Bullet Journaling – Staying Organized Beautifully!

Anyone who knows me knows I love organization. I get excited about buying planners and stationary (I am indeed a nerd).  I know that other people do not find the same joy in planning. Warning: if you are that person, this article will be painfully boring for you.

Currently, I’m using four planners/calendars: Google calendar, a planner for recruiting, a planner for schoolwork, and a planner for my extracurricular activities.

Recently, I was introduced to something called bullet journaling.  It is “a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above.” I found this concept intriguing because I already keep a journal and a planner but not a combination of the two. I decided to try it out. Here are some examples of bullet journaling:

Image result for bullet journal

Discoveries:

  1. Bullet journaling is extremely time consuming. It is a sketchbook, planner, and journal all rolled into one…. which means it takes 3 x as much time as a regular planner if you want to make it pretty like the ones I found above. However, if you already do all of these three things separately, it may actually be a time saver because everything is in the same place.
  2. It is extremely helpful for habit tracking and goal-setting. I now have small and large goals set for myself in a week, month, and year that are carefully organized (they existed before, but  were kind of taped on sticky notes in various locations).
  3. Bullet Journaling is good for the individual that…
    • Has a prolific amount of to-do lists floating around
    • Like goal-setting and habit tracking
    • Enjoys handwriting things

I know that as the semester gets busier, I may not be able to keep up a bullet journal and may revert back to my prior planner/Google Calendar system. For now, it is a welcome form of goal setting and planning.  If you’re interested, here’s a helpful article from Buzzfeed to get you started.

Stress

The MPA program at the University of Texas is number one for a reason. The faculty is amazing. The research being done is innovative. And, the students are brilliant. But, sometimes being around such greatness can be a lot of pressure. The environment  is very competitive even with the comradeship fostered by both Longhorn and McCombs school spirit. Everyone around you worked hard to get to where they are and they continue to work hard to get to where they want to go. On top of all that, there’s an expectation of excellence within the MPA program. It didn’t reach #1 for nothing! While accepting the challenge will be great for any students future career, it can be stressful. I’m going to share some strategies I use to manage the stress.

stress-management-copy

Sleep
Every night I try and get the recommended 8 hours of sleep. I take this especially serious before I take exams. Some students will try to tell you they only need 4-6 hours of sleep and they feel alright. But, getting the doctor recommended amount of sleep not only keeps you sharp and focused, but also decreases your stress levels. Being tired can make you irritable and less ready to take on challenges during the day.  If you’re tired before all of your classes it’s going to be difficult to pay attention. This will eventually catch up to you when its time for exams.

Working Out
Working out has two benefits. If you do it regularly, it gives you more energy throughout the day. It can also serve as a great stress reliever on your most frustrating days. If there’s a big event coming up that I’m worried about, I’m more adamant about exercising. Working out burns some of the energy I would’ve put towards thinking about my anxieties.

Happiness Jar
This last tip is a bit corny, but it really works. I’m always looking for ways to optimize my performance. But, it can also lead to a lot of stress because of all of the pressure you are putting on yourself. In my apartment I have a mason jar that I call my “happiness jar.” At the end of everyday, I force myself to write down three to five positive things that happen to me. It reminds me to not only focus on the long term goals, but to enjoy the present.

Stress isn’t always negative. It’s a great motivator and is very helpful when solving difficult problems. But, it shouldn’t be a constant thing. So, next time you’re feeling stressed try one of my tips.

 

Learning

Like most good college students, I want good grades. A wise man once said, “pain is temporary, GPA is forever”.

This semester, I’m struggling. My grades aren’t bad but they aren’t where they’ve been in the past. I’m taking on more challenging classes, more hours, and more nonacademic responsibilities (Is this what being an adult feels like?). I’m used to being a 4.0 student, and this semester, I will no longer have this beautiful, perfect GPA unless some miracle happens(thanks, MPA). I am not meeting my own high expectations.

I spent the first half of this semester living in fear of these grades and numbers ruining my life (My internal thoughts: Oh no! No one will ever hire me because I didn’t make all A’s.  What if I ACTUALLY “fail” and get kicked out of iMPA? Then no one will hire me. I’ll have to live in my parents’ basement ).

All of this fear mongering, courtesy of my own brain, made me  forget why I was taking these classes in the first place. To learn.

My dad is a professor, and he’s always harped that the reason why we get an education is to… well, be educated. The reason I’m taking all these classes isn’t so I accumulate a number that defines who I am. The reason I’m taking these classes is so that I learn valuable skills that I can apply in the future. I need to remember that I actually enjoy this stuff.

