Grad School is Cray Y’all

Hi everyone!! Hope you’ve had a fantastic day! The semester has definitely taken off over here and there won’t be any slowing down until……well um…….December? idk

Grad school is difficult no matter where you’re at or what program you’re in. It’s even more difficult when you’re in an Engineering Research Center (ERC) and have more than just research to do. Not only do we take the usual classes and do the usual research (which is already a full-time job), we also have to do outreach, talk to industry, attend a slightly insane amount of seminars, work on translational skills, and create products in addition to the usual research. It’s tough to stay on top of everything without getting overwhelmed….(read Amanda is overwhelmed 99% of the time).

Since yesterday was rather dull I figured I’d tell you all how I make sure everything gets done. Every student has a different method of staying on task. I employ the bullet journal method. A while ago, I realized that the usual day planners just didn’t cut it. I needed a place to take notes and some days take up more than one page. So, I’ve made my own! It’s not pretty (there are some gorgeous and super creative bullet journals out there that you can search on Pinterest…alas I am not an artist) but it works.

So what does it all look like??

Well to start, there’s an index at the start. This is a quick guide to remind myself how I’ve color coded the damn thing cause some days I have the memory of a goldfish and forget how to count. Anyways. This page is basically the definitions of your shorthand.


Boxes are for tasks. Once a task is complete, I can fill it in. If only part of task is complete, only part of the box gets filled in!

Dots are for events. I use this for meetings, appointments, special events, etc. You get the gist.

Dashes are for notes. This is particularly useful if only part of a task gets done, I can jot a note to let myself know exactly what got done. It’s also for useful random other things like packing lists for traveling, meeting minutes, random spouts of brilliance (just kidding)….but yeah, that stuff.

OK! In my attempt to be creative, I color coded my entries by area of life that entry pertains to….sounds confusing but here’s a picture!


After the index/definitions are set up, you can start writing your shit down! I’ve found that having both a monthly and daily section works best. I need to plan some things pretty far out in advance (academic conferences, races, and the like) so I put those things in the monthly calendar.


Then, there’s the daily section. Here’s my attempt to make it pretty  functional. I’ve found that having the date and day (again, memory of a goldfish) helps me write the correct date on things. From there, every morning I take a couple minutes and write out my day. It’s great to help me prioritize my day and visualize what needs to be accomplished.This includes:

  • transferring uncompleted tasks from the previous day
  • writing in new tasks as they come in
  • writing down appointments and meetings for the day
  • and anything else really

Here’s a couple sample pages that kinda show how I use my journal:






I just use this for grad school things mostly, but you can put in whatever you want! Some other awesome ideas:

  • Boxes for glasses of water you want to drink (hydration is important!)
  • Keeping track of books you’ve read or want to read
  • Grocery lists and recipes or shopping lists in general
  •  Things to do around the house – chores and the like

Basically you can customize for what you want to keep track of. The only trick is remembering to write everything down. But it’s very easy to use once you get the hang of it!

Whelp. This is how I make sure shit gets done without me losing my mind….my journal could almost be considered my actual mind…. Actually, nevermind. Pretend that last part didn’t happen…. This is how I make sure shit gets done without me losing my mind. And it works! (there we go)

Give it a try and let me know what you think!