It can be a really exciting time of year for all of us: college classes have begun, the showcase season is starting, and everyone is getting into a rhythm with school and fall sports. It’s wonderful but it can also be really challenging if you need some help planning or keeping things in order. This week’s blog is here to help you do just that.

I know it doesn’t sound fun or spontaneous, but scheduling everything organizes you and helps you to allocate your time well. Make sure that you schedule everything from your practice sessions with your dad to homework time. You get bonus points in this category if you block out different parts of your schedule in different colors on either your phone or your calendar. As an example: maybe anything softball-related is yellow on your schedule, anything homework-related is blue, anything related to the instrument you play is green, family activities are red, and leisure time (like time watching tv or time on your iPad) is orange. This is also a good way of figuring out where you spend most of your time if you are like me and often find yourself surprised that an hour has passed. Some days might end up being devoted entirely to one color and that’s okay because now you are planning for it! If you know that one day is going to be entirely consumed by one area of your life ahead of time, you can make sure that you spend more time in the other areas in the days prior so that you don’t feel overwhelmed or imbalanced.

It’s one thing to put everything in your schedule and it’s another thing to actually DO all of the things in your schedule. One of the best ways to get everything done in a timely manner is to set alarms on your phone to remind you of all sorts of things! Alarms are not just for waking up in the morning. They are also there to help you know when to leave to get to your appointments on time, remind you of things you need to do, remind you of the kind of person that you want to be, and help you to set goals. Brendan Buchard suggests setting an alarm once a day every day that will simply remind you of the kind of person you want to be. So maybe at 10 am every morning, you set an alarm that reads, “you are a leader,” or “you are the best pitcher in your Division.” This might seem silly at first, but it really goes a long way towards helping to shape your thoughts about yourself. From a practical standpoint, having an alarm on your phone signal you when it is time to move on to your next activity helps to keep you focused and lets you avoid getting too absorbed in one task (particularly if you are getting stuck in that one task). You can even set different ringtones for different tasks or different parts of your schedule.

I used to make a To-Do list every day and then cross things out as I accomplished them. It’s really satisfying to cross a bunch of stuff off of a list. Lists aren’t for everyone, but they are really good for making sure that little details are not overlooked. Lists are especially important when you need to get paperwork done for college applications or recruiting purposes. If you like the idea of using lists, make one every day and put it where you eat breakfast (or if you don’t eat breakfast, put it where you will see it first thing in the morning). Your lists should always be done the night before you want them accomplished. This can also help you to sleep better at night because, instead of having your mind racing and thinking about the million things you need to do instead of sleeping, you have a list that you will get to in the morning, and you can put it out of your mind until then.

Finally, as you plan, try to account for variables. This can be the hardest part of staying organized, but it can make the biggest difference in terms of either making you feel like your life is streamlined or complete chaos. When I was first getting used to taking care of our newborn son, I felt like I couldn’t be on time for anything! I would be ready to leave with time to spare and then a diaper change was needed or RJ was hungry. So I started tracking his patterns a little, and then trying to cushion my schedule with an extra hour or so before I had to leave JUST IN CASE. You can do the same thing to your schedule. If you have travel practice in the evening, try to plan for some traffic (even if there usually isn’t any). If you know that you have trouble with math, allocate extra time for it at home or put some extra help or tutoring into your schedule.

Taking a little bit of extra time to plan will help you to thwart that feeling of panic that can happen if you don’t schedule anything and just end up manically rushing from place to place. Happy scheduling!

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