Does anyone else have that feeling that they’ve already been in Leicester for ages even though it’s only been one week? I just got here last Sunday, and I’m writing this on Sunday, and so many things have happened this week that it feels like last Sunday was a month ago! And how is it October already?! I feel like I need to start preparing for November immediately!
The best thing about coming back to uni is getting back into that ‘student groove’ that you’re so used to. You know, that vicious Student Cycle: wake up, go to class, go to the library, maybe go out out, sleep, repeat. I know I forgot ‘eat’ because, personally, as much as I love food, I always forget to feed myself, so I have to allocate time for food in my calendar or make plans with friends to remind myself to eat. I’m working on it!
When it comes to planning my day, I rely on my Apple Calendar app which I have on both my laptop and my phone. I’ve connected my Google account to the Calendar app; having a backup calendar is a good idea because all the information is stored somewhere on the internet so it can’t be lost, and in the (unlikely) event that both my phone and laptop aren’t working or aren’t accessible, I would still be able to access my extremely precious calendar. I put lectures, tutorials, yoga classes, swim practices, meetings (academic or social), and any other obligations on this calendar and I colour code everything. Colour coding everything is a great way to see how I’ve spent my day and to see I’ve had a productive one. Having a virtual calendar is handy because things happen and sometimes classes or meetings are moved around. For me, it’s a lot easier to reschedule my day on a computer rather than in a physical planner. I’ve tried carrying a diary around, but I kept having to change things around, so I kept having to scribble things or erase them and it was inconvenient and started looking really messy.
This year, my goal is to rely less on my calendar, because last year I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing each day without consulting my calendar. Sometimes, I didn’t even know what I did earlier that day without consulting my calendar because I used to put my commitments/obligations and daily tasks on my virtual calendar. But then I noticed these bound books of loose-leaf paper that everyone was carrying around, and so I got myself a notebook and never turned back. I’ll explain in the next bit. Also, did anyone count how many times I wrote ‘calendar’ in the last two paragraphs? In case you were wondering, it was 12 times (including that last one).
As I mentioned, in addition to my calendar, I now keep a notebook in which I number all the pages and have an index in the front so that as I can follow along as I add monthly habits trackers, daily to-do lists, and random notes. This is my minimalistic version of a bullet journal. I’m always making random notes or writing things down that need to be remembered later, so having numbered pages and an index makes it that much easier to find everything; I can also refer myself to other pages if they’re relevant. My daily to-do lists consist of tasks that need to be done that day. These tasks are things like writing a blog post, publicising Law Review deadlines on social media, buying things I need, and any other errands that need doing. I put an exclamation point next to the tasks that are urgent or more important, and I put an arrow in the checkbox of tasks that I migrate to another day. Urgent tasks must be done that day and I follow up on migrated tasks on a specified date. I only migrate tasks if I didn’t have time to do it on that day and it wasn’t urgent or if there’s a next step (i.e. waiting on an email reply). If you click on the photo, you can see it better and everything I’m babbling on about will make a lot more sense!
I mentioned that I have a monthly habits tracker; this is a personal preference and it’s something I picked up from bullet journaling. I use my monthly habits tracker to track: yoga, swimming, no alcohol, no eating out, 8 hours of sleep, vitamins, journaling, no spending money, and social interactions. What this means is I have a chart of numbers from 1-31 (naturally, it varies from month to month) and each day, I have either “completed” or “not completed” these habits, as shown in the legend at the bottom of the photo. The more things I complete, the better. At the end of the month, I assess which habits need working on and which habits have become true habits. I consider a true habit to be something that has become part of my routine and is something I don’t have to remind myself to do. As well as good, everyday habits, I have some checkboxes at the bottom which are monthly tasks. These include blog posts, laundry, house chores (my housemates and I go by a cleaning rota), and my online Canadian university course (more on that in another blog post). As the days and weeks go by, I check these off as I’ve done them. These checkboxes are a simple way to keep track of all my obligations/commitments and integrate them into my daily to-do list.
On top of the tracker, to-do lists, and calendar I carry around, I also have an end-of-the-month checklist on my bulletin board and a whiteboard with a monthly focus, my blog tracker, and things I’m ‘waiting on.’ My end-of-the-month checklist was something I brainstormed, but was ultimately influenced by bullet journaling. During the last week of the month, I go through the checklist to make sure I’ve done everything that needed to be done that month and to assess certain things. Basically, I have 6 checklist categories: bills, habits, blog, Law Review (of which I’m the Editor-in-Chief), money, and Athabasca (the online Canadian university). Under the ‘bills’ category, I’ve got internet, gas & electricity, and water plus the amount and whether or not I’ve paid my housemate my portion of each bill. Under the ‘habits’ category, I’ve got all the same habits as the monthly habits tracker; I put the total number of times I’ve performed the practice and whether or not I was satisfied with the final numbers. The ‘blog’ category has 4 checkboxes, one for each blog post per week, and a checkbox for whether or not I’ve completed my timesheet for the month. My Law Review checklist consists of the tasks that needed to be done that month. The ‘money’ category is simply just the total amount I spent that month; I am dreading filling this one in! Lastly, the ‘Athabasca’ category consists of the topics that I should’ve completed that month. This is a really nice way to review what I’ve done in the past month and whether there’s anything urgent or pressing that needs to get done in the next month.
My whiteboard is quite simple compared to all my other organisation tools. It has three sections: ‘October focus’, ‘blog’, and ‘waiting on’. The ‘October focus’ section is made up of things I feel I need to focus on that month. It is a ‘monthly focus’ so it will change month to month, according to school and personal habits. My ‘blog’ section is just a checklist of the last day of each week of October and anything outstanding (i.e. timesheets that need submitting). Lastly, the ‘waiting on’ section is self-explanatory; it consists of email replies or online orders or other such things that I’m waiting on receiving.
This elaborate system is the best way for me to stay organised, but everyone has different methods and not everyone has the same level of eagerness for organisation that I have. After all, I am a self-professed keener. But, as an example, Scarlett keeps a physical daily planner and every time she makes plans or goes through her emails, she writes important meetings and events down. If she makes plans that she’s not quite sure about, she puts a question mark next to it, then she’ll follow up on it and either cross out the question mark or reschedule. She’s yet to miss anything important so it clearly works for her!
I think the hardest part of uni is figuring out what works best for you in terms of organisation and time management. It’s a lot of trial and error; try new things for a week or so and be aware of how well they work for you. The method of organisation you end up choosing may be a mixture of different methods or one pure method. UoL has a great resource called Student Learning Development and they’ve got tons of tips on things like note-making. I’m not an expert on organisation and time management, by any means. I got lucky and figured it out for myself in time for second year of uni, but I’m still tweaking things! The toughest part is sticking with it right through to the end.
If you’ve got any questions about anything I wrote about in this post, I’m happy to help you out!