Organized Charm: October 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Study Strategy: Just Get Started

Sometimes, when you have a big paper or project due, it can be difficult to know where to even begin. 

In grad school, we often had pages that were 30+ pages. At the beginning, I remember thinking, "This is insane. How can I even find a starting place?"

So, when you're faced with a project that's huge and ominous, what can you do? 

My best answer is to just do something. It doesn't have to be groundbreaking. It can be as simple as formatting the Word document or scribbling down a quick outline of your ideas. 

In fact, this first thing you do doesn't even have to make it to the final product! The point is to just get started

Here are some reasons it's important to get started:

By simply starting a task, you are more likely to complete it. 

I don't know about you, but I absolutely hate being interrupted when I'm trying to complete a task. Have you ever noticed that unfinished tasks kind of stick with you? It's because of the Ziegarnik effect

You see, once you start a project (even a small one) your mind creates this nagging need to finish it. When things pull you away from your task, you just experience this great need in your mind to go back and accomplish it. 

So, by simply starting on your huge project, you'll become invested in it and actually start to care about finishing it! 

Do a little bit each day, as early in the day as you can. 

Look at that overwhelming paper or project and break it down into sections. For example, I would break down a basic paper into Intro, Point 1, Point 2, Point 3, Conclusion. Then just focus on one section of the paper at a time. No need to overwhelm yourself for no reason!

Then, schedule in some time to just get started on one of the sections. Since I usually write my intro and conclusion last, I would focus on Point 1 first. Work on this for 20-30 minutes a day until it's finished. Then move onto the next section. 

Try to schedule these 20-30 minute work times as early in the day as you can. There are less distractions in the morning. Also, the longer the day goes on, the more likely other people are going to give you stuff to do. Then you'll really be feeling the Ziegarnik effect!

Objects in motion stay in motion. 

I don't know a lot about physics, but this rule is pretty easy to understand. Just like objects that stay in motion, we also tend to keep going once we've started. It's why we have terms like "on a roll", "in the zone", "hit my stride", etc. Once we start, it's easy to keep going. 

Something that is so cool about teaching is seeing how children (even 5-year-olds) can get "in the zone" and become super focused on what they're doing. The other day, one of my Kindergarteners was at my teacher table and I planned to work with him for 10 minutes. 

Once he got started, he kept wanting to just keep going. He ended up working on math for 30 minutes straight because, once he got in motion, he stayed in motion. As long as you break your project down into manageable chunks, once you start, you'll stay in motion, too! 

(If you want to read more about the Physics of Productivity, check out this post by James Clear)

Start your task in 2 minutes or less. 

"But that's impossible!", you might think. 

No. It's not. You can do it! Think about the thing you're dreading the most right now. What is one step you could take that could be done in 2 minutes? Could you open a Word document and create your cover sheet? Or type in your header? Bam. One step accomplished! 

Maybe you could just do a quick Google search of your topic and read about it for 2 minutes. I bet once you start, you would find something interesting that would make you want to keep going! If it's math homework, just do the first problem! 

Once you start that task and feel that momentum, you'll feel motivated to keep going! Keep working until you lose your momentum. Take a short break, then come back and do more! The nagging feeling of your unfinished product will keep pulling you back in once you start!

Focus on 1 thing at a time. 

Don't try to do several parts of the project at once. Create a list and work through it. After you've completed the first section, move on to the next section and give it your undivided attention. 

If you have a lot of other things going on (like other classes, work, etc.) remember to focus on each on of them in their own time. Men tend to be better at "compartmentalizing" than women are. However, with practice, you can train your brain to stop trying to multi-task! 

I make a really big effort to only focus on one thing at a time. I would rather give 100% of my attention to one thing at a time, then set it aside and give 100% to something else. This is why I don't answer personal texts at work and I don't bring work projects home (anymore)! 

You don't have to be able to complete it all at one time! You don't even have to be able to complete one part of it at one time! You just need to break it down and start where you can! Perfectionism can hold you back, too. Remind yourself that "Done is better than perfect!"

What productivity tips do you have for tackling big projects? Have you tried any of these techniques? If so, how did they work for you? Share your experiences below! 

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

What to Carry in a Backpack for College

In college, your backpack is kind of like your home away from home. Wait... that’s your car. So, your backpack is like your car away from your car. Which is your home away from home. See where I’m going with that? 

Backpacks are really important. They hold everything that you may need as you voyage out into the day of trekking across a wet or hot or cold campus (uphill both ways, of course)! As you spend more time in school, you’ll really determine what your must-have items are. 

Here are the ones that I suggest! 

1. Mechanical Pencils

I love mechanical pencils because they have the benefits of a pen but they’re also erasable. I NEVER EVER try to color code my notes or make them pretty in class (learned that my freshman year). I simply write my class notes in pencil and rewrite them in a pretty way when I get home!

2. Black or Blue Pen

Carrying around a black or blue pen is just part of being an adult. You never know when you’ll have to sign something / turn it in... and it can be a little embarrassing when someone tells you they can’t accept something written in pink ink (true story from my life). 

3. Planner

Obviously! I never go anywhere without my planner

4. Stapler

I like having a tiny stapler (in a pretty color, of course). It makes me feel really put together when everyone is lining up to use the classroom stapler and I just whip out my own at my seat. Bonus: Pink staples! 

Purse Organization + Essentials

5. Water Bottle & Snack

Getting dehydrated can be really easy for college students. In order to be your most effective self, make sure to eat and drink consistently every day! It sounds so easy, but it can be challenging, especially towards the end of the semester when things get busy!

6. Textbooks (obvi.)

When you’re walking around campus, it’s super important to bring along those textbooks! And I prefer plain, old, paper textbooks over digital books any day! Just think of all the muscles you’re building by carrying them around! 

