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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UWB chapter.

After a whole year of only studying online and trying to complete my general education requirements in community college, winter 2021 was my first quarter at UWB. Last year wasn’t fun at all, so I wanted to make the most of this new college environment and a change to my unexciting life. Simply put, I tried to overcome my FOMO as I was scared of wasting what was supposed to be the best years of my life. 

Besides enrolling in 18 credits, I got a part-time job, became an officer in the Vietnamese Student Association, and joined the writing cohort of HerCampus. It was pretty overwhelming at first, but once I tried a few organization techniques and became adjusted to the new routine, my quarter went smoothly. I managed to hand in my assignments early, get good grades, perform well in my new job, and maintain good health. To be fair, I didn’t leave the house much except for my daily walks, so I had a bit more time at home to do everything. I have gathered a few useful tips from my trials and errors that I believe will help you navigate a busy quarter.

Utilize master calendars and to-do lists

The number 1 technique that helped me keep track of my tasks for the whole quarter was creating a master calendar. I liked to utilize Google Calendar and its reminder alerts, but if you’re the artsy type, you could totally create and decorate your own calendar template. Once I had access to my courses’ syllabus and work schedule, I spent an afternoon noting down my assignments and shifts into the master calendar. Having a mapped-out plan helped me visualize my quarter, allocate my time, and set soft deadlines. It gave me more control over my life and the flexibility to shift tasks around.

Then, based on the master calendar, I created my weekly to-do lists. Following the 1-3-5 technique, I had one big, three medium, and five small tasks every day. I also tried to write them as specific as possible to avoid getting overwhelmed just from reading them. Sunday morning was the time dedicated to week planning and reflecting on my “weekly accomplishments.” It may sound cheesy, but it could be an excellent way to stay motivated.

Visualize your days

Right after I woke up and before getting out of bed, I took 5 minutes to close my eyes and visualize my day. I thought of my tasks and tried to plan out the steps needed to complete them. For example, to complete my weekly reading materials for my Astronomy class, I needed to access the e-textbook, take notes on essential concepts, look up examples, and write down questions to ask the professor later. By making up a scenario in my head, I woke my brain up and felt more excited for the upcoming day.

Find a suitable way to improve your focus and productivity

Trying out different focus techniques helped me identify the most suitable one for me. I tried the Pomodoro technique but found my workflow disrupted after each break. Instead, I applied the Flowtime method, in which I picked only one task to focus on and gave myself a break as a reward after completing it. Besides limiting distractions, such as mobile devices, having a proper work or study setting was also essential to improving my focus. My goal was to fight the temptation of lying in my comfortable bed, and I succeeded. Most of the time. It’s okay to have a lazy and unproductive day (not right before a looming deadline though!). Our brains need that comfort to reboot, and we, too, need that break from constantly pushing ourselves.

Spend time for yourself

No matter how much I had on my plate, I always tried to spend at least 30 minutes every day doing something I liked. I woke up a bit earlier for a 30-minute walk in my neighborhood or spent 30 minutes reading or watching TV shows before I went to sleep. I also set aside time to cook my meals. These simple activities recharged me and made me feel like I could still do things for my enjoyment instead of just spending all of my time on school and work.

Find a partner in grind

There was an African proverb that went, “If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go together.” Having someone who had similar responsibility, drive, and work ethic helped me a lot, especially on those mornings when all I wanted to do was to turn off my alarm and hide under my covers forever. On days like that, my partner-in-grind (aka my cousin) and I would send each other check-in messages. Although she lived far away, we became each other’s support system, motivation, and inspiration. Her daily check-ins always reminded me that although things might be difficult, we were in this together.

Ask for help when you need it

I used to be afraid to ask for help because I didn’t want anyone to see me struggling and view me as incompetent. But I realized that it wasn’t the case. Asking for help was actually an opportunity to identify my weaknesses and improve from other people’s advice. I got new ideas and perspectives on solving problems that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. I also thought of asking for help as a way to show your family members, friends, and colleagues that you recognize their skills and appreciate their input.

These are a few of my tips, and I highly encourage you to experiment with different methods and find out what works for you. If you get the chance to, try taking on more responsibilities sometimes. Although Winter 2021 was a weird quarter, what I gained from it was absolutely rewarding. Not only did I connect with new people and try new things, but I also witnessed personal growth. I stepped out of my comfort zone, improved my time management skills and productivity, and gained enough self-confidence to tackle future challenges.

Born and raised in Saigon, Vietnam, Amelia Nguyen is currently a junior majoring in Media and Communication Studies. With an interest in advertising and content creation, she lives for the adrenaline rush that she gets from seeing ideas come to life. In her free time, Amelia enjoys reading, watching shows, cooking, and experimenting with film photography. In these uncertain times, she is learning to appreciate and reflect on simple yet valuable things that might have been forgotten in a chaotic world.