A new semester!

I thought that since the new semester starts this week, I’d go through what I do to get ready for a semester!

1. Update my planner (this works the same way for a paper planner, but I use my iPad now, so that’s what I’ll be showing in the pictures)

At the start of the year, I mark the weeks of each semester as per the academic calendar from my uni:20140716-214704-78424414.jpg

Then, I put in my lecture & tutorial times in all the weeks of the semester (this is where an electronic calendar is really easy – you just tell the events to repeat for however many weeks you need them to!). Also mark in any set work shifts you might have, or mark in “work days” if you give your availability to your boss for casual shifts. (I don’t work, thanks to my awesome Hubby who works his butt off so I can concentrate on uni.)20140716-214731-78451419.jpg

Next, I go through and roughly mark in the times that I want to set aside for study and chores. I have these things finishing at 6pm, as this is when Hubby generally gets home from work. I leave Sunday free, so I can allocate it as needed – be it more chores time, more study time, or just “me” time.20140716-214753-78473906.jpg

Finally, exercise and social stuff gets marked in. I only have a few things that happen every week, and the above set-up of having my other stuff ‘finish’ at 6pm works for my social life too, as the majority of my friends have jobs or study that keeps them busy during the day, so we tend to have dinner catch-ups or wine-and-cheese nights. Yoga helps with my joint & muscle pain, so I try to do that as often as possible during the week, even if it’s only 10 or 15mins.20140717-203645-74205645.jpg

2. Due Dates

After I’ve done the calendar, I get all my Unit Information documents that they give us at the start of semester. These include the due dates for all our assignments & the required readings for each week of lectures. I put all of this info into an excel spreadsheet that I can stick on my wall, so I can SEE what is due when. This is my list of the “Big Things” – so the bits of the list will generally be “4/8 – *Unit code* – Reading – “Chapter 1 (textbook)” or similar. I put what % an exam or assignment is worth as well. I’ve saved a template in excel so I can just open a new one each semester, rather than having to start from scratch every semester (this saves me a good amount of time). I also colour-code each subject in this list, to match both the notebook colour in Notability and the colour of the corresponding to-do list.

Once this is done, I break down these things into smaller bits to put into my to-do lists on my iPad. So “Psychopathology Lab Report” would get broken down into to-do items for Research, Organise notes, Write Intro/Method/etc. Readings get broken down into “read chapter”, “do chapter exercises”, and “chapter # – cornell notes”. This makes it a bit easier to allocate my items when I plan my days. I also put in a to-do for revising my most recent lecture notes, which I try to do within 24hrs of the lecture.

I have no pictures for this section yet, as I’m still waiting on the Unit Info document for a couple of subjects and I don’t like to show incomplete things 🙂 This step may seem like I’m double-handling, but I like having the two different levels (general and specific) set up in this way, because I use the big one on my wall to see generally how I’m keeping up with the content for the semester, and the specific lists on my iPad make sure I’m allowing enough time to do everything.

3. Supplies

I go through everything from last semester and work out what can be reused & what needs replacing. I generally use the same notebooks for two semesters – I’ll get a multi-subject notebook at the start of the year, then at the start of second semester I’ll go through and pull out the used pages and see what I’m left with. Generally, I’ve used half the book at most and can use the same book again. We also use manilla envelopes to submit assignments, and we get those back, so I’ve been reusing the same folders for 3 years now. They look a little worse for wear, but so what? The markers don’t care what the folder looks like, only how we present the actual assignment that’s inside it.

I go through and test all my highlighters and pens, if any are dead they get chucked and replaced, usually from my ‘spare supplies’. I’ve always got spares – I buy huge bulk packs of pens and highlighters at the start of each year, and I usually have a few left at the end of each year to bolster the following year’s supplies. Sticky notes also, I get a huge pack at the start of the year and have actually gotten to the point where I didn’t have to buy any this year because of my massive accumulation.

The pens & books thing may change from this semester onwards, as I started using my iPad more heavily for uni work and I barely touched the notebook I was re-using from last year, but I’ll keep using sticky notes in my textbooks.

Check the bag you use to carry your stuff to uni – if it’s broken at all, either get it fixed or buy a new one (whichever is more cost-effective). Often, if a seam has split or a strap has pulled off, it can be fixed at one of those keycutter/shoe guys for rather cheap (or do it yourself, if you have the gear to do it). If a zip is completely stuffed though, it’s usually better to just get a new bag.

4. Transport

Work out how you will be getting to college/work/etc, and make sure this is all good to go. If you own a car, make sure it’s in good running order – service, tyres, rego, insurance. For public transport, make sure your concession cards are current, that your transport card (if your city does that) is topped up and working properly. Last thing you want on the first day back is to get stuck because your car breaks down or transport card isn’t working.

5. Food

Plan some ‘go-to’ lunch and snack foods that you can have always in the cupboard/fridge so that you’ve always got stuff you can grab and toss together to make a healthy lunch for days that you’re out of the house. If you can’t think of anything, google it! There’s heaps of sites out there with great ideas for cheap and healthy snacks and easy meals. Pinterest is also overflowing with ideas.

Also, work out a few recipes you can cook from pantry/freezer-only ingredients, and always have these things in your pantry. That way, if you ever get stuck with a tiny food budget for whatever reason, you won’t be eating ramen for a month.

6. Budget

Work out how much you’ll have coming in each week/month, and set yourself a budget. Always budget a little bit of ‘freedom money’, because you need a little slack otherwise you’ll crack from the stress of watching every cent!

Work out what your bills will cost, and set up a separate account for bill money (if you haven’t already done that). As soon as your pay comes in, move the ‘bills’ money into that account, so that you can’t accidentally spend it. If it helps, get the amount that you’ve budgeted for food shopping out in cash and ONLY use that. I would recommend the same thing for your ‘freedom money’, because then it’s easy to see how much you have left. Include big bills that are coming up and break them up into smaller weekly/fortnightly/monthly amounts, so that you’ll definitely have the money available when the bill comes due and won’t have to eat ramen for a month to pay for it (also refer to #4).

7. Remember why you’re here

Remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Because after a while, it can be really hard to see where you’re going, or if you’re ever going to get there. Stick some motivational quotes around – not necessarily stereotypical ones, pick ones that speak to you (I’ve got one that says “hundreds of idiots graduate from college every year – so you can too”). Write your goals somewhere that you can see them. Reward yourself when you achieve something – like if you’re aiming to get all As in your courses and you get an A on the assignment – celebrate that! Go for coffee, give yourself a facial/manicure, get a new book, anything! And WRITE DOWN what you are achieving in a journal or something – that way, when you are feeling down or like you’ll never get there, you can look back over what you’ve already achieved.


I hope other people find these useful!

What do you guys to do get ready for a new semester/year?



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