“Stand up in front of the class and tell us your name, your major, and one fun fact about yourself.”
It’s that time of year again: back to school! Many of us start off the semester with a brand new (probably overpriced) planner ready to tackle classes head on. But… a couple weeks in, you’re back to your old habits: forgetting due dates and cramming for every test the night before. It’s difficult to keep up a high level of dedication and motivation throughout the entire semester. It’s not impossible though. Here are seven tips to set your semester up for success:
1. First and foremost, figure out which planner or calendar system works best for you
Paper? Digital? A little bit of both? Whatever keeps you sane and organized. There are countless options out there from glam planners to free apps! I adore my Happy Planner Mini coupled with Asana, a free task management software that has a free app as well. Take time to explore your options and find the one that speaks to you. A solid planning system will set the foundation for a successful semester.
2. Build a study schedule and stick to it
Once you have your perfect planner or calendar, schedule your time. It doesn’t have to be down to every minute or hour, but it should be something you can commit to for the entire semester. For example, set aside two or three hours every Sunday night to do your reading for the upcoming week. Plan for an hour every weeknight for review and miscellaneous assignments. Routine homework and study time will quickly become a habit and you’ll run into much fewer forgotten due dates.
3. Know your due dates well in advance
You’ve got your planner and your schedule, now what? Now it’s time to write out every single due date that you know. It’s likely that your syllabus has mid-term dates, paper due dates, and exam dates (if not more). Pencil those babies in and also set reminders leading up to them so you have plenty of time to write or study. Make good use of your adorable planner or your immaculately scheduled Google Calendar and ensure that nothing slips by.
4. Study smart, not hard
We’ve all emerged from an hours-long library study sesh bleary-eyed and unsure what day it is. That, my friend, is because you didn’t take enough breaks! Research has shown that the optimal work to break ratio is 52 minutes of work and a 17 minute break. In both academic and office settings, this has shown increased productivity and mood. An important thing to note is that you should be moving during the 17 minute breaks. It takes more than just leaning back and scrolling through your Insta feed. Get your blood flowing and disconnect from your task. This ratio will help you retain information and stay motivated throughout your study time.
5. DO NOT CRAM
I cannot stress this enough. Cramming will make you miserable and tired right before your big test and it will not help you learn the material. Even just studying for half an hour each night for a week leading up to your test will serve you better than studying for 12 hours the night before. Once more for the people in the back: DO NOT CRAM.
6. Most importantly, motivate yourself
This one sounds self-explanatory but it’s the most important. Outside influence can only do so much in terms of motivation. Truly wanting to succeed for yourself will be the best incentive. Maybe straight A’s drive you to work hard, maybe just passing that really hard Calculus class is your big motivator. Find whatever it is that makes you passionate about what you’re doing and keep it at the front of your mind when studying or doing homework. You’ll be amazed at the work you can get done with proper motivation.
It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of the new school year, but implementing some of these tips will set you up perfectly to have a productive and happy semester.