College means saying "not right now" to a lot of cute dresses but that's ok because it will all pay off!)

If you're looking for student loans, check out College Ave Student LoansThey simplify the student loan process that you can spend your time preparing for your bright future! In fact, their sole focus is student loans... which means that they'll break things down and make this as simple as possible for you! 

There are several different plans and College Ave will help you find the one that's best for YOU! Not only that, they have more repayment options than anyone else, so you're sure to find one that fits your needs! 

Click here to find out more:

2 | Use an app to help you maintain your budget

There are tons of financial apps out there! My favorite is Mint because it allows you to create your own budget (and adjust it at any time). Not only that, it sends you alerts when it thinks your account balance is low, or when you've had *ahem* "high spending" in a particular category (stop judging me, Mint). I like the fact that I can link my bank accounts to it also so it gives me up-to-the minute information. 

But your bank app will also work just fine for updating you! And what if you want to apply for a student loan? Oh, there's a mobile friendly application for that, too! Just head over to the College Ave app, fill in the 4 questions it asks, and you'll get an answer in about 3 minutes! That's pretty painless, right? I bet you have 3 minutes right now! Not surprisingly, this is the fastest and easiest app in the student loan industry!

3| Set up a savings plan (and don't touch what you save!)

A plan?! Yes, please! The one I use is SO easy! Through my banking app, I set up a thing (yes, that's official term) where it automatically transfers $20 each month from my checking to savings account. That's such a small, harmless amount to part with each month, but it still adds up over time. Find an amount that works well for you. 

Once that money's in savings, pretend like it doesn't even exist! If you do this amount throughout 4 years of college, you'll graduate with $1,000! And that's enough to buy some real furniture for your first post-grad apartment, to keep stashed away as an emergency fund, or to put toward the payoff of your student loan! 

If you're curious about student loans but don't want to commit to anything yet, check out the Credit Pre-Qualification Tool & Student Loan Calculator from College Ave! This will give you an idea of what to expect if you actually get a loan (and I am all about knowing what to expect)! 

By using this simple tool, you'll have a clearer idea of your budget for the school year and make better money-saving choices! YAY! It also makes the whole student loan process a little easier to understand by showing you the total cost over the life of the loan and what would be the best payment plan for you! 

4| Pay as much as you can as often as you can

I never, ever, ever make minimum payments. Not on my student loans. Not on my credit card bill. Not on my phone bill. Never. Of course, paying your complete credit card balance every month is ideal and will skyrocket your credit score like crazy. But that's not always doable, especially in college. 

I try to pay a little more than what's required when it comes to credit and loans. Even just $30 more than the required amount will help you out in the future! This is what I did on every student loan payment that I made. And it made a HUGE difference on the balance over time! Additionally, if you get paid twice a month, pay as much as you can twice a month. 

I promise, it's worth skipping a Target trip for! Additionally, College Avenue gives rewards for making in-school payments! That's right, if you choose to start paying your loans while you're still in school (highly suggested), then you'll have a lower interest rate than people who wait till they graduate! And there is no penalty for paying early (a huge plus)! 

You can just get as much as you need to help pay your college expenses! College Ave covers up to 100% of school-certified expenses. But if you can pay most of your own expenses and just need $2,000 to get started, they can cover that, too! Check out the low rates, use the tools, and decide what you need to help you succeed! 

Okay! Are you ready for an Instagram contest? 

Of course you are! Head over to Instagram right now and share your college goals by using the hashtag, you guessed it, #CollegeGoals! :D

Do this anytime between NOW and June 30th and you can win prizes, including a $50 Chegg textbook credit and a $5,000 college scholarship! 

Head to Chegg for more details:

A huge thank you to College Ave Student Loans and Her Campus Media for partnering on this post!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

5 Ways to Make Your Planner Pretty!

Planners. You love them. I love them. 

And seriously, what would we do without them? 

They keep us on track, on time (mostly), and productive!

But just because they're a productivity tool, doesn't mean they can't also be pretty!

(You may also want to take a look at 23 Tips for Keeping an Academic Planner)

Making your planner happy and pretty will make you use it more, therefore, being productive! 

Organization + Prettiness + Productive? I call that a win-win-win! Plus, if you document all of your important things, your planner will double as a journal! Add one more "win" to that list! So, what tips do I have for decorating a planner to reflect your personality and life? Psh. Where do I even begin? Get those debit cards ready because I see an Etsy/Target shopping spree in your future! 

