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5 Unconventional Goals To Set This School Year

With a new school year comes a newfound sense of motivation. Many students, myself included, set new goals for ourselves at this time of year. As the self-professed queen of making lists, I love to write down things I want to work on in the next few semesters.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that many people set some variation on the same goal over and over and over: “Get straight As,” “earn a 4.0” or “make the dean’s list.” While doing well in your classes is a great goal to have, I think it’s just as important to change things up by setting that goal AND something a little more unusual. With that in mind, I’ve brainstormed five more unconventional goals to aim for during this school year — goals that have helped me and that I am hoping will help you just as much!

1. Get more sleep

Whether you’re a partier or a studier, college students tend to glorify burning the candle at both ends. This is really bad news for both your physical and mental health! Lack of sleep can cause you to overeat, have trouble concentrating and be cranky — all less than ideal if you want to avoid the “freshman fifteen,” do well in your classes and at work and spend time with your friends.

The single most life-changing decision I made between freshman and sophomore year was to make sleep a priority. It wasn’t easy: I love to scroll through social media on my phone at the end of a long day, and it’s especially tempting to keep hanging out with friends when they live just down the hall from me in the dorm.

But I was not doing well. Something had to change. Sophomore year, I made a pact with my roommate to turn the lights off before midnight, put my phone on airplane mode two hours before I intended to go to bed and avoided studying on my bed, so I wouldn’t accidentally take mid-day naps. These habits didn’t completely cure my stress, but they significantly decreased it. This goal is a great one to aim for if you want to focus on your health!

2. Be less rushed

I’m proud to say I can count the number of times I’ve been late to class on the fingers of one hand! I need to work on being less hurried, though. I love to sleep in and am quite the procrastinator, which means I am often rushing around to finish things last-minute.

If you’d like to join me, we can spend the next few semesters working on this. Whether it means setting an alarm early enough to make it to class without having to run (have you noticed how ridiculous running with a backpack looks?!) or sitting your butt down in your desk chair to write that essay and not getting up until it’s complete, in the end you will be much less stressed. These days I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro technique, which you can learn more about here. The idea behind it is that after intense focus on the task at hand, your brain will be tired and need a break. I’m much more motivated to work hard and be productive if I know that my next break is never too far away!

3. Teach yourself something new

Every semester, we get so caught up in maintaining good grades that we forget to make time to learn things that don’t come with a grade attached. This year, find a new hobby or pick up an old, long-neglected one. It doesn’t have to be super complicated or even impressive to others, just something that you can look forward to in the evenings or on weekends.

Borrow a calligraphy book from the library and learn how to do really cute lettering. Brush up on your Spanish for that study abroad trip you’re taking next semester. Borrow a friend’s old creative writing textbook and work through some of the exercises and write the feminist story of your dreams.

4. Learn to accept help and reach out when you need it

Somewhere along the way, almost all of us get the idea that being an adult means going it alone. We try to solve all of our problems on our own and keep quiet about any difficulties because we are afraid that someone, somewhere, is judging us.

It doesn’t have to be this way! Honestly, I think recognizing that you need help and then seeking out that help makes you a more mature and responsible person because it shows that you’re not arrogant enough to think you know everything.

This school year, do your best to be less self-conscious about getting help instead of struggling on your own. Go to office hours. Find a tutor. Get mental health help at University Counseling Services. Talk to your RA about what’s been bothering you. Ask your best friend or roommate for a hug. Call your family.

5. Keep your life organized and your living area tidy

Easier said than done, for sure! I’ve been trying to make this a habit since high school with various levels of success. I highly recommend you buy (and then actually use!) a planner, calendar or even a plain, empty notebook to keep track of your schedule and to-do list. Even when I have tons to do, I feel much less stressed just writing it all down because now I know what I need to do, when I should do it and where I have to be. In previous years I’ve sometimes abandoned my planner and always regretted it because I felt like I never knew what was going on!

I also make an effort to keep my space clean and tidy. I live in a dorm room, so truth be told there’s not actually much to keep track of! If you live in a house or apartment, you’ll have to put in a little more work but it’s still totally doable. Before I go to bed each night, I spend a few minutes tidying my desk surface, putting my shoes away instead of leaving them in the middle of the floor where I kicked them off and so on. Then on the weekends I spend maybe half an hour, tops, vacuuming or folding laundry or any other major chores! I have never once needed to deep clean because I try to take care of the little things ASAP and not let them pile up and become big things!

Have I successfully convinced you to set these goals? Whether you’re aiming to achieve one, some, or all of them, I’d love to hear which ones you’ve chosen and what progress you’re making! This WILL be our year, collegiettes.

Photos: cover, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Elizabeth Chesak is a junior at the University of Iowa. She is triple-majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women’s, & Sexuality Studies to prepare for her hybrid dream job of picture book author/National Geographic photojournalist/activist. When not in class, studying, or sleeping, she can usually be found befriending the neighborhood cats.
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