Back to School

Well, friends, it’s almost my favorite time of year!!!! I love fall and everything that comes with it. The colors of the trees, the crisp mornings and nights, sweaters, and, of course, football games! Side note: somehow I managed to marry a man who doesn’t seem to have much of an opinion about football. The good news is he married me, so his opinion is now that he loves it and we will always cheer for the Seahawks (despite his protests).

Bonfires, Halloween, and fresh apple cider aren’t the only parts of fall that I love. Call me crazy, but I loooovvvveeeeee back to school time. It’s probably like my third favorite holiday (Independence Day and Christmas come before, obviously). There’s something about the excitement of a fresh start and blank notebooks that just drives me wild. Most people my age are quite the contrary. Back to school is just another semester and just more work that you don’t understand how to do it or why it’s important.

It’s not the thrill of getting up and going to class everyday that I love so much, it’s the opportunity to learn more and get better grades than last semester. It’s about meeting new people and making new connections. It’s about being one step closer to graduation and starting my career. The excitement of it all actually keeps me up at night. I’m not even kidding. My husband’s school started two weeks before mine and I was so jealous that he had homework that I started my coursework an entire week early because I couldn’t wait any longer.

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There are some really big worries and fears about going back to school. College is really stressful. You have X amount of credits and Y hours of coursework but only Y-3 hours in a day. On top of all that you have your part time (or maybe full time if your insane) job and a home and a spouse to take care of. Holy cow. It’s no wonder so many people don’t want school to start, that’s all they can think about!!

So let’s take a second now, while the school year is still just beginning, to talk about one of my very favorite subjects – organization and stress relief. Okay, I’ll admit, the organization is my favorite part and the stress relief I’m still working on, but I’m excited to share some things I have learned! PLEASE for my sake and everyone else’s, if you have more tips that you’ve found to work, leave a comment!!

ORGANIZATION

Let’s start with the easy one for me. If you ask my husband, I might have an actual problem with how much I enjoy organizing things. Even when I was younger, I would tear apart my bedroom just to reorganize it and move things around. In order to clean my bedroom, it required the prep work of listing everything out and where it would all go. Twice the work, but it thrills me. It’s like problem solving, but with real stuff, ya know?

With school, it’s extremely important to stay organized. This helps relieve SO much stress just by knowing where everything is, when assignments are due, and how long you have to finish that group project literally no one wants to do.

My first recommendation is to have a planner.

I use three different planners. For events, like work and actual classes, I use google calendar. It’s really simple to use and you can change the color of different kinds of events to make it easier to understand at a glance. I use it mostly on my phone, but using it on a computer is also really nice and easy to understand. It also communicates with all your other google applications, so you can add a location to your event and easily pull it up on google maps when it’s time to go.

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I also use a plain grid journal as a bullet journal to keep track of assignments and deadlines. It’s probably my favorite of all the planners I use because it’s small enough to carry around with me, but I also get to design it however I like to. Google calendar does have an option for tasks, but for me it’s easier to write them down. I also live for checklists and crossing things off when they’re done, so the option to write it down is huge for me.

Finally, I use a Me & My Big Ideas Happy Planner to write down detailed assignments. I don’t use this as often as I would like to, but it is very helpful to have at home to keep track of my own work and additional details a professor may have clarified about specific assignments. Here is a link where you can get your own happy planner and see how fun it is to use all the stickers and decorations!

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My second recommendation is a note-taking system.

It’s so important to keep your notes organized and legible so you can keep track of what’s important and be able to use it when you’re studying for exams. It can be really difficult to keep track of loose papers and even notebooks (if you’re like my brother and only use one notebook for four classes). If you prefer taking handwritten notes, I recommend getting separate notebooks for each class. I use a lot of paper when I take handwritten notes because I like to write everything down, so I prefer to take notes on my tablet. Some people can keep track of things in word documents, but I prefer using google drive. It keeps everything in one place and you have multiple file types all in one place. It also makes it easier to do group assignments and share your notes in a study group by simply inviting others to join your document.

My third recommendation is to have your own study space.