(Please. Like you needed me for that.) 

Since I know y'all are tired of seeing my same planner all the time, I decided to round up a few gorgeous examples that I found around the lovely Pinterest planner community! And guess what? That even includes some links to free printable downloads! YAY! 

(If you really love planners, here's a peek Inside My Wedding Planner!)

Here are my absolute favorite examples + products that will make your planner pretty and organized!! 

Colorful Event Reminders | Elephantshoe

Oh, hey. Aren't these the cutest little things ever? Breathe a little life into any planner with these happy little event reminders. This free download includes 2 sheets of reminders! You can print them onto regular cardstock and stick them into your planner with Washi tape OR print them onto adhesive paper and cut them out as stickers. I love these so much!

Color-Coded Pens | First Home Love Life

So, if you've read more than one post from this blog or seen more than one Instagram on its account, you definitely know that I'm a big (BIG) fan of the Papermate Flair pens. I love the colors, the way they write, everything. But there are other pens that work just as great for planners! 

Above you can see that Christine from First Home Love Life uses Sharpie Ultra Fine Points and they look fabulous! I've also heard wonderful things about Pilot Frixion (erasable!) pens! I usually try to limit my planner to about 5 different colors (because you know, I like to keep things simple.) But you can obviously go as wild with different colors as you want! 

Washi Tape | Take Two They're Small

So, you know how I always use Washi tape to organize my planner? (That sounds like an exaggeration but it isn't.) The example above from Take Two They're Small is the first place I ever saw it! Man, did it really change my planning life. Perfect for showing "summer break" "vacation" or "exam week" in your planner! Plus I color code mine to match the pens that I use! Too perfect and such an easy way to add some extra prettiness to your productivity! 

Binder Clip | Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

Binder clips are one of my favorite ways to decorate/organize my planner! I have mine set up with binder clips so that I can open straight to the current month or the current week! They make it super easy to open up quickly and start planning! (plus... they're pretty). There are tons of pretty ones at Office Depot and Target. OR you can just make your own by using a plain black binder clip and your favorite Washi tape design! 

Planner Stickers | ScribblePrintsCo

Aren't these weekend stickers adorable? I know they are. That's why I'll probably end up ordering before this weekend is over. ScribblePrintsCo is just one of the wonderful Etsy shops where you can find adorable planning stickers to help organize your life! I have the solid page flags (which I use to show my scheduled blog posts), the heart checklists (which I use for monthly goals), and the coffee cups (which I use for coffee dates. Clever, I know). 


Of course, you and I both know that there are a BILLION more ways to decorate your planner but these are some of my favorites! I would LOVE to see how you decorate your planner! :) 

Tell me all about your favorite products/ideas for decorating your planner. 

Or better yet, if you want to show me your adorable planner layout, just use #organizedcharm or tag me @organizedcharm on Instagram or Twitter

Do you need a new planner? Check out OC's Etsy shop!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dream On Wakeup Routine

I get asked pretty frequently about my different routines. So I thought I'd start sharing little rundowns of the different ones that I do throughout the days. Starting with (you guessed it) waking up! 

Oh, what's that? You hate mornings?

Believe me, I know how tough they can be! But I've also learned that the way to deal with their tough-ness is with a good, old fashioned routine!

Don't believe me? Just adapt this “Dream On” wakeup routine to fit your own schedule, try it for a few days, and see if it helps! 

From my experience, structure in the morning really has a positive impact on the rest of the day!

If I wake up late, wander around aimlessly for a couple of hours, blah, blah, blah… it’s hard for me to stay going or feel that productivity vibe later on in the day.

Have you had a similar experience?

So, here's a quick run through of my morning routine! 

1 | Wake up with alarm: This is a big one! Waking up on time can make or break your productivity! When the alarm goes off, just jump up before you even have time to think about hitting snooze. I immediately start the coffee!

2 | Make coffee / Brush teeth / Wash face: These are super self-explanatory. On a good morning, I'll do squats or leg lifts while I brush my teeth to make the time go by faster! On a rough morning, I'll sit on the floor and try not to fall back asleep. 

3 | Drink coffee: Please. Just try to stop us.

4 | Read Jesus Calling: I have struggled and struggled to find a way to do a morning devotional. It can be tough to focus in the morning and that's why this book is SO perfect! Each day is only 2 paragraphs and 2 verses... Yes, I CAN do that at 6 AM!

