23 January 2015

Back to School | Diary Review & Organisation

Hello everybody!

As I have previously mentioned, keeping a diary for school really helps me to stay organised. It gives me a space to write down homework, assignments, and due dates all in one place. In this post, I will review the diary I used last year, show you the one I have this year, and then let you know how I like to organise mine.

Diary Review

This is the diary that I had last year. I don't know what brand it is, but it was around $6 from Kmart, and I saw they had the same one but in blue and white this year. I have both negative and positive things to say about this diary. I did really like the design of it, it had a nice plastic cover, so it was durable. What I didn't like is that the cover faded on the right side, but that may have been from me possibly leaving the diary in the sun. I liked the elastic closure on the diary, as well as the ribbon marker, which made finding pages easy. This diary also had monthly dividers, but these were only cardboard, and after a short amount of time, they began to wear and the cardboard split (as shown in the picture on the right). I think this was because the divider tabs were outside of the cover (bad explaination, but look at the picture on the left). This was one of the main things I disliked about this diary.

This diary was a day-to-a-page diary, which I did really like, because it provided lots of room, and since 2014 was the first year I used a diary for school, I was unsure how much room I would need in my diary. Although I did like having a lot of room to write in the diary, I think it was a bit too much, hence why I opted for a week-to-an-opening diary this year. As you can see in the picture to the right, the diary was very thick and bulky, which sometimes made it difficult to quickly put into my bag. In May, I started using the diary less and less, and in June I stopped using it altogether until October, and part of the reason for this was simply the bulk of the diary. Choosing a weekly diary this year means the diary is much thinner, which suits me a lot.

The diary I chose this year is this Carnegie Week-to-an-Opening Student Diary. I bought this for only $1.99 in Woolworths, and I thought this was a really good price, especially as the diary has a lot of features. I really like the purple elephant design on the front and back cover. It is A5 size, and is very thin. In the front of the diary, there is the page with space to write your name, telephone number, email, etc., but in this particular diary, there is a space to write your bus pass number, train pass number, locker number, and other bits and pieces, which I think is a really nice addition, because most diaries don't include that. It shows a year calendar from 2014 - 2016. There is also a page that shows all of the Australian public holidays and term dates, which is just really handy to have in a diary. There are two pages to write in contacts, with space for a name, address, email, and telephone. There is also a section to write in your timetable. What I really like about this is that there is a different timetable space for each term, which is good because you never know when your classes might change. There is also the year planner, which I found really useful last year for marking in exams, due dates and holidays. I did want to find a diary with monthly view, and I searched and searched for one, but I just couldn't find one! In the end, I just decided a year planner was the next best thing. In this diary, there is also two pages to write in assignments, with space for the subject, requirements, due date, and results. As well as that, there is the exam results page (with space for the termly result and percentage). As with most diaries, there are two blank lined notes pages. Of course, there is also the week-to-a-view pages for the whole year, January to December. This diary also has a nice ribbon marker, making it easy to find your page.

Front information page

Exam Results Page

Assignments Page

Year Planner Page

Diary Organisation

I do quite a few different things to keep my diary organised. I feel that once you have found your what methods of organisation work best for you, you will definitely be able to use your diary to its full potential.

In 2014, I had my diary for the whole year, but I didn't really use it properly until October. As I said before, in June I stopped using the diary until October. Not only was it because of the bulkiness of my diary, it was also because I wasn't organising it in a way that worked for me. I wrote the subject, the underneath the homework task, all in black pen. In May, I stopped using the diary everyday, and in June I just stopped using it. I felt I wasn't actually looking at the diary, and I was just writing things down for the sake of it.

In October, I bought these two Sharpie pens, which I featured in my '10 October Favourites' post. They were peach and mint coloured, two of my favourite colours, and they were ultra fine point. I thought the perfect place to use them was in my diary. I started using the diary again, this time using my coloured pens to mark deadlines and the tick off tasks when they were done, and using highlighters to highlight particularly important information. I found that this method of orgnaisation worked fantastically for me.

This is an example of where I have used colour in my diary, by highlighting the due dates, and the tasks that I need to complete.

