Half-way through the semester, I seem to have gained a tiny fraction of wisdom from experience. If you know me, that’s a very euphemistic way of saying, I’ve tried and failed, but not without learning a few things in the process. Here are a few of my reflections as I watched a beautiful sun sink into the horizon and the sky become darker as dozens of stars began twinkling.
1. To-do lists are scary
Yes, we all should keep a written record of things we have to do, but having a dozen lists in four different places does not work. Trust me, it does not. An electronic list, or an online planner (Google calendar is my favorite) helps with updating things and adding something on the go, but if you are more comfortable with a pencil and a piece of paper, keep one planner. It gets tricky when you try to separate your academic deadlines from your work deadlines, but it’s best to keep everything in one place. Color-coding helps distinguish between tasks or making sections within the planner or diary for different activities.
2. Cross of items from your list
It feels so good to cross something off of a list. Be specific when you write something down. Physics homework sounds vague and it’s difficult to know where to start. Instead, split it up into smaller tasks. Two problems from homework 5. That is specific, and also gives you more opportunities to cross of things from the list.
2. ME time
My first semester, my roommate taught me something I shall always be grateful to her for: ME time is important. It’s so easy to get caught up in working on assignments, hanging out with friends, helping someone study for a test or even cleaning your room and doing your laundry that you never get time for yourself. Initially, I almost felt guilty that I was doing “nothing” productive during my ME time, but it did not take me long to figure out how necessary it is to not do anything for a while and just spend time with yourself. On some days, I read, on some I painted or slept and often, I just watched the sky change color as the sun set and it worked! It cleared my mind. I was not feeling stressed or over worked at all, instead I was raring to tackle the assignment that had haunted me a few hours ago. I realized that taking a break from the entire outside world actually increased my productivity and I could do more work in the same amount of time as compared to when I worked around the clock. Make time for your hobbies, or find a new hobby! It will truly be a rewarding experience.
4. Sleep is good for you
Let me put it this way, if you do not sleep enough, you cannot concentrate, you start forgetting things, you do not retain the knowledge you have gained, (and caffeine can only help so much), eventually, your health starts deteriorating and before you know it, you are in a vicious cycle. Take a deep breath and figure out a schedule that allows you 6-8 hours of sleep every day. Cut down on distracting activities-keep social media for after you have completed your work. One way I trick myself into wasting less time this way is by browsing through Facebook ten minutes before a class begins. That way, like it or not, I have to stop, and by the time I have finished the class, I’m not so tempted to go back anymore.
5. Always assume things are going to take longer than you think
Always remember that. Especially with research. There’s no telling what might come up and how long you’ll need to keep working at a problem. Also, set reasonable amounts of time for tasks. I know I cannot possibly run to the library from Harris Village in ten minutes with my laptop and books in my backpack. Keep tiny tasks ready for when you find that you have reached a class five minutes early and you have nothing to do but wait in the corridor. I have literally made a separate folder of bookmarks in Chrome where I save all the interesting articles I come across to read during these five free minutes I get at random times in a day. That being said, you do not always have to be doing something or the other, say hi to someone, make a new friend, look around…live life.
Here’s wishing you all good luck for the rest of the semester. Smile, take a deep breath and as you work towards your dreams, tell yourself that you are awesome!