5 | Meditate: I either do 2, 5, or 10 minutes, depending on how much time I have. The Happify app is a great guide through the meditation process, if you're just starting! Ashley Turner (my favorite!) also has one now, too! (Giam I think?)

6 | Happify Activity: So, that brings me to my next activity. The Happify app has tons of fast and free activities and they're the perfect way to start out in a good mood! 1-2 minutes and you're done!

7 | Read The Skimm & Eat Breakfast: The Skimm is just the best! Working with tiny children all day can make it difficult to keep up with news and current events. However, when they're skimmed for me, wittily paraphrased, and sent straight to my inbox, I can catch up in the time it takes me to eat breakfast (which is always greek yogurt and honey, btw)!

So that's how I start my mornings! You can screenshot and use this routine… adapt it into one of your own. Or just laugh at it.

How do you start your day? Is there anything you would like to add or improve about your own routine? What tricks do you use to get going in the morning? 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Earn Better Grades This Semester with Skooli Online Tutoring! (Sponsored)

(This post brought to you by Skooli. All opinions are 100% my own.)

I can't even begin to tell y'all how many hours of my high school life I spent in math tutoring. I did after school tutoring with my own teachers (or basically any teacher that didn't mind being in the room with me for an hour as I stared at numbers on my paper, crying "I'll never be able to do this... it's too h-h-haaard"). 

And to add to the fun, I also went to an off-campus tutoring center twice a week. (If I walked in there today, they'd still have me working on fractions!)

But honestly, the worst part of all that tutoring was just the TIME that it took. I had just spent 8 hours at school, got out at 2:15, got home at 2:45, grabbed a quick snack, then headed out the door again to be at tutoring by 3:20. Some days, you just want to come home and know you don't have any place else to be. 

Well, rejoice because guess what? You can now have your cake and eat it, too. That's right... you can now come home AND get the professional tutoring you need to boost your grades with Skooli!

Skooli is a website that matches you up with tutors (from all over the world!) for specifically what you need! The best part? You can get the help you need while at home in your yoga pants! 

Here are some of the coolest things about Skooli:

Online tutoring provides the safety and convenience that students and parents need.
There is no dropping off and picking up from a tutoring center. There is no driving to and from a tutoring center after a long day or in the rain. There isn't even a risk of poor college students running out of gas on the way to tutoring! You are safely in your own home, on your own computer, on your own time schedule the whole time! 

You commit to just one session per tutor so you can find the perfect tutor for you!
When I was in my tutoring center in high school, I never knew who my tutor for the day was until I got there. There was one tutor who could break down things really well for me (and deal with all my tears).  The others were too vague, too broad, or explained things in a way that didn't work for my brain. Here, you have control over who your tutor is so you can optimize your study time! 

Skooli confirms tutors' qualifications and educational background. 
Basically, enough said. But with Skooli, you can be sure you are getting the best of the best. A real teacher, with real knowledge of the content you're learning, and a knowledge of how to differentiate instruction for different learners! Interestingly enough, Skooli is one of the only online tutoring services that actually does this! 

Parent progress tracking.
That's right. If you're a parent, you can can sign up and create an account for your child. This gives you the control to choose the tutor(s) who works best with your child, schedule times that are convenient to your family/work schedule, and view your child's progress (without having to schedule and show up for another conference). 

So, how does it work? Let me walk you through what to expect!

STEP 1: Start out by heading over to the website and easily creating your own account!

STEP 2: Time to get started! Yes, it's that easy. Just type in whatever subject you need help with!

STEP 3: Skooli will provide a HUGE selection of tutors, including their bios, pics, & qualifications.

STEP 4: Specify your specific education level to ensure that the most relevant tutor selection! 

STEP 6: Start checking out tutors to find one who's absolutely perfect to help you ace this semester! 

STEP 7: Use the easy scheduling too to choose the most convenient time for YOU!

Once you're in, here are features to optimize your tutoring session:

- Fast and responsive (aka no messages like "waiting for page to load" or "buffering") YAY!

- High quality video and audio to clearly connect you with the best teachers in the world!

- Progress tracking so that you can set study goals and track your progress to achieve them!

- Real time tools so that you and your tutor can draw, create graphs, or whatever you need!

- Screensharing. Show websites where you found info, your citations, spreadsheets, etc! 

- Share files, notes, images. That paper you're working on, your math study guide, anything!

Ready to get the help you need?! You can do it right here! :D

Did you try any tutoring last semester? How did it go? Do you think that Skooli would be a better alternative to traditional tutoring centers? Share your experiences below! 
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