I predicted this semester would be the craziest yet, and here I am, less than four weeks in, already feeling the pressure. Over Christmas break, I sat down for the better part of a day and created a master schedule + two meal plans (one for breakfast + lunch for me, one for dinner for both of us). I also ordered a planner and bought a project organizer notebook. These things have been lifesavers to me as I juggle twenty hours/week as a graduate assistant, three classes, freelance work, exercise, cooking/household stuff, and personal time. It’s a lot, but being organized helps. Last semester, I didn’t plan quite as well, and it showed. I’m hoping with all this planning, I can prevent myself from unraveling around midterms.
I’ll be posting the two meal plans soon. I sent them to my sister and was met with the response “Daaang lady!” Hopefully all the OCD I poured into them will be of help to someone else. Those of us who run ourselves ragged have to stick together.
Here’s a screen shot of my master schedule spreadsheet:
If you want a copy of this in .xls format to customize for yourself, I would love to email it to you. Leave a comment (or contact me here) and I will send it over!
To begin, I made a list of all the balls I wanted to keep rolling in the midst of the semester: exercise (run + yoga), freelance work, cooking dinner, and blogging. (That may not seem like much, but when your days are full of class, homework, and a graduate assistantship, it’s very easy to let everything else fall to the wayside.) Then I created a spreadsheet and played around with everything until it all fit — much like putting together a puzzle. The blank spaces are time for homework, household stuff, freelance, and personal time (seeing friends, spending time with Michael, blogging, mindless TV…you get the idea). One of my New Year Resolutions was to drink more water, so I threw that on there too.
This is my “master plan” — it’s pretty set in stone each week. Of course, the blogging is just a goal, and I don’t go to yoga 4x/week — that’s there to remind me to make it a couple of times per week if possible. I also move meals around depending on what I have to do that week, but it’s good to have a starting point.
Okay, now the fun part. I bought a new planner (this one, but I found it here on sale + free shipping!), a pack of InkJoy pens, and a $3 project organizer from Wal-Mart. (And some other stuff, because SCHOOL SUPPLIES, but let’s try to focus.)
The project organizer is a glorified notebook, but it’s the perfect size and the lines are numbered. Great for making daily to-do lists. The planner is amazing. I need to have monthly + weekly views, and this planner overachieves that by providing TWO monthly views + weekly views. Seriously, there is so much love in my heart for this planner.
Blurred because STALKERS. But stalkers can probably read blurry handwriting.
First, I went through the planner and wrote all the important dates in the monthly view(s): birthdays, semester start and end dates, deadlines, university holidays, etc. Now, once per weekend (usually on Sunday afternoon), I write in everything I need to do that week using my master planner as a guide and then filling in the gaps with whatever else I need to do (homework, freelance deadlines, appointments, etc). I use a different color for each compartment of my life: school, work, personal, household, etc. Makes it super easy to figure things out at a glance. Every night, I make myself a to-do list for the next day in my project organizer. I try to keep it to fewer than ten items; any more than that, and I get overwhelmed and know everything won’t get done, which is frustrating. Ten or fewer and I actually have a shot at crossing everything off the list. And let me tell you, NOTHING feels better than that.
Another lifesaver, other than the meal plans (which I will post soon), has been staying on top of chores + laundry. I force myself to pick up around the house before bed EVERY NIGHT (no matter how tired I am), put things away as soon as I’m done, and do laundry every couple of days instead of…never mind, I’m not ready to be that honest on the Internet. This way, even if the house isn’t spotless, everything is at least picked up and put away and there is clean laundry. Which makes home a peaceful place to be at the end of a long day.
How do YOU stay organized and motivated despite a crazy schedule? I’m always looking for new tips and tricks. If you see room for improvement, please let me know!