I found that when using my yearly planner, using colour really helped me to focus on what different things meant. I used red for due dates, yellow for exams, mint for holidays, orange for days off, and purple for school events. I used coloured pens to outline the box. This helped me to identify different due dates, exams, events, etc.

My yearly planner

I also really liked using post-it notes. They were perfect for if I had to note something down that wasn't permanent, like exam dates. At the end of last year, I had to reschedule exams because I was on holiday the week of exams, so I used post-it notes to schedule my exams in my diary, which could then be moved around if the times changed. I also used them to write down lists of things I had to do over the week, like downloading a file or emailing a teacher.

Example of using post-it notes in my diary

This year I bought this nice little box of different post-it notes. It was $11.95 from the newsagency, and in the box there are eight different coloured post-it flags (are they called flags?), and then pink rectangular notes, with a set of yellow ones underneath, and then yellow square notes with green ones underneath. I have started using these and they stick really well! I was unsure whether they would or not, because some post-it notes have absolutely no stick whatsoever, but these are fantastic. As well as using them in my diary, I think they would be really good to use to make notes in a textbook or a English reading book. I thought these were just a really good price for how many you get, and I will definitely be using these a lot this year.

What I did start doing towards the end of the year was making checklists, because a lot of satisfaction comes out of checking a box once you have completed the task. I would make "end of week lists", which was were I went through my diary, and would write down all the tasks I hadn't completed, and then on the weekend page, I would write all these down on post-it notes (I wrote these on post-it notes so I could move it to the next weekend if I did not complete all the tasks). This makes it really easy to see everything you need to to, and I would recommend giving the "end of week list" a go.
My "end of week" list.

A variation of my "end of week list" - a breakdown of my Biology assisgnment in checklist form

That is everything I do in my diary! If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment, and perhaps let me know what you do in your diary to keep yourself organised, because I would love to hear! I hope this has given you some ideas about keeping organised in your diary! xx

21 January 2015

Back to School | Study Tips

Hello everybody!

Going back to school unfortunately means lots of homework, assignments, and lots of exams to study for. For me, going into Year 10 and a different school was a difficult time, because I had gone from a school that wasn't challenging, and didn't give me much homework, to an extremely challenging, high-pressure school. Luckily for me, I have a compulsory class that is basically dedicated to teaching students study skills. Today I decided to share some of the tips I have learnt from this class, hopefully to make studying a tiny bit easier for you :)

The first thing I think is important is identifying what sort of learner you are. In my study class, we were given a test which helped us identify this (for those of you interested, the test can be found here). I believe it is important to identify which type of learner you are, so you can develop suitable studying techniques, improving your performance in class and in exams.

If you are a visual learner, like me, you may benefit from drawing diagrams, pictures, or using colour in your notes. If you are an auditory learner, you will probably understand things better if you listen to other people explaining the topic, and may find it beneficial to tape record classes to listen to them later on when studying. If you are a kinaesthetic learner, you will probably learn best if you are actually doing things, so should spend time writing notes, or connecting theory to an event you may have taken part in. There is more information about that here.

The next tip I have is to find a good study environment. A lot of places say that it is best to study at a table, but I feel it is best to just study wherever you feel the most comfortable. I personally like to study on my bed, so I have a lot of space to spread out (I can then have my school bag next to me on my floor, my binder at the end of the bed, my laptop in front of me, and my folder next to me). It is really important wherever you study has good lighting, because if the lighting is bad, after a while your eyes will start to hurt. In my bedroom, I like to listen to something in the background while I am studying. I will either listen to some music, or put on a movie like Ratatouille. I find that watching movies I have watched quite a few times will be easier to study with, as I tend to not pay much attention to what is happening on the screen. You also want to study in a room that's not too hot or too cold.

When you going to class or getting ready to study, I think it is really important you have everything you need with you. When you go into a class, you want to have a book, a pen, your textbook, and anything else you may need with you at the ready - the same goes for when you are getting ready to study! If you are constantly having to get up to get things, or having to ask a friend to borrow a friend, it will only cause a distraction and lower how efficient you are.

When studying, you should also try to avoid distractions, like Facebook notifications, or it being 7:00pm, time for the next episode of Home and Away (that's probably just me!). I am terrible at this, particularly because I always to justify all of my distractions, for example "Watching Home and Away is my study break." or "I need to check Facebook because someone might have posted in the study group". However, this is very bad and is a habit that needs to be broken!

