Welcome to Ask The Argus, a semi-regular advice column brought to you by the Features section! For our first edition of the year, we’re sharing our tips for how to start the semester on the right foot.
I’m a first-year student, and I have no idea how everyone has time for everything they do. I’m exhausted and drop/add just ended. How do I stay involved but not completely overwhelmed?
Here at The Argus, we know as well as anyone that the beginning of a semester can prove particularly stressful. After a long break from academic and extracurricular commitments, diving back into constant classes, homework, and various meetings can quickly overwhelm any student, especially someone who may be involved in multiple clubs or who works part-time on top of their academic load. It’s all too easy to fall behind on your work at the beginning of the semester and spend the rest of it playing catch-up, which can lead to undue stress, frustration, and eventual burnout as finals week nears. That’s why we at The Argus took the time to discuss and compile a few of the strategies that have been the most helpful for us in managing our time and staying on top of our work while prioritizing our physical and mental health.
Have a plan.
It seems self-explanatory, but so many of us have a tendency to jump into our work without planning or budgeting time for it in advance. Oftentimes, we have more assignments than we remember at the moment, our assignments may be longer than we anticipate, and we may not think about how much energy we will have to study at a given time. But the first step to beating burnout is to schedule your study time so it feels more manageable and fits into your already busy schedule, five majors, three minors and all.
Get rid of any distractions.
Let’s be honest. We’ve all seen a 30 minute assignment devolve into a five hour saga when our phone keeps buzzing every five minutes. Yes, aimlessly scrolling on TikTok or updating our friends on the debacles of the past weekend may be much more interesting than a physics textbook, but the pain of studying can be greatly relieved (or at least shortened) if you get rid of all distractions surrounding you. Turn off your phone and put it away, clear your desk of more interesting reads, and set up in a space that doesn’t tempt you to do something other than study. You can even keep your phone busy by recording aesthetically pleasing time-lapse videos of yourself working. Although romanticizing the grind may not be an ideal path to go down, it can make the most mundane assignments feel slightly more exciting in the moment.
Split large assignments and projects into smaller tasks.
It can be overwhelming to try to tackle longer presentations or papers in a single go, especially if the project will account for a significant portion of your grade for a class. About that “romanticizing the grind” problem…pulling an all-nighter for a big assignment, surrounded by candy and energy drinks, is less exciting than it sounds. And it sounds awful.
Even if you start early, it can often feel like starting from scratch every time you revisit a big project. So, before you dive straight in, take some time to think about all the steps you need to take in order to finish the assignment, making each task as specific as possible. These may include research, organization of information, writing, proofreading, editing, and more. Breaking the project down in this way can transform your monster midterm into a few easy assignments. There may no longer be a grind to romanticize, but you will realize that it’s for the best.
Make full use of the tools at your disposal.
The University has given us access to dozens of virtual resources that you can incorporate into your organizational system. There are also lots of free, open-source tools that can be found from a quick Google search. From Microsoft Office 365 to free platforms like Notion, you can find a combination of platforms and tools that helps you to keep on top of your commitments and assignments. One of the simplest and most helpful tools for managing your time, and one of our favorites on the Features team, is Google Calendar. It provides a convenient way to keep track of all your classes, extracurricular activities, and work shifts in one place and allows you to color-code activities and customize the platform to fit your needs. You can add reminders for when all your important exams, papers, and projects are due so that you know which weeks you will be busiest and adjust your other social and academic commitments accordingly.
Keep track of your energy to study.
In theory, we may have what seems like plenty of time and space to study throughout our weeks. However, we often do not factor our energy level and ability to retain information into our study plans. Though we might have 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. free one day, after three classes and two clubs, most people don’t have the energy to stay up and study for another three hours that day. When you are scheduling your time to study, make sure to account for when you will have the energy to work. Budgeting time is important, but setting aside the wrong times to focus on schoolwork could lead to unnecessarily long study sessions, frustration, difficulty learning material, and quick burnout. We are all human, and no matter how studious you may be, you probably have a limited amount of energy to devote to academics every day. Keep track of this, and stay safe and healthy with your self-directed workload.
Schedule in time for self-care.
Remember you’re a person first, and a student second. Most students are involved in lots of activities outside of their schoolwork and each can feel like it is of utmost importance. However, none of us are able to give our best effort to anything if we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Ensure that your schedule leaves enough time to engage in activities that help you to unwind and reflect on the rest of your week.
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Sulan Bailey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Akhil Joondeph can be reached at email@example.com