Surviving Teaching + Grad School (Tips for Busy People)

If I see one more fall leaf wreath or #2 pencil, I just might melt into a puddle of “summer is too short,” and you just might find me in a corner somewhere rocking myself in the fetal position. Dramatic, I know. I actually love what I do (x4875840), but perhaps the anticipation of it makes it feel like it’s already here?! And I’m. (SO). Not. Ready. Just like I wasn’t ready to finish the last school year because it was THAT amazing (amazingly hard, but amazing nonetheless). So, perhaps it actually has nothing to do with a school year, and has more to do with the fact that I am not ready for another change. PLUS, we did just purchase our first home (hooray!), and so now I slightly want to retire and decorate my home for a living. Sigh. Life!

Nonetheless, another school year IS coming, and I want to be ready! I’ve compiled a list of things that I typically do or use to help me feel most prepared and ready for each day despite how busy it might be.

Disclaimer: For me, teaching and grad school is what keeps me on my toes. However, I believe these tips can be helpful for anyone that has very busy days!

Second Disclaimer: By no means do I keep this up every single day. I have seasons (okay, the 2nd semester…) where it all goes out the window, and I’m honestly just in survival mode! BUT, when I do happen to implement these things – they REALLY do make a difference and keep me on top of my game!

Oh, and one more disclaimer I promise: These are not in any particular order!

1. The Yep-I-Have-Everything-I-Need Bag. The bag. The bag that holds it all. The snacks, the planner, the water bottle holder, the cosmetic items, the books — you already know it! And you already know you need to have it completely ready before you head out the door for your long day. Because carrying 1 purse, two other bags, and your laptop case AND your lunchbox is….well kind of hard, and it all seems to fall 3 1/2 times before you even make it to the car (*speaking from a friend’s experience*). Whatever you do, find the bag that works for you!   What I use: Dagne Dover Mini Tote (last seen on the blog here)

Photo by Sandy Swagger Jones: Website | Instagram

2. Meal Prep. Meal Prep. Meal Prep. And by meal prep, I’m just going to discuss lunch, and sometimes it means all packaged items in 5 paper brown bags for the week that can be snatched from the fridge and thrown away immediately afterwards (no clean up later!). Sometimes, time is money! For me, while I’m slightly embarrassed to share this but I’m going to anyway and hope you don’t judge me — the majority of last year, I ate a Quakers Oatmeal Cup + Coffee for breakfast, and then these items for lunch:

  • Nature Valley Granola Bar (Peanut Butter or Chocolate) + Jif Peanut Butter On-The-Go Cups spread on top of each bar.
  • Choboni Greek Yogurt Flips. The almond-coconut one was my fave!
  • Some type of fresh fruit (apples or oranges typically), or…….those squeezable organic fruit/veggie pouches! I know…I’m like a toddler, but like someone I know once said “Don’t hate — participate!” 😉

3.  A clean kitchen before the lights go out! Man, there were so many days where I looked at all the dirty dishes in the sink, whispered “tomorrow,” and then crashed into bed! While I think every now and then is fine – for me, coming home after work the next day to a clean kitchen from the night before keeps me from going out to eat, spending unnecessary money and eating food that isn’t all that healthy! Clean Kitchen = Happy Cooking = Healthy Living. Check!

4.  Reading/Viewing my First5 App. Before social media. Before checking my work email to see what’s been added to my day. Before I see my co-workers. Before I see my students. Before one selfish word that comes out of my mouth….I try and make it a priority to take 5 minutes and read my devotional of the day and submit my day to the Lord. Provided by authors from Proverbs 31 Ministries, each day is filled with Scripture, a short devotion, and a place for you to interact or simply read how other women are responding to the message. It also provides a beautiful image with a quote that sums up the devotional if those type of things help you remember these truths. Often times, I end up saving them to my lock or home screen on my phone. Check it out; you won’t be disappointed.

First 5: Website | Instagram

5.  A functional water bottle. By functional, I mean it serves an actual purpose outside of “aw, it’s so cute.” Is it large enough? Is it sturdy for all kinds of moving around and probably being dropped? And okay, do you ENJOY looking at it? Find a water bottle that you will be able to take with you everywhere so that you can stay hydrated and keep the energy flowing! Make it part of your meal prep and fill it up the night before so you can snag it while you’re picking up your lunch.

6. Picking out my outfit the night before. When I have to be out the door by no later than 6:30AM, I simply do not have the time to stand in my closet for 15 minutes trying to decide on an outfit (that could be 15 minutes sleeping…). I’d be lucky if my shoes matched! Last year, I purchased a clothing rack for this very thing, and I used it almost every day. LIFE SAVER.

MULIG Valet stand IKEA Three hooks for belts, ties, scarves or handbags and a removable tray on top for your watch, jewelry and other small things.

Purchased from: IKEA.

7. My life planner. If I don’t write it down, it’ll never happen and it’ll never get done! Sad, but true. I recently purchased this Erin Condren Planner, and while it’s wonderful, the format I picked out wasn’t as functional as I had hoped for what I needed (something I didn’t realize until later). I may end up purchasing one from Target, but I do love the Erin Condren accessories, and will likely stay a faithful customer in that department! After all, stickers for literally everything do make planning, “fun.”

8. The dry shampoo that became my best friend.  If you’re one of those #blessed people with dry-ish hair, and can therefore naturally go without washing your hair for days on end and still look amazing, just skip right over this one. For the rest of us busy folks with high maintenance locks, we know dry shampoo can make our day (again, dramatic). For my hair to at least look decent, I need to at least blow-dry it. Because I depend on dry shampoo religiously …I’ve tried many that are out there. And unfortunately, there’s only one that does the trick for me: Every other one I’ve tried leaves my roots greasier than before (um, what?), does absolutely nothing, or leaves white streaks in my hear (just why??). This dry shampoo has enabled me to go 2-4 extra days in-between washes (Yes – REALLY).

Can be purchased at Ulta (click here) or other beauty stores. Or check your salon to see if they support this brand.

And please…please…do not purchase this from Walmart, TjMaxx, Ross, etc. (My former hair stylist pep talk is about to come out!!!) There’s NO guarantee that it will be a new/quality product without added ingredients that were not provided in it’s original make. Often times, beauty products sold at those stores are expired, or not in their original state. Yikes!

And there you go! I am constantly looking for new and better ways to make the most of my time. What helps you during the busy? Help a girl out, and share your tips below!


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