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What I’ve been doing this semester to feel “put together”

A realistic to-do list and consistent sleep schedule can change your day

As a freshman, it's hard to navigate the unknown environment of college. The first semester is the hardest, as you have to deal with new emotions and daunting coursework. I learned so much my first semester by making mistakes, which I am now trying to view as positive signs of growth. Over winter break, I pondered where these problems stemmed from. I eventually realized that I was lacking organization in my schedule and life. 

After I realized this, I went down a youtube rabbit hole of videos about being organized in college. Many videos contained the standard advice of making a to-do list, waking up early, and not procrastinating. None of this made sense to me. I did this my first semester, yet it didn't make me feel more organized. Digging deeper, I felt that maybe I wasn’t going about getting organized in the right way. While I might have been doing what they suggested, I needed to be more realistic about my goals.

First, I tried to tackle the most important part of being organized: writing everything down. I looked at my to-do lists from the first semester and asked myself: "was this actually realistic?" My to-do lists looked like commands you would program into a robot. It was too much and unrealistic for one night, ultimately bound to cause disappointment and frustration when these tasks weren’t checked off at the end of the day. 

Keeping my previous to-do lists in mind, I decided to try again this semester. On a sheet of paper, I write down all that I have to do during the week. Having everything written down on one sheet makes it easier to see what needs to be done, and since assignments are often repeated throughout the week, my to-do lists stay pretty consistent. I also prioritize my assignments based on their due dates. Then I write down how long I think each task will take me. Just in case, I add an hour or so to the estimated time for some buffer if it takes longer than expected to complete. From there, I schedule time in the morning, between classes, and after school to complete my assignments. As I started applying this technique, I've felt less stressed as I realistically plan out my days. As a result, I have been more likely to complete my to-do list because it looks and feels less daunting. 

The next challenge I decided to tackle was my sleep schedule. This was harder to fix. My sleep would vary by day as my class starting times were very different my first semester. This allowed me to go to sleep crazy late and then wake up less than an hour before class started. I know, it wasn't good! I knew I had to fix this problem this semester.

So, I scheduled my first class to be around the same time each day to give me a more consistent schedule. As a result, I’ve established a more regular sleeping and rising time. This technique has helped me create a morning routine. What helps me wake up early is scheduling small, fun things for myself. For example, I love reading, so I am motivated by planning to wake up early and read a few chapters of my book. In addition, going to the gym has been refreshing since it gives me a boost to start my day. Little things like this can help you wake up early. The issue of going to bed on time becomes easier to resolve because if you wake up early, you’re more likely to get tired at a reasonable time of night. 

Overall, I think that both of these strategies have helped me avoid procrastination. It’s easy to believe you can get a certain amount of things done, but it can feel like too much when you actually come around to doing the tasks. Waking up early has created a more relaxing morning environment as I'm not in a rush to get to class. In addition, I can get some assignments done and take care of myself by doing things I find enjoyable. Sometimes, it's hard to remember to do little things that make you happy amidst the chaos, but it’s what keeps you sane. 

Hareem Rauf

Wisconsin '25

I'm a freshman at UW Madison studying Life Sciences Communication.
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