In seventh grade we had this class that was basically a home ec class. I remember my teacher talking to us about how important it is to have our own desk or study space. All I could think then was, what kind of money do you think a twelve year old has??? Now that I have my own space, and even before when I was in a shared bedroom in an apartment with five other girls, I’ve realized the value and importance of having a set place to study. While it’s tempting to get in your sweatpants, get in bed, and cram for your exams, studies have actually shown that it has a negative impact on your health when you do that. Your body will rewire itself to think that your bed is for studying and your sleep schedule will get all mixed up. Or, if you’re like me, it will be the other way around and you’ll just fall asleep studying. If you can, set a place where you will do most of your schoolwork. It doesn’t have to be in your home, it could be as simple as the library or your favorite starbucks. Wherever it is, get in a routine of going there to do your work instead of your bedroom.

Finally, I HIGHLY recommend making a study schedule at the beginning of the semester.

I am a major procrastinator. You could definitely count me as being the kind of person that will totally push it off until the last minute, then have a panic attack because you have to rush your assignment, promise you’ll never procrastinate again, then go through the exact same thing on the next assignment. It’s a vicious cycle that will keep going the whole semester if you don’t have a plan. For the most part, teachers will give you an assignment schedule with the syllabus on the first day of class. Using your fancy new planning skills, take some time that first week to go over your assignments and plan when you will do them. I find it best to give myself a range, that way I’m not discouraged if I don’t make it on the original day I planned. It’s especially helpful to write down the dates of your exams and determine which weeks will be your busy weeks – ya know, the weeks when every teacher decides to give you a ten page research paper on top of three group projects and an exam. Determine a plan that will work for you when you’re going to be the busiest and how you can work efficiently to get the job done without being too overwhelmed.

Overall, being organized for me is basically just starting off on the right foot. I’m a firm believer that if you start the semester off on the wrong foot, it’s going to make it a whole lot harder to be successful with your busy schedule than it would be to start out with an organized plan.

STRESS

Let’s face it, no matter how amazing our organization is, we will all have those awful weeks where we want to give up and we just have too much going on to even function anymore. Usually, I would want to just pretend I don’t have anything going on and binge watch a new show. Unfortunately, that usually just creates more stress for me. So let’s talk about some ways we can get through those times when we just can’t.

First, remember to step back and breathe.

The only thing that gets me through finals week is remembering that my grades don’t define my worth. They are definitely super important to me, but if I let a grade get to me, I know it would tear me apart and I would just want to give up completely. There are a lot of great, short meditation practices that can be super helpful when you’re stressing. My favorite app for guided meditation is called “Insight Timer”. It’s super great for people who haven’t ever done meditation before. It can also be really helpful to just take a deep breath before you start trying to conquer your mountain of assignments.

Second, it is so important to take care of your body.

I took a chronic disease class and we talked a surprising amount about stress in students, mostly because our teacher was amazing and she genuinely cared about us. She taught us what we called 8-5-2-1-0 and she challenged us to do our best to live it for a semester and see what happened. Fun fact, this is actual the general “rules” for healthy living. Okay, so it’s 8 hours of sleep each night, 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 hours or less of screen time daily(excluding work and homework), 1 hour of exercise daily, and 0 sugary drinks. It’s probably the hardest thing to get 8 hours of sleep, but the rest were surprisingly manageable and it made me feel so much more prepared and ready for the things I needed to accomplish each day. Exercise, especially, can be a great stress reducer.

Third, and finally, take time for yourself.

Being a student alone is hard, but when you add on a job, extracurriculars, a social life… it gets pretty tough to balance everything. With all the things we have to do, it’s hard to find some time to just relax for a minute and take care of ourselves. This isn’t the excuse you’ve been looking for to not do your homework because you need some “me time”, but it’s something you should put into your schedule for yourself. Maybe you want to go on a walk every morning, or maybe you really just need that 20 minute episode of your favorite show to relieve some stress before you dive into your homework. Whatever the case may be, don’t shove yourself in a corner and tell yourself you can’t have any time for yourself because of all your responsibilities. You’ll thank yourself later for your healthy study breaks.

Overall, school is exciting and learning and improving yourself is exciting! I love being able to enjoy this time of year without worrying about what’s going to happen next month when I’m bored of my classes. Right now, with these tools, I’m in control of my own life. I get to decide how my semester is going to go, and taking the steps to organize myself and managing my stress will only help me be more successful this year.

Let me know in the comments what you’re most excited about this school year!!

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