My next tip is to get enough sleep. This is another thing that I am really bad at. I always find myself staying up until midnight on YouTube, and then I'm tired the next day. This means I cannot concentrate at school because I am tired, I probably haven't finished last night's homework, and I'm trying to finish it in another class. Getting enough sleep is really important, not just in relation to studying and homework, but for your personal wellbeing. If you have enough sleep, you will not feel as stressed, and you will just generally feel a lot better.

I think that keeping a diary keeps me super organised. I will be doing a seperate post about diary organisation, but I will give a few points here. It's good to get a diary you really like. I'm very specific about what sort of diary I have, and I am yet to find my perfect diary. This year I am trying out a Carnegie Student Diary, which is a weekly view (just enough space - I found that last year daily view was far too much space and the diary was too bulky). I find that using colours in a diary also helps, so perhaps using a different colour for each subject, highlighting due dates...It makes things clearer than a whole heap of plain text. There is a diary I really want to try and that is the Kikki.K Cute Student Diary. A friend of mine bought this and she is raving about how much she loves it. It is a diary I definitely want to try for next year, so I really hope Kikki.K release it again in 2016! If anyone wants to check that out, you can find it here!

Taking notes is also very important, but it is possible to take too many notes. If your teacher uses powerpoints, chances are there will be a copy of the powerpoint somewhere for download. I think it is best to only take down the most important information rather than everything the teacher says. I think of my class notes as a rough draft - Don't worry about how neat they are! Once I get home, I rewrite my notes neater and better formatted. I find it easier to write notes in different colours for different topics, because they are clearer for me (I am a visual learner, so colour helps me a lot!)

Taking breaks when I'm studying is a really hard thing for me to do, because I get so distracted in my breaks! I often find myself doing homework or studying, and then taking a "10 minute break", and half an hour later, I'm still on YouTube! Recently I have gotten into a routine of saying "20 minutes of studying, then one YouTube video". This works for me, as watching YouTube videos is very relaxing for me, so I feel very rewarded watching one once I have completed my 20 minutes of study. My advice is to find something you enjoy, and reward yourself with it once finishing a certain amounts worth of study. It is important that you take frequent breaks so you do not stress yourself out with a lot of work at one time.

My next tip is to start with your hardest homework. I know you probably want to start with the funnest, easiest homework, but if you start with your hardest homework, then it is done and out of the way. Then when your brain may be a bit tired, you can do the easier homework, because it will not require so much energy and effort.

It is also important to ask your teacher any questions as soon as you have them. If I am doing homework and I have issues, I will either email my teacher, or write down a list of questions and see the teacher before the next lesson. When I'm in class, I will write down all of my questions and ask for help at the end of the class (this usually happens in Math, when I have about fifty questions a lesson).

DO NOT LEAVE HOMEWORK UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. I do this all the time, and it is very bad and I am trying to stop. You might think, "Great! I'm not going to do my homework tonight, I'll just do it tomorrow and watch the entire first season of Degrassi tonight.". This works great...But when you do that with every homework, assignment, and exam revision, it all piles up, and before you know it, you are up at 2am, the morning everything is due, madly trying to finish everything. Possibly even trying to finish things in class the day it is due (Yes, that is me). The best thing you can do is to start homework/assignments/exam revision as soon as possible, so it will be finished as soon as possible.

Next tip is to not get distracted in class. It is easy to, in a boring class, check your emails, finish that piece of homework for the next class, or play a quick game of 2048, but if you are distracted in class, then you aren't taking in what the teacher is saying, and you will fall behind. If you miss a class because you are sick (or any other reason), what I like to do is email the teacher to find out what I will be missing, and then ask someone in the class to read over their notes.

Whenever I study, I like to eat snacks. Mainly Skittles. But eating healthy food when studying really does help, so foods like a few fruits, nuts, and cheese and crackers are some of my favourite snacks. I prefer to have foods that are easy to eat, and aren't messy, so you don't have to stop and eat, you can eat whilst you work.

