Preparing the new year (I): Organizing your Life

Hello, painters, and welcome to another Tuesday post by yours truly.

Since September has started in all its glory (it’s my favorite month, and not just because my birthday’s in it 😉 ), I thought I would share the preparations I’ve been going through to get everything sorted and ready for the new college year ahead. After all, it’s the equivalent of work to me, and I want everything to go as smoothly and relaxed as possible, so I can really focus and give it my all. I love Psychology and I definitely want to keep doing a good job – and that’s why organizing my life to be ready for classes is important.

You may have similar motivations in your life too, but not know how to start going about it: organize what and with what time??? That’s where this post comes in, dear painters! Plus it features some of the goodies I’ve been buying and loving, to help get you inspired!

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Left to right: organization pouch; new purple notebook; 2015/2016 planner and post-it notes.

1) Supplies and materials

This means notebooks, pens, post-it notes, highlighters and all the supplies you usually need for your classes or work. Figure out what you still have that you can use and what you need to buy. If you have a binder, for example, clean out last year’s notes and documents and place the names of your new subjects in the dividers. Figure out a specific place for each subject so you don’t get everything mixed and messy. Dividing a notebook and labeling each space by subject or color coding the subjects’ titles in your notes are some good ideas on how to do that.

This year: I decided to buy a purple A5 notebook and divide it by subjects. I used to write on random A4 sheets, but I feel like this will be more organized, accessible and easy to carry. I’m also going to keep using OneNote to write up my notes on the computer, since it’s super organized and helpful, because you can share it easily with other people and it syncs automatically between devices.

2) Workspace

You’ll need a space where you can focus and get your work done – no, the couch isn’t a very good idea 😉 You probably already have a desk, just make sure it’s clean and organized. I would recommend also having a few drawers where you can store your supplies, your notebooks, books and notes. If you’ve already been using those, clear them out from last year’s things and find a place for all of the new stuff you’ll have this year.

This year: I bought a new desk pad that was on discount, since it was pretty and my desk’s already a bit scratched. I also reorganized my other desk (yes, I have two) a while ago, using a shoe box to create a storage space for cables and a small tray (with the lid) for those random, small office supplies. Let me know if you’d like to know more about those DIYs in the comments.

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My renewed task board and the new butterfly desk pad, along with my large laptop (yes, that’s a photo of the Gryffindor common room).

3) Organizing tools

Organizing tools are the things you’d use to help you get organized over time, and by that I mean things like planners, calendars, organizing boards… These systems are really personal and work differently for everyone, so test out a few different things if you don’t already have an idea of what you’d like. You can have everything from daily to-do lists, to journals, to more visual organization tools like boards. You just have to get creative and look it up on the internet!

This year: I updated my task board (the one I’ve shared with you here) to add more space for college life and take out some parts I didn’t need anymore. I also bought a new planner for 2015/2016, despite having a really hard time finding what I wanted. I almost made my own out of free internet printables, but I ended up buying that pink one with golden butterflies (notice the butterfly theme? Totally not on purpose!) from Fnac. Now, I’m thinking about getting some stickers from eBay to help me decorate and make my organization skills a bit more visual.

4) Computers and other electronics

Electronic devices are now a constant part of our lives, and like everything else, they too need some organizing! Here’s a great post Ângela wrote about organizing your digital life a while ago. It’s such great advice  I really don’t have much to add, besides once again recommending you install and use OneNote for your virtual notebooks. Also Dropbox is a great tool if you have several devices and want to sync documents between them (just make sure you don’t have it initiating along with your computer, or it will really slow down its start up time). Investing in a cooling tray or some fans is also great to get your computer to run more smoothly and chill – literally!

This year: I’m thinking about taking my two laptops (I have my big one, that I normally use, and a smaller one to take to class) to a shop so they can optimize their performance, but I’m not sure yet. Getting them professionally cleaned (the hardware part) once in a while is a very good idea, though!

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Detail of a little customization I did to my organizing pouch’s zipper pulls. Owl charms are the cutest!

5) Methods and goals

Organizing isn’t all about physical things – you need the mindset to go along with it. Take some time to meditate on what you want out of this new year and what your priorities should be. Do you want to learn how to work better in a team? Do you want to improve your academic average? Do you want to add some more concrete and specific skills to your curriculum? Do you just want to have a lighter year and focus more on the social and emotional part?

Think about what has worked best and worst for you in the past and figure out how knowing yourself, your limits and stronger features can help you this time around. Then set your priority and/or goal list and try to think about the best methods to get there. Be flexible during the year, but don’t lose track of what you really want – it will pay off once you get there!

This year: I’m going to be more intentional with my note-taking method. I’ve decided to keep taking my own notes in class throughout the entire semester (I usually get older students’ notes compendiums a few weeks in and start taking notes there) and then taking the extra time at home to study by comparing them to my chosen compendium and typing them up on the computer. I’ve realized my note-taking skills are rather good and that taking them during classes is better for me, because it helps me to focus and remember the class. Knowing I’ll have an extra support like a compendium later is helpful, though, so I won’t be worried about writing down every single thing (that can really harm your note-taking, you can read more about it in this fantastic article at lifehack.org).

I’ve also set up a few priorities and goals, like creating a habit of meditating daily; studying more throughout the semester; and trying out a new work project with a colleague of mine and see how we do with it. It’s going to be a lot of responsibility put together, and that’s why I know being organized is the best way to keep me focused and productive.

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A look into the inside of the purple pouch – and, yes, I’m terribly in love with it!

Bonus: Shopping Spree

There’s also another small trick you can use to get excited both with organization and the new year, and that’s very simply put: shopping! Now, you should be leveled-headed and only buy what you really need, but having some cute post-it notes or a new pouch or bag can give you that breath of fresh air you may need to get off on the right foot.

This year, I bought: a purple organization pouch, where I can store all my supplies, random notes and documents, electronics (like my mp3 player), my (newly bought) notebook, my (newly bought) planner and my (already owned) small, silver notebook; a light pink pouch from H&M, to store my hygiene products, and their apple and vanilla lip balm (it’s so huge it might last the entire Winter, plus it smells like heaven!).

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H&M’s goodies, aren’t they beautiful?

And that’s enough for today! Did you enjoy these tips? Tune in next week for Preparing the new year, Part II. Hint: it’ll be in the fashion category 😉

Stay awesome,

Sofia

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