Staying Organized

I’ve been wanting to write this post forever…and even though I’m pretty tired tonight, I have this sneaking suspicion that this level of fatigue is my New Normal, and thus not likely to improve anytime soon.

So, I want to share a few tools I’ve been experimenting with over the past year to help keep me organized during nursing and now nurse-midwifery school.

1. Notability. Hands down, this one app made my iPad purchase worthwhile. My husband (half) jokes I bought the iPad just for this app…and that’s not exactly untrue. I would not have survived Patho or Pharm last year without this one.

Essentially, it’s a note-taking app. You can either create your own notes (documents) that you can type and/or draw in, or you can upload .pdf, .ppt, or .doc files to edit. I have it linked to my Dropbox account, it also syncs to iCloud and GoogleDrive. Notes are stored in folders called Subjects that can be further broken down by dividers.


View of my folders (aka “subjects”), I have them organized mostly by class.


Dividers within subjects…mostly by lecture or topic

So, in one app I can annotate .pdf articles and take notes in class. It also allows you to record lectures, which is great. I have the app on my iPad and iPhone, so I can listen to lectures on my commute to class more easily. There’s also  a Mac desktop version, which is a bit more expensive, and which I don’t need at the moment.


Using fingers or a stylus, you can write/draw your notes 


You can also type, which depending on the class, I might do, or a combo of both.


Or, you can upload .pdf’s or .ppt’s from your browser or a cloud storage site like Dropbox. Note the typed notes in purple.


I love being able to hand-draw sketches during lecture…and when I’m recording, I can then go back to that part of the recording simply by going to that slide/drawing.

Bottom line–it’s a fantastic way to see get the kinesthetic of writing without wasting a hundred trees in printing!

2. Bullet Journal. Although I love my iPad, and rely heavily on GoogleCalendar to coordinate my appointments with my husband’s (we also have a meal planning GoogleCalendar), I’m still a paper and pen girl for some things. Enter Bullet Journal. It’s billed by it’s creator as “an analog system for the digital age.” I could explain, but you’d be best off just watching the video.

When I was in LA a few weeks ago visiting friends, I found my way to Baum Kuchen and purchased a Midori Traveler’s Notebook. It’s a fantastic journal setup that allows you to carry several smaller inserts, or notebooks within one notebook.

I have three inserts: my bullet journal, which is my overall calendar/List Central, a Dreaming insert, for personal notes and reflections, and then a Midwifery insert, for all things school related that aren’t captured in Notability–to do’s, and the other random things that would have ended up on post-it notes. I like that it’s small enough to tuck into a purse (at least the kind I carry around, anyway!). I’ve also purchased extra fun things, like a zippered case for post-its (I still use them!) and stickies, a business card holder that I stash stamps and extra cash in, as well as kraft cards with washi tape for decorating.


“It is what it is.”


The midwifery insert


I make my own monthly calendar, mostly with regularly scheduled events. I use GoogleCalendar as my master everything calendar…but it’s helpful for me to see it in paper, too. I have a list of assignments and readings by week elsewhere. 


An example daily bullet page. Boxes are to do, circles are events, dots are just notes.


The revolutionary Index page! Save a page in front to record the page number of the rest of your entries. Simple, but brilliant.


Washi tape. Just fun!

3. Dry Erase board. In addition to my Bullet Journal, I use a dry erase board to write up my week. Each Sunday evening, I write up the schedule and assignments for the week, plus any appointments. I reserve the left side for upcoming events (affectionately titled Look Ahead). The board hangs right next to my desk, and since B and I share an office (he works from home), he can easily glance over and see what’s on the docket for the week.


The weekly white board

4. The Master Assignment/Reading List. This term I took the time to compile all our assignments and readings into a Word doc so I wouldn’t have to look it up in each course site. If you can’t tell already, I’m a list junkie…and I need to be able to see things in one place. I haven’t finished quite yet, but this first pass was weeks 1-4.

A glimpse of the master assignment/reading list for weeks 1-4

A glimpse of the master assignment/reading list for weeks 1-4

5. Grocery iQ. I can’t quite credit this app for saving my marriage, since it’s not at risk at the moment…but it sure has made grocery shopping easier! Previously, when relying on paper lists, we were limited by who had access to the list…and if I were out but the list were at home, then I’d have to call and ask what we needed, or try to remember…which, I don’t know about you, but never works for me.

Enter Grocery iQ. We can have one shared list between the two of us, we can each add to it…and then whoever is out can grab the items on the list. Sometimes I’ll text B and say “Hey, headed to the store in 20 min, add your items to the list.” It’s been awesome. If we’re really on our game and in a regular meal planning mode, we’ll make our meal plan Sunday morning over brunch, which gets entered into the shared meal plan calendar on GoogleCalendar. Then we make the grocery list by meal and add items to the list, so we can go shopping that afternoon. Or, if we know we don’t want to get everything for the week all at once, we can make a list by meal, or by day. Since we live three blocks from a grocery store, that helps…but meal planning has actually really saved us from the “What should we make tonight, let’s just go out, or walk up to the store and buy what looks good.

6. 30/30. When I start getting overwhelmed, I need to focus in on one thing, and the 30/30 app is perfect for that. It’s basically a timer, based on the premise that intense work should be interspersed with break time. I usually work best in a 45 minute work period with 15 minute breaks…so I can set my timer up with tasks I need to finish, and then I can time my breaks. There are great little icons, even for your breaks (need a Facebook break?), and you can color-code tasks. It might be overkill for some, and I don’t use it everyday…but when I’m finding myself getting scattered, or spending too much time on one task at the expense of another, I’ll pull this up to make sure I’m spending enough time on the things that really need doing.

First part of the screen

First part of the screen

Scrolling down to the rest of my list

Scrolling down to the rest of my list

Despite all this…there are still times I have no idea what’s happening. Just today I had to text friends to figure out where lab was. So…the lesson I’ve slowly been learning over the past year is that while being prepared is good and stress-relieving, flexibility is also important.

What tools do you use for organization as a student? I’d love to hear what works for you! Share below in the comments, or on Facebook!

2 thoughts on “Staying Organized

  1. Oh my goodness….You are making my heart happy with all these apps, tips and screenshots! I put off getting my planner that I get every year, because I got distracted and then realized by the time I wanted it, I would be in integration and it wouldn’t likely make it to me in time. BIG REGRET – I miss it, I miss color coding with Frixion pens, I miss washi. Your apps, notebooks, are great – and inspiring! I might get that Midori traveler- everyone raves about it!

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