Try to have breakfast every morning. I am the worst at this. I have to leave the house at 7am to catch a train at half past. I think it is just wrong to wake up before 6:30am, leaving me only half an hour to get ready, generally meaning I don't eat breakfast. This year, I am trying to make myself wake up earlier so I can eat before I leave, because I definitely do feel a lot better when I have eaten in the morning. I perform a lot better in my morning classes, and I can definitely concentrate a lot better.

My final tip is to find a study partner. This may not be for everyone, and it is not something I personally do. I am, however, part of a Facebook page my year at school has set up, and basically everyone in my year is a part of the group, and we just post on there and help each other, so we can ask questions like "For the Psychology assignment, do we reference", or "What is the formula for percentage error?". Having a Facebook group may not work for everyone, but for me it does, as my school is very small, and everyone is very close. If this is not your situation, having a study partner you meet with frequently may help you, and will give you a chance to compare notes and help each other with homework/assignments/revision.

I hope this has helped you with some study tips. Please let me know what helps you to study, because I would love to hear :)

17 January 2015

Back to School | What's in my Bag?

Hello everybody!

As part of my back to school series, I decided to do a little post about what I carry in my school bag, because I enjoy watching 'What's in my Bag?' videos on YouTube, so I thought you might enjoy a blog post about it.

Last year, I had a Belkin 16 inch basic toploader notebook bag. Honestly, it wasn't that great of a quality. There was a front pocket, and after carrying a few basics in it, like my phone and wallet, the lining tore apart from the bag. This wasn't that big of an issue for me, but later, the shoulder strap broke off at one side. I didn't expect this to happen, as I wasn't carrying an exceptionally large amount in my bag (only my laptop, planner, a book or two, etc.), so this really brought down my opinion of the bag. The zip also broke after a while. I would really not recommend this bag. It might be alright if you were to only use this bag occassionally, but as something that is to be used everyday, I don't think it can survive the daily usage.

This year, I bought a plain black tote bag from Kmart, which was $15. It is quite big (it can fit an A4 sized folder), so there is plenty of room for my books, folder, and laptop. There are also two pockets inside the bag, one which can zip up, and although it may be a little small for a wallet, it will contain things like a phone, keys, etc. I also like that the bag is waterproof, because I am a very clumsy person, and I tend to spill things. Quite often. Another thing I like about this bag is that it zips closed. Most tote bags don't actually zip closed, but I needed a bag that closes properly as I catch public transport to and from school, and standing up on a bus or train with an open bag will only end in disaster. As well as the public transport issue, I also need a closed bag because I fall over a lot. I will fall up the stairs a school at least twice a week. The only bad thing I can say about this bag is that there are very few pockets inside, and as I said before, the ones that are there are definitely too small for me to keep my wallet in. However, I really like this bag, but I will let you know my final review of it this time next year!

The next thing in my bag which I really like is this expanding folder thing. It's a nice purple colour with elastic closures on two of the corners. Inside, there are 13 pockets, each with tabs which have a little slot which you can put a label in. It also came with A-Z labels to slot in, but I probably won't use these, because I think I will make tabs with each of my subjects on. What I intend to do with this folder is to take it to school each day as a sort of "homework folder", so I can use it to store worksheets or sheets of paper I'm given at school, but then move it into my binder once I no longer need it at school. I like this folder because it is quite lightweight and thin, so it is not a as bulky to carry as a binder would be.

The next item is a math book. This may sound a little strange, but I am very particular with the sort of math book I have. I did a little experimenting last year. I had a lined exercise book, which was great!...Until we had to draw graphs. Then this book ran out. I was not prepared for this, so I had to use an empty graph book I had in the cupboard from when I was in primary school. It was one of those 1cm x 1cm grid books, which was far too big, and often resulted in my graphs taking up an entire page. So for the final term, I set out to find the perfect book, which happened to be a 5mm x 5mm grid book with binder holes. Can I just say how difficult it was to find one of these books? It took me 2 hours walking about the entire shopping centre to find it. This year, I have gone for a spiral-bound 5mm x 5mm grid book, simply because I think that spiral bound is nicer, and the pages turn easier, and ripping out pages is much easier than if you were to tear one out of an exercise book. This is by the brand 'Studymate', and I bought it from Officeworks for around $3.50.

