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Warning- College is Hard
Before you start reading, let me tell you that college is hard. So is blogging. So is, well… everything else. There is absolutely no special planner, organization hack, or sticker set that will magically make that fact disappear. What I can tell you though, is that life does not need to be so stressful! If you are properly organized and plan ahead, you will be a lot less stressed out! This means that if you find a system that works for you, stick to it, and maybe throw in a little extra prayer, you will be less stressed (even with the same amount of work). Let me show you my system that keeps me calm, happy, and flexible, even when I am balancing a million things at once!
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The planner that I use to keep track of all my school related stuff is the Moleskine Notebook Planner. The layout is perfect for me- it has monthly pages, as well as weekly pages with a blank page for to-do lists!
How I Use it
As you can see in the picture- I have created my own way of using this planner! In the individual day sections, I put times for meetings, appointments, important tests, etc. On the notes page for each week, I plan out my homework, giving myself about two tasks per day. There is a special trick to this- most of that homework is for the next week. I do my best to get ahead by one week so that over the weekend, I am finishing anything that will need to be turned in throughout the next week. This gives me flexibility during the week, as I am rarely pressed to finish something due the next day.
I typically plan out the bigger tasks first, putting a fair amount of space between them in case I just cannot finish them that day. Then, I will fill in the little tasks that will not take much time or energy. Each day I focus on those 2-3 tasks, and do not worry about anything else. The only days that are different are weekends, for Friday-Sunday I just list the tasks I need to get done and do them when I can. I know that the weekend will be filled with unexpected to-dos, so instead of setting myself up for failure I plan with fluidity.
Why I Love it
Having things planned out by day shows me that I will get everything done on time, so long as I stick to the schedule. Knowing this, I do not feel pressure to keep working all day every day. This provides MAJOR stress relief. I always say the worst thing about homework is that there is always something you could be doing, so I always feel guilty when I am doing fun things (like Netflix bingeing). Now, I do the tasks for the day and then spend the rest of the evening doing whatever I want, guilt and stress free.
Organizing my homework this way has made such a difference for me. I used to keep a running to-do list and just keep working away at it. This was really bad for me because I always felt like I was drowning- stuck in this never ending cycle. I rarely just took the time to relax and have fun (without feeling bad).
Right now, I am using two books for my blog: a planner and a simple notebook. I am using a planner that I found on Amazon, and a simple lined notebook with bible verses on every page!
How I Use it: Planner
I found this simple, undated planner on Amazon and so far it is everything that I needed! It was inexpensive, which is good for me considering I am still learning what I need, and it is undated so I was able to start using it right away without wasting any space. Here is how I use each section:
- Yearly plan: I write my goals for each month (3 months at a time, as I am following a 90-day plan, which is SO helpful).
- Monthly: In the monthly section I write down my overall theme/goals for the month and then plan out my posts and emails accordingly. Doing this all at once in the beginning of the month (well, the end of the month before) allows me to create a more coherent message.
- Weekly: At the end of the week, I sit down and schedule things out for the next week. I write out when I will create and schedule posts, what I will post on social media, and any other tasks that will need to be done.
- Notes: There is a decent sized notes section in the back of the planner, where I am keeping a running list of post ideas as well as a budgeting sheet.
How I Use it: Notebook
This notebook is my go-to for anything blog related. I have pages of ideas and inspiration, notes I take during webinars or videos, rough drafts of posts or freebies, my 90-day plan, and anything else you can think of! This has been so helpful for me because I do not feel like anything I write in it has to be perfect- it is not a planner. I can fill a page with scribbles and it would not matter!
I do most of my brainstorming in here, so it is helpful to have it to look back on, rather than on scrap paper I am going to throw away. Plus, being on paper not on the computer allows me to add doodles whenever I need a brain-break! I also use washi tape on the tops or sides of some pages to mark things that I reference a lot (like my notes on my content survey).
Why I Love it:
This system of a planner and an empty notebook works very well for my blog organization because it allows me the freedom to keep track of any and all thoughts, but also gives me a structured area to plan out content. I have plenty of lists of ideas and notes that I can easily look back to, yet when I open my actual planner I do not feel overwhelmed. I especially recommend planning out content with the system of a 90-day plan.
Though I was not originally on board with a 90-day plan (I was unsure of what I wanted my business to look like) it is a crucial part of organization. Being able to sit down each month and plan out the next one relieves a lot of stress, and allows me to make the message of my blog stronger.
Finding Time for Faith
You may be wondering how I “pencil in” some Jesus time in all of this. Well, I am currently using a system called a “war binder” for my faith journaling (I will be doing an in-depth post on what this looks like very soon)! The thing is, you should not be working God into your schedule. Rather, you should be working your schedule around God. Make your faith time non-negotiable. Go to church on Sundays, start every day with Christ, do some ministry. I know it is not easy, but without this outlook, there will never be time for Him.
I find that I can always think of a “reason” (excuse) that I do not have time to study the bible, go to youth group, etc. so I have to just keep pushing past those excuses. Are you making excuses in your life? Try writing God into your planner, even if it is just small chunks of time. Then, remember that these are very important meetings and you absolutely cannot miss them. (I know this is easier said than done, but just give it a shot!)
Keep an eye out for my post about my war binder to learn more about how I make time for Christ.
Final Organization Tips
I know that this has been a lot of information and you are eager to start writing in your planner, so here are some final organization tips!
- Lists, lists, lists. I cannot emphasize this enough: lists are a huge stress relief. Writing down all of the ideas and tasks floating around in your head will make them more manageable and give you a much needed break. Make to-do lists, goal lists, and any other lists you need!
- Always make time for friends in need. I have had this sort of unspoken rule for myself since starting college. If a friend comes to me in need, I will not turn them away and tell them that I need to do homework. Unless they are coming just to chat for no real reason, I will stop what I am doing and make time for them. There will always be homework, and I can find another time to do it, but sometimes people come to you and they need you to be there for them right there in that moment. This is one of the huge advantages of being about a week ahead in your work, you can be available to friends when they need you.
- Find what works for you. As I said in the beginning, there is no one system that will work for everyone. This is what I use, and it may be very helpful to you, but to get the most out of it you will have to adjust to your likes and dislikes! Be you, and do not stress about making everything look perfect!
If you are anything like me, you are probably dying to find some new stationary and start organizing your life! Here are some places that you can find great (and cute) products to get you started!
The Daily Grace Co: Tons of beautiful planners, highlighters, notebooks, bible studies, mugs, etc!
Paper Source: A wonderful dream land of stationary and fun stuff (really)
Dayspring: Dayspring has a ton of Christian products, but they have a special section for office supplies that would be a great place to find your dream planner and favorite pens.