Starting a new semester is a great time to set new intentions for yourself. Many students like myself, at times, find it difficult to concentrate, organize, and motivate themselves.
Our fellow student Beatrice shared her thoughts on how to be more organized.
How would you define a healthy balance in life?
I think the best indicator for me when I’m doing a good job at staying balanced is just like how I feel at the end of the day. When I sit down and I’m journaling and I think about how the day went, if, as I said, feel good, not exhausted…
Because for me, something like watching TV, for example, is super relaxing. But if I’m just on the couch watching TV all day long, then I don’t feel good at the end of the day. But if I had a day where I got some work done, but I also saw some friends and I got outside, and I did watch a little bit of TV, like, that just leaves me feeling so happy at the end of the day.
So that’s my self-test for knowing that I’m in a good balance.
Do you like the idea of New Year’s resolutions?
It’s not something that I do. It doesn’t work for me.
I’m totally for using the energy of the New Year to motivate you because I know some people are like, “Oh, like, New Year’s doesn’t matter, it should be just like any other day.” Like, you grab every day of the year, not just on New Year’s.
But I don’t like that perspective either, because I think there is some magic around New Year’s that it’s nice to take advantage of and everyone around you is motivated at the same time.
Personally, though, I like to think in terms of, like, a few months at a time, especially now in college. I feel like it’s very unpredictable. You don’t know where you’re going to be.
So for me, I like to just look at maybe three months and see what I want to accomplish then.
For those who need to be more organized this year, what are your tips?
Well, I have some on my YouTube channel there.
My favorite thing I would say is having a calendar. Like, I live and die by my calendar.
For me, it’s just really important to get everything out of my head and onto paper. I think that’s the most important thing because I get overwhelmed when a lot is going on and I feel like I can’t keep track of it all in my head. And so the way that I get it out there and manage it all is to start the week writing down everything that I have to do and then literally scheduling it out on my calendar so that I know exactly when it’s going to get done.
I also really like to use the Pomodoro technique, which is where you work for 25 minutes, and then you set a timer for five minutes and you take a break and you just alternate those. And that also has to do with keeping my mind clear, because when I set that 25 minutes timer, I know that, “Okay, these 25 minutes are only for this one task and nothing else that might be on my mind.” I can safely just set it aside for now because it’s not the focus.
I also love the stickies app that they have on Mac. I have stickies all over my screen, but any piece of paper or, like, a notebook works. But I just like having a brain dump place where anything that pops into my head during the day, could be something that I need to do or something that I need to buy, or just like a movie someone recommends to me. Like, anything. I want to make sure that it’s out of my head and written down somewhere as soon as possible. So just having, like, one catch-all place for all of those things.
How do you find the motivation to be productive?
I think it ties back into that first question. When I’m doing all this and I’m keeping up with it, I feel that balanced feeling and it’s just the satisfaction at the end of the day, it gives you some momentum to keep it going. And of course, I don’t believe that you need to be perfectly following your routines every single day and optimizing everything that you do, but just like, keeping a sort of like a minimum of habits and routines that, you know, you need to feel good.
If you do that one day, then you feel really good and accomplished and that motivates you to do it the next morning. You keep it going like that.
The hard part is when you fall off of it for whatever reason, like mental health, or if you’re traveling, like anything that just interrupts the way that you’re normally doing things, then it gets harder to get back onto it. But that’s where a little bit of self-discipline and just pushing yourself comes in because then you know that once you get started, it’ll be easier
Do you have any other researchers or authors associated with this field you would like to recommend?
I like the books of Cal Newport. I think his two most famous books are Digital Minimalism and Deep Work. So I think both of these do a really good job of explaining how important it is to have time in your day when you’re not distracted by everything that’s coming at you. And that ties into me using the Pomodoro technique and being committed to working for 25 minutes and not doing anything else. So I like his books.
And then a lot of people watch Matt D’Avella. I haven’t seen many of his videos, but he talks a lot about this sort of, like habits kind of stuff and challenges that you set for yourself and stuff like that.
But honestly, at the end of the day, I think there can be such a thing as it’s great exploring personal growth, content, and all that, but I think there is a limit to it where you can just, I don’t know, like, immerse yourself too much in that world and then all you’re thinking about is optimizing and doing everything perfectly.
At the end of the day, you just have to be like: “It’s okay. I just have to find what works for me. I don’t need to follow all these techniques that people are writing about.” So it’s a balance. You get some idea that works for you, but like at a certain point, you just need to focus on your own life and what works for you.
I was going to ask you, as someone who has a very successful YouTube channel and on top of that you’re still studying in college, how do you find that mysterious time that people seem to not be able to find?
I think that first of all, there’s a question of maximizing your time and I think all the techniques that I talked about are how I do that. So for example, when I block out my calendar, that’s sort of a way of making sure that I get everything done in an efficient and timely way. Because, for example, if I have a homework assignment and I know that it will take me about 2 hours I schedule 2 hours into my calendar.
Something that I’ve been thinking more about lately is not having too high of expectations for yourself. Okay? So like, the agency that I work with for YouTube has this person who works for them that does wellness. Their job is basically to make sure all the creators are doing okay. So I had a call with him yesterday and I was talking about how back when I was taking my two gap years I was putting out so much content: a video, a podcast, and a newsletter, every single week, and posting on Instagram. And when I started university I just thought I could still keep up that kind of schedule and I could not. That was insane! And so that led to me needing to take a break.
It was frustrating; I struggled with my mental health that semester. And now that I’ve kind of returned to content creation, I was telling him how I’m struggling to find the rhythm again of content creation that works for me, and he was telling me that I just need to lower the bar for myself so that I can meet it more consistently. And that made so much sense to me because the thing is, if I accept and expect myself to be making tons of content, inevitably it’s not going to work!
But I think it’s good to just sit down and ask yourself, like, “What’s the easiest, most minimal version of this that I could do and try to do it that way?” I’ve applied it in other areas of my life. I remember at the start of the school year, I was trying to get back into an exercise habit. And so what I told myself was like, my goal is six days a week, but it doesn’t matter how short it is, it could be five to ten minutes, but as long as I do that, I will count it as done. And that was so effective for me because I was able to keep up with it for weeks and weeks, whereas if I had told myself, “oh, every day it has to be like 45 minutes,” that would have ended so soon and I would not have been able to do that! And so the results were way better because my goal was so, so easy to achieve.
This year being organized might not be as difficult as it seems, understanding what balance looks like for you seems to be the initial step. On the other hand, if you are struggling with mental health please reach out to services such as IE counseling, or their partnership with SINEWS for some sessions of cost-covered IE therapy that may help you.