Ketchup and Mustard Days – How to Get Your Semester Back on Track

What are they and why do you need one?

It’s getting to that point in the semester where papers start to be due and midterms start creeping up. We all started out the semester with good intentions: to turn papers in on time, study ahead for midterms, actually do our laundry, and not spend more time with Netflix than our school work.  However, between hanging out with friends, taking on new extra curriculars, and checking out the amazing fall scenery in Ottawa we’ve strayed from our original path. The laundry is piling up, our textbooks are scattered around, and we’re wondering how we’ll ever make it to finals. We need something to get us back on track, and we need it now. We need a Ketchup and Mustard day.

So, what do condiments have to do with school? Well when you’ve fallen behind you need to Ketchup (Get it? Catch up?), and with the semester moving forward there are also things that you Mustard (Must Start). Hence a Ketchup and Mustard Day.

Here’s how to do it:

Make a List

To start off make a list of what needs to be done. Be honest with yourself and make your list specific. Include due dates! This will make your life easier. If you need to write the conclusion for your essay that’s due next week be sure to jot down, “Write Conclusion for Essay”. The more detailed this list is, the easier it will be to organize it. However, don’t use making the list as an opportunity to procrastinate! It’s just about getting down on paper what you need to do.


Look at your list, what is the most pressing task? It may be the first one that’s due; it might be the one that is going to take the most amount of time; it also might just be the one you want to do the least. Figure it out then mark it down as the first thing to do. Keep going through your list like this until the entirety of it is itemized. Prioritizing is going to be different for everyone, so take into account what allows you to produce your best work. Maybe you need to do a couple of small tasks before you hunker down to turn out a larger one. Create a situation where you will excel.

Pro Tip: Look for items that can be done concurrently. If you have laundry to do and two chapters to read, put your laundry in first and then get on with reading the chapters. Be smart about your planning!

Do It!

Now you Mustard, so that you can Ketchup. But getting started is so hard. Give yourself a time limit, “I’m going to give myself two minutes to finish checking Facebook and then I’m going to start”. Or give yourself a countdown, “I’m going to start in 5…4…3…2…1!”. Whatever you need to do to get started. Then, get to it! Follow your list and start getting things done. Check things off as you finish them! Success, even small amounts, releases dopamine – which is a good thing! Dopamine is a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of pleasure, learning, and motivation. Your success will inspire you to generate more success. Get your laundry done, your papers written, and your midterms studied for; you’ll come out feeling like you’ve got your life together.

What do you do if you don’t have a whole day though? Scale it back. Have a Ketchup and Mustard hour, or afternoon, whatever you need to do to get yourself caught up and back on track. Be honest with yourself and be positive. Even though it might seem really overwhelming at first – you can do it. If you need more motivation, think about the end goals. For example, your short-term goals could be getting an awesome grade on that paper, or acing the final, and your long-term goals could be getting a great grade in the course, or boosting your overall CGPA. Little steps along the way can make a huge difference. You can do it!