It may not feel like summer is around the corner with the kind of weather we have been having lately, but spring semester is the time of year when many students begin counting down the days until they are on their way to their Cayman Island vacation, hanging out with friends from their hometown or simply cuddling up in their own bed to watch several seasons of television shows on Netflix. Sound about right? As enticing as they are, daydreams like these can be detrimental this early in the semester. Below you’ll find four important tips to help you stay in the now and focus on the work that needs to be done before it’s time to bask in the warm, summer sun.
Keep Up With Assigned Readings – This is number one on my list because we are only one week into the semester, and I am already behind on my readings. Granted, I did not have some of my books yet, and there really are not that many readings at this point in the semester, but catching up now is nowhere near as difficult to do as it will be in two or three weeks’ time. And I speak from personal experience when I say that the further behind I fall, the less likely I am to even attempt to catch up. If you find it difficult to complete your reading in one sitting, set up a reading schedule and read a bit of it each time until you have read the entire thing. Take little notes to sum up each section after you read it in order to remember what has happened when you return to read the rest. If you do fall behind, don’t just let it fall to the wayside and forget about it all together. Do everything you can to catch up.
Limit Irrelevant Internet Activity – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Netflix, Reddit… there are so many corners of the Internet to cluster ourselves into when avoiding work, but homework can only be put off for so long. Try to limit the amount of time you spend using time-wasting websites when you still have work to be done.
For Chrome users, there is an extension called StayFocusd which is available for free and limits the amount of time you can spend on those kinds of websites. For those of you who use Mozilla Firefox, there is a similar add-on called LeechBlock. If anyone is still using Internet Explorer, Toggl.com has a free sign-up to track the time you spend on various tasks and has a $5/month fee for full features of the website. There are also a variety of productivity apps available for the same purpose. It’s not bad to spend time on the various time-wasting websites, but use your common sense about it. Schoolwork should get done first.
Create A Detailed Schedule – Some people like to plan out their entire day or week down to every single detail, while others will follow wherever the wind takes them. Whichever way you are, it can be helpful to develop a schedule that you will either follow to the letter or use as a guideline of how you should spend your time. Fill in definite times in which you have work and when classes or clubs meet, and then put in tentative times for meals, homework, studying and socializing. Simply having an idea of how much time you need will allow you to make better decisions when it comes to leaving time for your work.
Make Sure To Relax – While it is important to keep up with your schoolwork and work as hard as you can, working too hard and too much can be just as bad as not working enough. It is important to minimize the stress you feel, and the way in which you do this will vary from person to person. Make time for hanging out with your friends. If you simply have too much work to do, a change of venue may help. Go to the Blue Bean and have a study party with some friends. Do your reading in the lobby of your dorm or living area. When you are taking a break from your class work, you can watch a movie, play a game, read a book, paint your nails or whatever it is that helps you to relax and unwind for a short while. Schoolwork is important, but there is no reason to barricade yourself inside for the next four months.
Everyone is different, and as such, it is impossible to give definite guidelines to follow in order to ensure a successful semester. If you thrive on last-minute work and organized chaos, it is not imperative to suddenly become organized and begin long-term assignments months before they are due, and vice versa. If you do procrastinate, try to start the bare bones and research for the assignment ahead of time so that when you do sit down to write that 10-page paper two days before it is due, you already have all the materials you need to work with.
Here’s the bottom line: You know yourself better than I do, so apply these suggestions to your own work habits, and don’t try to force yourself to do something you already know will not work for you. The rest of the semester is in nobody’s hands but your own. Don’t stress too hard, Blue Jays.