A Complete Guide to Getting Your Life Together at the Beginning of the Semester

First and foremost, know that all of this cannot be done in one day.  You should spread it out over the course of a week or two; make plans and stick to them.  Commit to getting your life together.  The messy, train wreck days are over.  Now, you have the motivation, but where do you start?  It is simplest to divide the daunting task of getting your life together into smaller, manageable areas and tasks, as I have done below.

Set your priorities

Sit down and write out all of your goals.  Write out what bothers you about your current lifestyle, what you want to change, your motivation, what will challenge you, strategies you have found that work for you, things you want to try—everything.  It’s okay if this part is messy.  Part of getting your life together is learning that not everything has to be perfect.  The idea is to get things done rather than sit in the anxiety of what could be and what could go wrong.

Divide the changes you want to make in your life into related categories.  For this, I created the categories of body, mind, environment, relationships, and other.  You can use the same categories or different ones; whatever you prefer.  The key is flexibility and knowing what will work for you.  Getting your life together is a process and looks different for everyone.  There is no one-way of an organized life.

Choose what is most important for you out of these categories and focus on this first.  Implement a routine solely surrounding this category before you move on to another; if you try to take on everything at once, you will feel overwhelmed and lost.  Set attainable goals in each of your categories and take small steps everyday toward them.

In the following sections, I am going to detail my plans for each of the categories I laid out for myself.  You can adjust anything where needed to have a plan structured for your goals.

Mind

In this category, I included overall mental well-being and schoolwork.  I find that I must be mentally content to be able to accomplish anything else.  The first step is to get organized.  I purchased a bullet journal and filled it out.  Bullet journals provide complete freedom of design, but also take longer to setup.  A planner is a great organizational tool as well.  You can also organize digitally with google calendars.  If you prefer writing a to-do list, I suggest using the OmniFocus app.

I listed out all of my assignments, exams, and readings for the month.  The key here is that I organized them by date rather than by due date.  This visually forces me to be ahead of schedule in my classes, rather than reading everything the day of right before class.  If you sit down and plan out your weekends and evenings, you have clear goals rather than randomly picking one assignment and spending the rest of the night watching Star Wars.

Next, I added things that help me clear my mind and work toward goals I have outside of my classes: meditate daily, write daily, read one book a month, study one hour for Arabic and one hour for the LSAT rotating every other day.  I track these habits in my bullet journal, which motivates me to complete them.

Another thing I grouped in the mind category was my relationship to my phone and social media.  I downloaded the Forest app to stay focused while studying and completing other tasks.  (I’m even using it while writing this.)  I went through all of my social media accounts, unfollowed people, pages, tags, etc. that are not relevant to me anymore, and evaluated if the site was necessary or valuable for me to check daily.  If it was not, I deleted the app from my phone.

Lastly, I started a gratitude log to promote a positive headspace.

Environment

This category involved cleaning and organizing my surroundings.  The sheer amount of stuff around me can clog up my thoughts and flare up my anxiety.  I wrote down daily tasks to maintain my living space: clean for 15 minutes, wash dishes, make bed.  I also wrote down regular tasks such as laundry, cleaning surfaces such as in the kitchen and bathroom, and organizing my desk and dresser.  I set these tasks on a rotating schedule along with any other cleaning tasks that occurred to me.

Another part of environment is preparations for the following day.  I include any tasks that I have to do before the next day in the previous day’s task list.  For example, this can include: prepare food, choose clothing, pack bag, and take out the trash.  This section is task-heavy as most things related to having a clean environment are maintaining it.

I wrote a longer list of deep-clean areas and placed them in my schedule one area at a time where I have extra room.  This included tasks like: get rid of old clothing, clean out desk drawers, scrub the bathtub, sort books, etc.  Reducing the amount of stuff that’s just sitting around also reduces anxiety levels.  Having a messy room or living area is like staring at a giant to-do list all day; it makes you tense and discourages your productivity.

Body

For this category, I wrote down all of my goals and things I often forget to do to maintain my physical health.  Simple things such as taking vitamins, taking birth control on time, hydrating the proper amount (this can vary based on weight and activity level), eating vegetable- and fruit-inclusive meals, cooking at home and stretching.  I set the larger goal to go to the gym twice a week.

For meals, I collected a bunch of recipes I would like to try and set a schedule of when to buy groceries.  I also started a log of how my system reacts to different foods—energy levels, nausea, bloating, etc.

A final part of this category is your sleep cycle.  I use the Sleep Cycle app to find my perfect amount of sleep.  I applied this and set my sleeping time from 12AM to 7-8AM.  To keep with this schedule, I write down a detailed morning routine each night so that there are minimal decisions I have to make in the morning.  This keeps my head clear and gives me more energy to complete tasks later in the day.

Relationships

I took time to reflect on who it is that really matters to me, how often I contact them and why we don’t talk as often as I would like if that is the case.  This also led me to reconsider my obligations to different clubs, the leadership positions I was taking on and how much I could realistically handle.  I made a point to make plans with the people that I don’t see as often as I wish or reconnect with them.

Other

This, for me, was largely financial.  I sat down and looked at my monthly income and outcome, and where I could cut spending.  I wrote down goals of things I want to save for, like going to my friend’s graduation in May.  I also started a tracker of days that I don’t spend, which is encouraging to cut down on impulse buying.

Photo Credit: Owned by the author