Hey, students! You’ve likely spent your summer break traveling (lucky duck), interning, on your parents’ couch, or working to pay for next semester’s tuition (kudos to you).
Whatever the case, it’s time to dust off the notebooks and hit the library stacks, because university is back in session.
The back-to-school wave can bring on a number of emotions. We always personally loved the feeling of starting a fresh chapter—it seemed like an infinite oasis of opportunity to take the bull by its horns and really live up to the potential we knew was inside of us. We wanted to commit to our studies and accomplish a laundry list of endeavors for the year. (A little overzealous, but a good attitude nonetheless.)
On the other hand, it can feel a bit daunting. You go from having at least some control over your schedule to being inundated with lectures, class assignments, pressures to map out the future, and the non-stop flow of social engagements.
But, our friend, have no fear. Timing is here to help you tackle the new semester and set yourself up to have your best school year yet.
In order to know what you want to do, you also have to know what you need to do.
Of course, if you are working toward a degree, tacking on credits is going to be your number one priority.
Keep in mind that everyone finds themselves in different situations with different personal responsibilities, so take on a workload that is challenging, but won’t cause you to burn out early. Always do what works best for you.
Now that we got that out of the way, be sure you take the necessary measures to properly prepare for your semester’s courses and assignments.
Here’s a simple tip: Use both a digital and paper calendar.
We know that almost everything is done on a mobile device these days, so making sure you block out the time for classes, your professors’ office hours, and study groups on your Google calendar or something similar will help you stay systematized on the go.
However, don’t underestimate the power of having a monthly calendar at your desk or weekly planner notebook in your bag. Being able to see the bigger picture will help keep you in check and ahead of larger assignments, and using a highlighter or color-coding certain events (deadlines, social obligations, etc.) can ensure that the things that are most important to you catch your eye in a quick glance.
Additionally, we recommend ending each school day by creating a to-do list for the next. Getting it all down while pressing matters are fresh in your head will ensure that you don’t forget anything during your slumber, plus will help you remove the weight of the day so you can (hopefully) relax a bit.
You can do this digitally or on a notepad, whatever you like best. Either way, there is a special joy in deleting or crossing off things on your list throughout the day.
So now that you have a general sense of your basic time commitments and you’ve put them all on paper (and/or screen), now is the time to think about what you want to achieve during the semester.
Maintaining a certain GPA or raising a grade in a subject that isn’t your favorite may count toward your academic goals, but we urge you to think outside the classroom box.
Maybe you want to join a club sport, start a blog, dedicate yourself to an exercise routine, or build friendships with new people from different backgrounds.
Whatever your goals, it helps to actually jot them down to bring them to life.
Remember that school isn’t just about what happens inside classroom walls, but it’s also about the personal growth we experience and the bonds we form.
Recognizing (and Avoiding) Distractions
There are many benefits to living in today’s world of advanced technology as a student. Information, resources, and entertainment are all available at the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger.
We live in an age where you can educate yourself, teach yourself new skills, and be connected to various communities of people all around the world who share similar interests.
It’s a stimulating time where it’s nearly impossible to be bored—there is always something available to hold your attention. (Unless, of course, the electricity or Internet goes out. But come on, people, pick up a book or deck of playing cards!)
And, with nearly everyone in the habit of checking the screen in their hand—the New York Post cited a study by Asurion that found the average American checks their phone every 12 minutes, or an average of 80 times a day—the truth is a that a lot of us are under the misled perception that we are good at multitasking.Spoiler alert: It’s a myth that we can multitask—you’re really just diverting your attention back and forth. Click To Tweet
As this CNN article puts it, “Take an everyday activity like driving. When you look at the MRI of someone who is in driving mode, see how much of their brain is activating there? Now if you just layer in one more thing—if person is listening while they are driving—and all of a sudden the amount of attention, the amount of brain bandwidth going toward driving decreases by about 37%. So you’re not multi-tasking, you’ve in fact reduced the amount of attention you’re now paying to your driving.”
In order to be productive, it’s imperative that you make the effort to take breaks from your phone or laptop while focusing on studying or writing a paper.
Studying on a screen? Give yourself pockets of time where you don’t allow yourself to look at other websites, social media, or messages.
Track Your Time
This may or may not be something you’ve heard of doing, but we can promise that it’s a somewhat secret tool for student success.
We’ve talked about being organized, solidifying goals, and being aware of distractions. But how can you be exactly sure how you’re spending your time during the day? Answer: a time tracking tool.
Leveraging an automatic time tracking app like Timing (if you are a Mac user) can help you see what classes or types of assignments are hanging you up the most, show you what sites you might be defaulting to when you should be working, and allow you to prove to your group-project mates or professors how much effort you are devoting to a project.
Having this kind of feedback—right in front of your eyes—can easily demonstrate if you should seek additional help for a specific course. With Timing, you even block certain Mac apps during your dedicated time to study.
It can also help you realize your strengths. Your writing tasks might be quicker and easier for you to complete than researching, computing, or reading. If that’s the case, it could be a good idea to look into careers or verticals where writing is valued, or be sure to use it as a creative outlet in your free time.
Additionally, tracking allows you to realize the times in your day when you are most productive. Some people are morning people, while others are night owls. Making sure you tackle your most difficult or thought-provoking tasks during the time of day when you can generally “get down to business” will greatly help your level of productivity.
And guess what? Timing offers an exclusive discount just for students, faculty, and nonprofits. Contact us here for more details.
Especially since social media is such a prevalent influence, you have to be careful not to jump on the perpetual hamster wheel of perfection. Check out what a psychologist penned for The New York Times to learn more about the connection between social media and the pressure we put on ourselves.
Listen: You’re smart, you’re motivated (you’re reading a blog about kicking off your best school year!), and we know that you have a lot on your shoulders.
Whether you have yet to join the workforce or have gone back to school as an adult to finish your degree, remember to stop, take a breath, and appreciate that you are in a learning environment.
You are only one person. There are only 24 hours in a day. At Timing, we’re here to help you make the most of them. (But remember to make time for ample sleep!)
Don’t run yourself ragged trying to do absolutely everything. Instead, focus on the things that you must do, the things that you find rewarding, and the things that feed your soul. If you can follow that, you’ll be in good shape.
In conclusion, be kind to yourself.
Also, try to have a little fun.