Organization is a busy student’s best friend
Managing Your Stress
Part One: Overscheduled and Overwhelmed
With my fast-paced, American-style life, there never seems to be enough time in the day — or even in the week — to get everything done.
I’m a full-time student and a long-distance runner; I have an internship and a blog to keep up with; I have a pulse, too, which means I also need time for family and friends. To help me keep my many, many plans and assignments in order, I rely on organization.
My day starts with me opening my planner. What needs to be completed today? What is due by the end of the week? What about by the end of the month?
Without organization, I would crumble. Even with it, I sometimes do.
It’s easy for the assignments, appointments and social outings written in my planner to swirl into one of those on-loop circles that cartoon characters see when they get hit on the head.
However, I try my best to let organization do its work.
My assignments are written in a hierarchy with the most important ones — often the ones with the most pressing deadlines — written first. That way, if the assignments farther down the list don’t get done, I can push them to the next day.
When it comes to larger assignments — papers or presentations — I work on them a little bit each day. Those big assignments are usually at the bottom of the list for a while, but when I do a little each day, they’re often completely off the list long before their due dates.
What’s another way to tackle the big assignments? When I find that I have a lighter day, I’ll take the extra time and put it into the big assignments, knocking them out or at least getting their drafts fully completed.
Now, what about general studying? All of my exam dates are marked in my calendar, and I typically start studying a week or two out. I view studying as a high-priority assignment, deserving a top spot on the list because I absorb information so much better if I look over it every day.
I end my day the same way that I start it: I look at my planner. I cross off what got done even if it was just studying; I love seeing all those crossed-out lines because it gives me a sense of accomplishment. To read about the science behind to-do lists, including why it’s best to write tasks out and cross them off when finished, click here.
While organization is great for helping me get all of my work done, I also plan my personal time.
Being a long-distance runner requires more than just motivation; it requires planning, especially when I’m training for a race. Not only do I have a workout schedule that indicates what activity I’m doing that day or how far I will run that day, I also plan out when in the day I’ll be exercising. Typically, I exercise in the morning, but on the days when I’m due at my internship site by 8 a.m., I save my workouts for right after class or take one of my rest days. Because my exercise routine is all planned out, there’s never fear of a workout getting skipped.
Finally, I plan to do nothing — watch TV, read, hang out with my fiance, scroll through my social media feeds. I plan to stop my work at a specific time each day during the week — usually no later than 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and no later than 6 p.m. on Fridays. I also let myself have leeway some days when I get home from class early. On those days, I might plan to take a walk or a nap; I might plan to go shopping.
The best part about my planning is that I make it a priority to have Sundays completely free of schoolwork. Having Sundays to look forward to helps me work even harder during the week. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have the whole weekend free, but I usually take an hour or two on Saturdays to study or do an easy writing assignment.
It’s important for me to give myself the downtime that I deserve, and Sundays are my favorite day of the week because they’re all about having fun. On Sundays, I take long walks, go hiking, go to local festivals, or just veg out at my apartment all day, but I definitely don’t do schoolwork!
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When you find yourself getting overwhelmed, you don’t have to stop and smell the roses. You can keep on going, but you’ll be much more at ease with a plan of attack. So plan out your days — both the fun and not so fun tasks. Having a schedule will give you a sense of peace when you get out of bed in the morning because you’ll know what the day holds. And if you really stick to it, you’ll know what the whole week and even month holds.
If you’re like me and easily get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things you have to do, then write them all out and get to doing them. It’s a much better option than sitting in your bedroom, feeling debilitated and unable to get started.
Pick a time to prepare. Maybe you plan out your whole week on Sunday. Maybe you sit down in the evening and plan out the next day. Maybe you plan out the day right when you get up. There’s no right or wrong way; pick what works for you.
How do you stay organized? Do you find that organization helps you feel less stressed? Comment below and let me know. Thanks for reading!