I've always seen the spring semester as a time of revival; everything feels so fresh. It's a new year and new classes are beginning, I've got a clean slate all around. Almost every single one of us enters the classroom with new goals written down in our notes app about how we will “reinvent” ourselves this semester.
Now, don't get me wrong: I personally don't think I really believe in the whole idea of “reinventing oneself”. After all, we are all human, and the idea of going cold turkey into a completely new lifestyle just doesn’t feel sustainable to me. Not to mention, I'd like to avoid falling victim to large corporations marketing products guaranteed to make us smarter, healthier, stronger, more beautiful and therefore a better person in the new year.
So, the question stands: how do I better myself this year?
While drafting my resolutions, the number one thing I focused on was routine. I have always felt better when I had a routine to follow because it makes me feel productive. Should productivity equate to self-worth? No. But that's a resolution for another new year.
Here are a couple of strategies I’m using in 2022 to have a successful semester.
Having a planner (and actually using it)
I love school supplies. I remember the sheer thrill of going to the hometown target before the first day of middle school. You could always find the school supplies section simply by following the sounds of rustling paper and the smell of fresh mechanical pencil lead. I don't think I will ever grow out of getting excited about organizing all my materials before a new period of academia in my life.
Not surprisingly, my favorite item of all is—of course—my planner. A planner is an incredible way to keep track of exactly what is going on in your life day by day or even hour by hour, depending on what style of planner you get.
As a student, my favorite place to shop for a new planner would have to be the University's bookstore. They have ones specifically made for students that go by the school year and are made to accommodate class schedule planning.
In these first few weeks of classes, it is crucial to go through all of your syllabi for each course and copy important dates into your planner. If you want to get carried away, you can even color code by course (you can even change the color of your Canvas shell to match :) ).
Now, the challenging part is keeping up with it. Add appointments, events, meetings and even nights out into your planner as the year goes on and watch how much easier it makes your life.
Making study time a part of your schedule
When I make my schedule at the end of the previous semester, I do my best to avoid morning and late-night classes just because I know that works best for me. I also always make sure that if I have a lot of classes in one day, I have a break in between for lunch. However, I had to escape that mindset that because my classes are done for the day, so am I.
I decided that this semester, I will schedule time at Willy T or my favorite coffee shop to study.
I wanted to make these study dates with myself a regular thing a couple of nights a week. An example of incorporating this practice into your life would be like if on Thursdays, you are done with classes by 3 p.m., schedule your study time to be every Thursday in the same spot from 4-6 p.m. and then go treat yourself to dinner.
These sessions definitely don't have to be long, but they have to be regular. This makes them incredibly sustainable and easy to make plans around. Especially if you know you lead a busy life.
Going off my previous point, one of the principal components of mental health while in school or even your career is a good work-life balance. Yes, school seems like it consumes every waking second of your energy and thoughts but I promise it doesn't have to. In addition to adding these study times into my schedule, my goal is that once that time has elapsed, I am done.
While everything on my checklist for that week may not be completed, I have used my energy to make that time as productive and possible and now it is time to focus on me.
For example, let's say you have classes M-F from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. You could use three days a week to dedicate to “study hall” from 4-6 p.m. and attempt to complete all outside work during those sessions; that way, you have evenings and weekends open. While this may not be possible every week because I know how life goes with work, extracurriculars, etc., it's a good jumping-off point.
Your life while in school doesn't have to be serious 100% of the time. I know that sounds like terrible advice, but life is supposed to be fun. Being young is supposed to be fun. So make it a priority too, just like school and those other obligations that feel like they drag you down. Just ensure that a healthy balance is held between the two.