I feel pretty safe saying that I am the queen of busy schedules. So much so that even though it stresses me out more than almost anything, I thrive when I’m busy.
All of last semester was spent dancing between classes, my works study, meeting after meeting, events for Phi Sig, and endless papers. I never stopped. Even when I had free time I was still working on something.
I felt most days like I was drowning under all of my responsibilities. My schedule was the ocean and I was definitely not winning against it. I may have possibly lost my sanity a couple of time (or permanently, I’m still not sure on that one).
I had a lot of tearful and frustrated phone conversations with my mom about how busy I was all the time. I felt overwhelmed, to say the least. Being 200 miles away, what can you really say to your kid but to tell them to “prioritize” to which I would protest, “I’ve done that, everything is equally important.” I didn’t quite know how to cope, it was a really rough semester that I’m honestly still recovering from despite being only two weeks away from the start of fall classes.
I learned pretty quickly that I needed to get it together, despite already doing everything I could think of to handle my day to day schedule and never ending to do list. Even this summer, I’ve learned a few things and grabbed a few items that have helped me tremendously!
So, how do I manage my busy schedule?
- Buy a planner. It doesn’t matter whether it cost you $5 at Target or you spend $40, it works the same. Carry it with you everywhere- I mean everywhere. Use it like your own personal, customizable bible. You’ll never have an excuse to say you don’t know when something is/when it’s due. If you use it right, your entire life will be in one little book.
- Write down every single task. Even if it means you’re writing down a reminder to eat your lunch and take a shower. No matter how big or how small, write down everything that you need to do in a day, in a week, in a month. Put it all in one place. You’ll thank me for this later.
- Make plans and stick to them. This is part of having that planner of yours. Plan out your week during the weekends. See what needs done, plan out time to do as much as you can, then do it. If you said you were going to study Thursday night for your test Monday, do it, even if that means you don’t get to watch Grey’s Anatomy or if you have to hear your friends talk all about their “super fun” Thursday night. Sticking to your guns is important in all areas of your life- especially when it comes to your education.
- Buy some sticky notes. I swear by this. I have at least 10 different packs and I use them all the time. Any little thing that pops in my head gets written down on a sticky note that either goes in my planner, on my desk, or all over my notebooks. It ends up looking like a mess but I swear its organized chaos.
- Color code your notes, your planner, random to do lists. Specify a color for each class, each activity, whatever it is that will make sense to you. It makes finding things easier.
- Don’t just put things in your planner, make to do lists. Make one for every day. Make one for every assignment. Put them somewhere you can see them easily. (Helpful hint: Michael’s sells cute little booklets of pages upon pages of blank to do lists. I just bought two and I’m obsessed.)
- Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. You may be like me and feel like every single assignment and class is equally important, but you know what needs done first. I recommend that if you have an easy assignment due in two weeks and a really difficult, in depth assignment in a month, start the harder one first. Work on it little by little and then start on your easier assignment. Note- this is not me telling you to procrastinate! Just keep in mind what is worth the most amount of points, what is due sooner, and what requires more/the most work. Sorting it that way is helpful for me.
- Work on difficult and long term assignments for 5 or 10 minutes a day. Even if that means just re-reading your draft to check for inconsistencies or holes in information. This helped me immensely when I had a huge assignment that I spent over a month working on.
- Always have something with you that you can work on. You may have three meetings back to back and a class too but you may have even 5 minutes that you can look at one of your assignments. Heck, you could even spend that small amount of time looking through your planner making a game plan for later that day. In the evenings when I’d be running around like crazy, I’d have my laptop and planner with me so I could do one small thing with my extra time.
- Get enough sleep. Stay hydrated. Eat all three meals every day. Make time for yourself. I’m serious about that last one. Don’t pencil it into your schedule- use pen, use permanent marker. Don’t cancel whatever it is. Grab drinks with your girls, hit the gym, watch your favorite show, make a decent dinner for once. These little things keep you sane when all else seems to be exploding around you.
- Reevaluate your extra-curricular activitives. Your interests and goals change, that’s ok. You’re allowed to evolve and shift. If you hate a club you’re in, if it takes up too much of your time and you find yourself wishing you were somewhere else, don’t do it. I know sometimes that’s easier said than done but it’s necessary. I got to a point last semester where certain activities brought me joy and didn’t allow me anymore room to grow. Go where you want to be.
- Set small goals for yourself. This goes hand in hand with to-do lists. It feels AMAZING to look back after a period of time, however short or long that may be, and see that you did it. You did what you wanted to do and that’s amazing. Sometimes, I even write down every day things that are part of my routine just to make me feel like I’m accomplishing things. You got out of bed, fantastic! Cross it off your list and then keep going.
- Refuse to be defeated. I know the mind over matter mentality doesn’t always work, trust me, I get it. Anxiety and depression don’t always make this the easiest task. But I really did just have to tell myself that wallowing in a pool of sadness isn’t going to give me the momentum to succeed in the future. Don’t let the stress or the overwhelming feelings stick around for too long. Feel it, then let them go. Even if it means you have to say to yourself aloud- “you can do this” or “push through it” (or any other silly mantra) then do it.
There are so many ways to go about managing your busy life, but this is how I do it. Really, the best advice I can give is to take a deep breath and know that you’ve done it once and you can do it again. The semester may drag and may feel like it may take you down with it, but you’ll finish it out and be able to breathe easy again. Take it one day at a time.
What are some ways that you manage your busy schedule?