Back to School Shopping List

7. Notebook

I used to have an individual notebook for each class (partly because I just hoarded pretty notebooks and hoped they could be used in the future). However, I have really come to love having ONE notebook with different sections for each subject/class. 

OR if you can’t find one with enough different subjects for each class, buy notebooks and use them based on day. For example all of your M/W/F classes in one... all of your T/R classes in another. 

8. Class Folders

I have a really streamlined folder system. I would suggest buying one 2-pocket folder (that you think is really pretty) for each class. Inexpensive and doesn’t take up a lot of room in your backpack!

9. USB Drive

This is super essential for college! I do NOT love to carry my laptop around campus, so I would just have everything on my USB drive and use the school computers. 

10. Post-It Tabs

LITERALLY THE BEEEST! Instead of *highlighting while I’m in class, I flag any pages my professors say are important and revisit them later! This also makes making study guides a breeze! 

*You’ll notice I do NOT have highlighters on this list. That’s because I think that we get too excited and either highlight things that don’t need to be highlighted or highlight things inconsistently. I bring a mechanical pencil to class with me and write notes in the margins. I save the highlighting for studying at home so I know it follows a specific system. 

Here is my system for highlighting: Effective Ways to Highlight Your Textbooks

Welcome to Organized Charm, where the author has strong opinions on highlighting :) 

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What essentials to you have to have in your backpack? Leave your list below! 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

How I Organize My Passion Planner

I'm a bit of a planner addict. 

I love flipping through new planners at the store. I love buying new planners (unfortunately for my husband). 

I love bringing new planners home for the first time. I love planning out how I will use new planners and putting my "big" dates into them. I love washi tape and highlighters and stickers and color-coded pens and basically anything that pertains to a planner (and could also cost me money)!

It's a little weird; I know. 

My new favorite is the Passion Planner! Have you tried it? If not, you should!

The thing I like about the Passion Planner is that it's very "grown up" feeling. It's sleek and durable. And the inside makes you look like a total organization boss. 

So, I decided to show y'all how I've been using my planner! I've also stuck with the same planner for the entire year (which shouldn't be a big deal, but it is)! 

Alright, here we go!

A tour of my Passion Planner


So, first of all, I love color! I am a big fan of anything brightly-colored. I love Lilly. I love the beach. I am a total sucker for anything written in rainbow letters (what am I, 5?). I am totally crazy about color! And the traditional Passion Planner is black. 

However, I have found that (with all that other color going on), I really like the black! My planner is never drawing attention to itself in meetings. It's never too "flashy" or distracting. I feel totally comfortable getting it out at work. 

Plus, it's durable enough to live in my work bag (which is not an easy task)! 

I used Post-It tabs to give me quick access to "This Week" "Next Week", "This Month" and "Next Month". I like how the overall simplicity of this planner leaves a lot of room for creativity and personalization! 

Inside Cover

Something that's kind of cool about this planner is that it gives you suggestions for what to write where. You can totally ignore those if you want. Or you can choose to write everything that the planner suggests that you write. I choose to write everything that the planner suggests that I write. 

On the inside cover, it suggests that I write my favorite quotes. So I wrote... you guessed it... Favorite quotes! 

Passion Roadmap 

This is the coolest part of the planner and was the selling point for me! The Passion Roadmap! A place to write out your goals for the next few years and break them down into achievable steps! 

You write out your Lifetime goals, 3 year goals, 1 year goals, and 3 month goals. Then, under each monthly view AND each weekly view, there is a place for you to list tiny, achievable steps to get you to that goal!

Monthly View

The Monthly View section is another one of my favorite parts of this planner! I like that it has room for a "work focus" and "personal focus". I also like that it has a "work to do list" and a "personal to do list". 

Because, sometimes, some of us (*ahem* me) need help remembering that work and personal are two different parts of life. 

Weekly View 

The Weekly view is what keeps me feeling really organized! I love it because it has TIME SLOTS which are so awesome for planning! They also keep me from over-scheduling or double-booking myself. You can't write two things in the same time slot, after all! 

Monthly Reflection

For me, this is what separates this planner from others. It adds a journaling aspect that most planners don't have. Which turns into a great tool to use for planning for the future, but also for reflecting on the past. 

In grown-up world, "reflecting" is such a HUGE part of professional development. Presenters ask you to reflect. Your boss asks you to reflect. Your co-workers ask you to reflect. You ask yourself to reflect. So, it's a really great adult, professional habit to get into, if you aren't doing it already! 

Blank Pages 

Usually, I'm guilty of not using the "notes" pages in the back of a planner because I'm always over-analyzing how I will use it and waiting for the perfect thing to write back there. 

Knowing that I'll carry it around all year usually makes me very selective about what I write. 

However, there are SO many pages in the Passion Planner that I don't feel like they have to be that orchestrated. I've saved a lot of random thoughts back there, which is what it's for!

Here are some things that I've used the blank pages for:

  • Travel Journal 
  • Church Notes
  • Packing Lists
  • Cleaning Schedule (my husband is totally laughing right now)
  • Party Planning
  • Landscaping Ideas

Graph Paper

In high school, I HATED graph paper (unless I was using markers to fill in the squares with pretty colors). 

However, now that I'm an adult, the graph paper section is my favorite. Why? Because it's perfect for MAKING LISTS! And everything lines up perfectly! 

And I am a big fan of list-making and having things lined up perfectly! 

So, I really hope you enjoyed this planner tour! 

I've been using it since January and I am really determined to finish the year strong! They also have planners for the academic year (August-July), which is probably what I'll get next year! 

Do you have a Passion Planner or a bullet journal? If so, what kinds of ways have you thought of to use it? And what are some of your favorite lists to make? (list-obsessed here)

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