Ever since this epiphany, I have been trying to ignore the grade and focus more on learning and retaining the knowledge I’m receiving. I’m going to need it. So far, it has made my experience much more enjoyable and much less stressful. Hopefully, the good grades will just follow. If not, that’s okay. I will die happy knowing that I learned the necessary skills I need to succeed in the future.

A wise woman (me) once said, “GPA is temporary, learning is forever”.

Say Cheese

Photography Part Two

camera

I’m excited to say my trip to Precision Camera was a success. After two visits, I left with a brand new Sony a6000 camera. Its been about two weeks and I absolutely love it. It was great to have a quality camera to take pictures with for Halloween.

Photography is interesting because the more you get into it the more you realize how challenging the craft is. Every time I’ve been out to shoot I learn something new about my camera. High-powered cameras have so many features built into them its crazy. Personally I hate reading instruction manuals, so I’ve been learning about my device through trial and error. I also think one of the best ways to learn is by observing others. A few of the times I’ve been out with my camera my photography friends have been with me. I always ask for feedback on the photos I’m taking. Having a second opinion always helps. People always notice things I would never think about. It’s also cool to go out and shoot with them because they’re great at finding cool spots to take pictures.

Trying to find the perfect spot for photos is one of the hardest parts of photography. A place my be aesthetically pleasing in person but show up terribly in photos. A lot of this has to do with lighting. Natural light provides the perfecting illumination for eye-catching photos. But, depending on the time of day natural light can make your photo look very different. Luckily I’ve been getting a lot of practice playing with different lighting lately. Because we’re seniors many of my friends and I are trying to cross things off of our Austin bucket list. Going to all of the cool places Austin has to offer has given me a chance to capture some amazing photos. Investing in a camera has not only allowed me to capture memories, but it also has given me a new challenge. I hope to continue to get better at photography. If I keep improving, I might even submit a photo for the MPA Photo Contest: Around UT in 20 days.

Your Professors Are Your Greatest Asset

I must confess that by the end of my freshman year I had neglected to attend any of my professors’ office hours.

Fast forward to my Junior year, and I am wise enough to now frequent office hours. On the other hand, many of my friends mention they have yet to see their professor outside the classroom and the majority of students do not attend their professors’ office hours, even by their third or fourth year at the university. As classes become more challenging, there is a newfound appeal to finding a way to get that “A” through some sort of shortcut. Although there are no shortcuts to doing well in school, there are effective methods all successful students share. I would say that attending office hours is by far the most important step to take if you are wanting to make an “A” in any course.

office hours

The Top Four Reasons Why You Should Go To Office Hours:

  1. Your professor will no longer need your nameplate to know your name.  Unless you can name every person you have ever had a class with at UT, you probably should not expect your professor to remember your name. Once you start attending office hours, your professor will learn your name and this will help you establish a relationship.
  2. Just because they work at a university does not mean they are not business professionals! Your professors most likely got their positions because they excelled in their respective fields. If you feel stuck in your internship search, or even in determining what MPA track is best for you, your professors will likely have some unique insight. They can use your academic performance to identify your skill-set strengths and weaknesses and illuminate some prospective fields you may not have even considered.
  3. You will be more motivated to excel inside and outside the classroom. For most of us, having an attractive GPA is what pushes us to study for that “A”. We care about the information we learn and we want our grades to reflect that. The pressure to get an “A” can be very stressful and it is easy to lose faith if you bomb your first exam. At this point, it is crucial to talk to your professor. Your professors will identify ways for you to improve your performance and will not judge a low exam grade. Once you make this a pattern, you will be more motivated to do well in your class because you will feel not only a responsibility to yourself, but to your professor, too.
  4. Your professors are your greatest cheerleaders. No one wants to see you succeed more than your professor. It does not matter whether you would define “succeeding” as finishing the class with a high “A” or passing with a “C”. There is a reason why professors choose their current positions: they actually enjoy helping students learn! Let them help you and do not be afraid to ask questions.Your professors want to help you get to where you want to be.

Going to office hours may seem intimidating at first, but taking the time to attend them is a decision you will not regret. Even if you feel completely lost and embarrassed to ask questions, your professor will be happy you are reaching out and will help you get back on your feet. As you continue to attend office hours, you will be more inspired to succeed and, as a result, you will be a stronger, more confident student. At McCombs, we are lucky to have the faculty we have, so be sure to take advantage while you can!

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