Lost in a sea of everything

Note: For the last several months, I put my blog on hiatus because of a problem near and dear to every journalist: writer’s block. Originally my blog was conceived as a lifestyle blog centered on tips, tools and other thoughts and happenings that would be relevant to student. After taking some time off, I hope to be able to continue writing things relevant to the student body. If you have any suggestions about any topic you think I should talk about, email me at linda.nguyen@utdallas.edu.

I have an office supply problem. The first step is admitting it, right? I think ever since I began college, I wanted to find a system that worked for me, and every semester has been different.

One semester, I just wrote everything in one notebook; another semester, I took notes on unlined paper and sorted it all in a binder. Still another semester, I used a series of folders to organize the sheer number of handouts my professors were giving me. This past year especially, I’ve bought notebook after notebook. I’m not even kidding.

First it was the cute journals at target because I just wanted something I could carry in my purse that was easy to haul around with everything else. Then while I was in California, I came across the nerdiest notebooks with illustrations of anatomy on the front cover. The inside, the pages were divided into lined, blank and grid pages. I didn’t like that the pages were divided like that because it prevented me from being able to use the notebook forward to back without skipping pages without rendering the different types of pages useless. Then I switched to a disc notebook system, but then decided I didn’t like how bulky and weird and to a certain extent flimsy the notebook is. Finally I switched to smaller, dot grid journals that kind of give the best of all three worlds of blank, grid and lined paper because the dots are inconspicuous enough that you could draw figures without grid or lines getting in the way, but you can also use the grid markers for lines and grids if needed.

I’ve finally settled on dot grid notebooks as my “notebook peace,” but still sometimes run into the issue of wanting everything to look all nice and pretty, and well let’s face it, when you’re rapidly taking notes and jotting things down, you rarely have time to make them all nice and pretty. But it’s a work in progress, and I’m slowly figuring out what works for me (still, after being in school for 5+ years).

Now I have dozens of similar anecdotes for figuring out office supply peace with so many other things; the number of pens I have in my apartment would probably astound some people, and I’m still debating what kind of planner I’m going to order as we inch closer to planner companies launching their calendar year products.

It’s kind of a metaphor for your time in college (I do this a lot — relating things to life). You kind of also have to find a system that works for your time management. Are you the kind of person who works well waking up and having classes first thing in the morning? Or are you a night owl who prefers burning the midnight oil to complete projects and assignments? And, spoiler alert, your preferences are probably going to change as you go about your academic career. When I was a freshman, I was so envious of my friends who didn’t have to crawl out of bed until 10 a.m. or later for their first class, but now, I would vastly prefer those classes to the afternoon and evening classes that have filled the majority of my last two years. How do you like to spend your free time? Working out? Hanging out with friends? When do you enjoy doing those things? These are all question that you probably implicitly have asked yourself, but really thinking about it and figuring out what works best for you, is probably the best way to make effective use of time.

I used to brush off working out as something I just never had time to do. Maybe that was true. I’m not quite sure, but then I spent the last summer being active — rock climbing, doing yoga, stand up paddleboarding (more to come about fitness activities in Dallas), and now it’s become an integral part of my life. I used to think I couldn’t dance, but this semester, I’m eager to learn more. One of the first things that goes into my planner are the fitness activities that I have scheduled for the week. Doing yoga once a week has become a non-negotiable event in my life. I find myself yearning to go out on the lake and paddle or thinking about tackling a bouldering problem. These were all things that I used to not be able to find the time for, but now I do, and a big part of it is wanting to find the time for it, but also finding the things I enjoy doing, and would look forward to. Doing these things are a way I bond with my friends — which is way healthier than going out to eat all the time, but the same thing applies to pretty much any social activity. You find time to do the things that are important to you. You work hard while you’re in class and studying so that you deserve the time you spend with your friends. That’s the secret to work-life balance (easier said than done though).

All this to say, don’t be afraid to experiment to find whatever system works for you. It took me months with my notebooks and years to figure it out in regards to my life. I can’t tell you the magic thing to do because it’s different for everyone, but that’s the great thing about college — it’s your chance to try things out. Maybe you’ll fail, maybe you’ll succeed, but what fun would if be if it was easy?

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