So I just ditched all the fancy productivity software, and bought myself a moleskine. I couldn’t be happier. It’s exactly the kind of notebook I’ve been looking for, and it completely lends itself to my personalized organization technique. I’ve definitely always been a stationary geek, and this is my favorite notebook I’ve ever purchased. I’m on Winter Break for school right now, so I’ve had a lot of free organizing time. Needless to say, I looked up some great moleskine hacks. Here’s some I found to be very useful, if anyone is interested:

Getting/Staying Organized: My Moleskine PDA from Creating Passionate Users

PigPog PDA’s Moleskine PDA

Create a Moleskine PDA: The Student GTD Hack from Gathering in Light

Simple Moleskine GTD for Students from David Giesberg Dot Com

Have fun 🙂

How to make your break productive

So, with midterms, term papers, and everything else, I forgot to update for a while. Right now my family, my brother’s friend and I are in the Poconos on vacation. After a not so great fall skiing last night, I’m stuck in the room while they are all in the indoor water park. Most breaks my school has are a time when people sleep late, go out every night, and forget about school. The problem with that is that when school goes back in session next week, most people will be exhausted and bogged down by the workload. Especially for me and most of my peers, a week from Saturday is the SAT. Here are some ways to make breaks more productive, and your return to school more pleasant:

1. Read. Anything. If you have a school reading assignment, read it. If not, read something. It doesn’t matter what it is, but reading will sharpen your mind while you are off from school. It will be 100 times easier to focus when you get back to school.

2. Make Lists. If you have work to do over the break, make a master list of everything that needs to get done. I’m a big advocate of putting everything on paper. Once you write it down, you’ll have a visual of what you need to do. Then you can:

3. Create a master schedule. Make a schedule, and add appointments, vacations, and hanging out with friends. Make time slots where you will do work, and stick to them. Don’t just write “Do work,” put a specific task such as “take notes on chapter 7 for history” or something like that.

4. Leave at least one lazy day. This will be a day free of school work. It’s vacation, so leave at least one day where you don’t do any work. Relax, unwind, sleep, and have fun.

5. Study. Force yourself to study what ever you did before break, so that when you come back, it’ll be fresh in your mind.

Follow these tips, have some fun, and when you get back to school you won’t have that feeling of unfocused chaos that most students have.

How I fell in Love with To Do Lists (and you can too!)

In my family, I have always been the unorganized one. At the start of the year, our school issues to each girl an academic planner. I was one of the kids who left it in my locker all year long and remembered my homework or wrote it on a sheet of loose leaf somewhere in my notes for each class. I have a good memory, and though I never forgot assignments, I was terrible at managing the time, because I never realized how much I had on my plate with nothing written down. I didn’t really understand the concept of to-do lists, but I knew my mom was a list person. She has a notebook that she keeps on the counter in the kitchen with shopping lists, lists of phone calls that need to be made, important deadlines for things, and doctor/dentist/haircut/whatever else appointments that need to be made for my siblings and me. I started to realize that she got things done so much more efficiently than I did. But I hated writing things down, because I would always forget, or I’d run out of room, or I just didn’t want to really see the workload I had because I thought it would be too stressful. But one week this year I had the week from hell: Monday, three tests, Tuesday, big paper due and a test, Wednesday, two tests and an in class essay, Thursday, giant physics lab due and two essays due, Friday, test. Add Chorus til 4 Monday and Wednesday, tutoring Wednesday night, SAT class Tuesday night, and work Thursday and Friday, and I seemed to have no room for all this studying, never mind homework.

It started innocently enough. I took a big post-it note and put it on my desk. I wrote down what tests I needed to study for, noting the date of each test. I then added another post-it, writing each paper and assignment for the week. I did something I’ve never done before – I took out my school-issued planner, and I opened to the week. I wrote out times when I would study, work on my essays, when I had activities, and when I would breathe. Each day that week, I put a new post it in my planner, writing only task I had to get done that exact day. I added times, and got through the week with ten times less stress than normal. Needless to say, my planner and post-it notes are now my best friends. Here’s my fool proof to-do list advice:

1. Write everything down. Everything. everything. If you don’t have a realistic view of how much you need to get done, you won’t be able to budget your time correctly. Write it all down throughout the school day. When you get home, you can sort out your list. For now, it’s about knowing everything you’re responsible for.

2. Pick out what needs to be done TODAY. Make a list of things you need to get done today. Use a post-it, a note card, a wipe board, a notebook, it doesn’t really matter. Just write only the things that have to be done today.

3. Prioritize. I never understood making prioritized lists. So I simplified the idea of a prioritized to-do list: Take your today list, and number it. Write 1. for the first thing you need to do, and keep numbering. If there are two things of equal importance, do the hardest thing first. you’ll thank yourself later.

4. Write Times. This is very important. Include extra-curricular activities such as chorus or track practice, and write times. This will show you exactly how much time you have to work with. Estimate how much time it will take for each task, and add on a little more time so you’re not rushing. write times for each task.

5. Congratulate yourself. When I finish something on my list, I cross it off and celebrate to myself. Nothing is more gratifying than seeing your list shrink task by task. Make a deal with yourself. Say you have ten tasks. After 5, go lie down for 20 minutes, or ride your bike, or call a friend. This will motivate you to get things done and not waste any time.

6. Smaller Lists. If you have a very large task, make another list. I recently had a term paper for British Literature class. I made a separate list called “TERM PAPER TO DO!” and I put smaller tasks such as “revise thesis statement,” “photocopy sources,” “edit grammar in opening,” and so on. any small task, I would put on my list, because it was something I needed to take time to do. Writing “term paper” on my main to do list isn’t very practical, as it takes many smaller tasks to do this large task.

I hope that my new found love of to-do lists will help someone else out there. They really do help increase productiveness and reduce a lot of stress!