These next two items in my bag are the 4-subject and 3-subject books I bought from Big W. I bought these because besides Math, I don't really write a lot in school, because most of our work is done on the computer. However, there are times where I do like to write things down, but I don't really need a whole book for each subject, so I bought these so I always have some paper for each class. When I was buying these, I had the choice between the Spirax subject books, and the Colourhide variety. I chose Colourhide, as it has a plastic front cover, rather than a thin cardboard one, and I thought this would be more durable. Another great thing about the Colourhide subject books is that there are lots of colours. I went for purple and a greeny-blue. I also really like that the dividers in these subject books are brightly coloured cardboard. I don't know if you can really tell from the photo, but the dividers also have little pockets. These subject books come in lots of different subject amounts (for loss of a better term to describe it!!). I think you can get all the numbers up to 5. These were around $7.50 each from Kmart.

The next thing in my bag is this A5 Carnegie 2015 Student Diary. It was only $1.99 in Woolworths! I thought it was a very good price, particularly as it has a lot of features. I intend to write a seperate post talking about planner organisation, but I will just give a quick outline of what this planner has. In the front of the planner, there is a 3-year calendar (2014 - 2016), as well as a page showing all of the public holidays for Australia. I also really like that there is a page for assignments, giving you room to write the subject, requirements and due date. Likewise, there is a page for exam results, where you can write in the subject, result and percentage. There are two pages for contacts, with space available for name, address/email, and telephone. I think one of my favourite features of this diary is the space to write down your timetable, as in my previous diary I had my timetable occupy the notes space. There is also the yearly planner view, which I don't know if I will actually use much. In the back of the diary, there are two pages for notes, which is nice as I find it useful to have some space to jot things down. There is a nice ribbon page marker as well. The thing I love the most about this diary is the purple elephant pattern on the cover. Considering this diary only cost $1.99 I think it is an excellent product.

Next in my bag is my pencil case. Although I use my laptop for most of my classes, as I said before, I do like to write things down. My pencil case is just plain blue, which I bought from Kmart for $0.75. In it, I keep things like black pens (several, because I use these the most and also lose them the most). Blue pens, in case I lose all of my black pens. Red pen, in case I have to mark an exam, which is very unlikely (I think I've used this pen three times in the past year). Highlighters, green and pink, because highlighting things always make reading long chunks of text a lot more appealing. Pencils and pencil sharpener, because I never do math in pen (I make far too many mistakes in math. If I did math in pen, my book would be coloured in with Tip-X). I also keep a ruler, a small stapler, and some post-it notes, because I'm forever writing little notes to myself in my textbooks.

The biggest thing I keep in my bag is my laptop. The laptop I have is the Lenovo x230 Thinkpad laptop. If I am being 100% honest, I would not recommend this laptop to others. It's okay, it does what a laptop needs to do, but it is so ridiculously slow! One time I was in a class (which lasted for an hour), and the entire class was spent with the laptop switching on! Next time I buy a laptop, I will probably steer away from Lenovo. However, on a more positive side, I really like the outside design of the laptop. It is a very thin and lightweight laptop, and the laptop just has a really nice finish to it. I carry this in my bag because as I have already mentioned, my school is considered a "digital learning community", which means we do hardly any work on paper, and most of it is done on our computers. Because this computer is so thin and lightweight, it fits into my bag easily and is not heavy and bulky to carry.

The last item I carry in my bag is my makeup bag. It is plain black, and was only $3 from Kmart. It is quite small, but can carry quite a lot. I'll probably also do a post on what I keep in my makeup bag for school, and review each individual product, but here I'll let you know the basics of what I keep in it. I like to carry a bottle of hand cream, because my hands get quite dry. I also keep a body spray, because I like to be able to smell nice throughout the day. Also, a mascara and lip gloss, to touch up any makeup if it is needed. Some mints, a bottle of hand sanitizer, some hair bands and hair pins, and a small compact mirror/hair brush.

As well as everything I have mentioned, I also keep things like my iPhone, wallet, and keys, but I didn't think I really needed to do a whole paragraph about these!

I really hope you enjoyed this post! If you want, leave a comment below, because I love reading comments! xxx