7 steps to a productive semester

New semester, new me

Every semester we SAY we’re going to be more productive than the last, but it seems like time and time again, we find ourselves 3 weeks into the semester slacking off yet again.

Understanding this problem well, I’ve decided to share some of my ~sage wisdom~ on how to be (and STAY) productive this semester. I will accept chocolate as a “thank you.”

1. Use Google Calendar

I’m a strong advocate for having your calendar as accessible as possible, and using an app like Google Calendar can keep your schedule at your fingertips at any given second, whether you’re using your phone or your calendar. I like to create blocks for myself to do certain tasks, like scheduling my gym time or the time I’m going to spend on my thesis paper. Having these time blocks in writing (and getting push notifications when it’s time to shift your focus) helps you to hold yourself accountable, and making it digital saves paper!

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2. Don’t let yourself go home until you’re done

If you live off campus and it’s hard for you to go home, this isn’t as much of a problem- but in my first years of college, living on a small campus where I was never more than a 10-minute walk away from my bed, I found myself taking lots of “short” (read: long) breaks during the day to go lay in bed or hang with my roomies. By staying in the library until you’re done with an assignment, or using your free hour to go to the rec center to do some work, you limit the amount of time you spend at home wasting time or napping during the day. This way, you can go to sleep at a reasonable hour and you won’t NEED the nap!

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3. Learn to say NO

I was heavily involved in a number of extracurricular activities in college, and it felt like there was ALWAYS something new being thrown at me. Often, the things I found myself stressing over things that I had volunteered for, or things I didn’t know how to say no to. Remember that your physical and emotional wellbeing (read: STRESS) comes first, your grades come second, and your extracurriculars come third. It’s okay to say no to something that you don’t HAVE to do, if you’re already slammed with work. There are other people they can ask, and even if they make you feel guilty, you have to remember that other people’s sh*t only has to be your problem if you MAKE it your problem.

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4. Checklists!

I have a special notebook that’s one giant checklist. I like to go through the things I have to do and write them down with the dates they’re due. If you want to go even crazier, you can use highlighters to make a color-coding system...yellow means high priority or earliest due date, green comes next, and blue is the stuff you can wait to do. Checking off the boxes on checklists is one of the most satisfying feelings in the WORLD, and they provide a quick and easy visual guide of how much you have left to do (and how much you’ve already done!)

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5. Find an outlet

I don’t know if I would have made it through college without my academic advisor and my therapist. I was lucky that my school had free therapy, so I went weekly to vent about my stressors, and often I found that I was making things a bigger deal than they needed to be. By getting that weight off of my shoulders, I had more mental space for the important things, like my work. Seeing my academic advisor (who was also a professor of mine) on a weekly, or even monthly basis helped me form good habits with studying, time management, and made sure that I was comfortable enough to ask her for help if I ever needed it. Seeking out resources like therapy, academic advising, or tutoring, and making them a regular habit of yours, makes sure that things stay good during the good times, and ensure that you’re supported during the hard times.

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6. Get over the FOMO

There’s a lot of pressure on us for college to be the “best years of our lives.” I have a personal notion that if college is truly the BEST years of your life, it means you didn’t work hard enough. I spent a lot of time in college working while my friends were partying, and sometimes I would get teased about it, but I was one of the first people I knew who got a job offer out of school, and now I’m living out my dreams living in NYC and writing fun stuff for UNiDAYS. I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t have a social life- just remember that you get out of college what you put in, and if you can get over the FOMO every now and then, and do your best work, you’ll thank yourself later on. Elle Woods didn't get into Harvard by attending every frat party!

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7. Quit the comparison

I think one thing that takes up a significant amount of mental real estate is the comparison of where we are to where others are, and that’s not healthy. In college I would find myself, a communications major, stressing out and thinking I hadn’t gotten enough work done than my engineering major roommate. We were in two totally different majors, with totally different “to do” lists, and yet I compared us. Similarly, when I had my gen ed science class with a friend of mine who was a math major, I spent time stressing out because I got lower grades, even though math and science were their “things” and, and they were NOT mine. Your GPA and grades will change depending on how many classes you take, WHAT classes you take (my math and science gen eds took YEARS to recover from), and what else you have going on in your life. Everyone is different, and any time you waste comparing yourself to others will only detract from your productivity.

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