College is a stressful time, and with the new fall semester looming around the corner I've begun to reflect on my freshman year of college. What can I change going forward? How can I make this semester better?
My schedule for this semester is hectic, to say the least. I've somehow managed to cram all five of my classes into two days, to leave room for me to work around thirty hours a week at three different jobs. Yep, you read that right. Needless to say, I need to go into this semester with strong time management and stress coping skills.
This won't be easy for someone who copes with stressful school-related situations by procrastinating and watching Youtube videos, but this time around there really is no room for error. Here are some of the tips and tricks I'll be using this upcoming semester to help me stay productive and on top of my game.
1. Positive Mindset
Here's a little Buddhist wisdom: "All that we are is the result of what we have thought."
I'm sure everyone has noticed this at some point in their own lives. When your thoughts are positive, the outcomes are positive, and vice versa. This is where the notion of positive affirmations comes into play, and a lot of people find success in using them. This semester, I'm going to *try* to keep a positive and open mind about my coursework and my schedule. Everything will work out. I'll be able to balance my work and academic schedules without my GPA suffering.
2. Make Lists
Last semester I adopted a system of lists. I had a master-list in a notebook with every single task I had to do that week- school related in one column and life related in another, with the due dates for each task written in a bright color (so I wouldn't miss it). I tried to write out the list in both priority order and order of due date. Then, each night I wrote out the tasks for the next day on a post-it note and stuck it on my laptop. Basically, by repeatedly writing out my tasks and putting them where I would always see them, I never forgot a deadline and I felt a certain self-imposed pressure to get things done on time. Staying organized is the key to success, and saves a lot of anxiety further down the road.
3. Make the Big Tasks Into Little Ones
An eight to ten page paper is quite the undertaking. I had to write loads (and I mead LOADS) of them last semester, when I was taking two history courses and a political science class. Leaving a long paper like that until the last minute creates a rather overwhelming task. You can break down long papers into a lot of ways, but breaking it down and viewing it as a series of small assignments is so much more manageable than looking at the task as a whole. I would always view my ten page papers as merely writing five, two page papers. It's a great way to deal with big, time-consuming assignments
4. Take Personal Time
I cherish my morning workouts and my pre-bed Netflix. Carving out designated personal time into your routine is essential for maintaining your sanity, which is essential for getting all your work done.
5. Make Social Time
Yes, go out with your friends! Going on that spontaneous day-long excursion to Brooklyn is totally a good idea. Social time is just as important as school work. It's all about balance.
I'm talking about little incentives. For example, if I finish a page or two of the paper I'm writing, I can take a 20 minute break. Once I finish my (boring) reading, I can take myself for a latte (I will do literally anything for coffee). Small little treats and breaks keep me going, and give me a much needed mental break. Associating unpleasant chores with things that make you happy can make getting work done a lot more manageable (and maybe even enjoyable).
7. Recognize Your Limits
You are stronger than you think, but you're not invincible. Everyone has a limit, and it's important to recognize your limits to avoid burning out. If you've been doing something for hours but haven't been remotely productive during that time, move on to something else. Or, better yet, go to sleep and do it in the morning when you're refreshed.
8. Figure Out When You're the Most Productive
I can bang out a solid five pages at 5 a.m., no problem at all. But, ask me to do the same thing in the afternoon, and I will stare at a blank word document for six hours. Everyone has a time of the day where they're the most productive. I work best in the early morning, so I make sure that my sleep schedule reflects this so that I can work efficiently.
The best way to have a successful semester and to manage the inevitable stresses that come with it is to listen to yourself. You know what works the best for you, and figuring out your motivations and limits early on can save you a ton of time and aggravation later.
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