Tips for surviving the semester

Antoine Abou-Diwan

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Photo credit: Katie Grayot, Staff photographer

Question:

Everyone knows that the first few weeks of the semester are the most stressful and most overwhelming. I’ve been having a hard time trying to get back into ‘school mode’ when all I want to do is sleep in, stay out all night and spend my days at the beach. How can I make this semester as stress-free as possible?

Answer:

Dear Unprepared,

I can relate to your situation.  Getting back into the swing of things at the beginning of the semester or any other fun break from school can be difficult.  It doesn’t help that procrastination comes easily for so many of us.

First things first—make sure you get enough rest.  Set your alarm clock early enough so you have enough time to get to your first class in the morning.  Go to bed early enough to ensure at least eight hours of sleep.

There are also the usual things you can do:

1. Make a to-do list and stick to it.
2. Prioritize your tasks.
3. Buy an organizer, plan out your days and weeks and stick to it.
4. Work smarter.
5. Clear your desk.  That pile of papers and other junk won’t help you with your schoolwork.  It’s a distraction.
6. Take frequent breaks.
7. Don’t multitask.
8. Change your scenery.

Multitasking is usually a waste of energy and will sidetrack you.  Turn off those instant message programs when you are trying to work.  Switch your phone to silent and leave it in your backpack.  I would bet that 95 percent of cell phone traffic is superfluous.

For example, I’ll take my laptop to the coffeehouse down the street whenever I’ve been cooped up studying in one place for too long.  This allows for a change of atmosphere.  The few minutes of chitchat with the employees behind the counter is oftentimes refreshing enough for me to tackle my schoolwork again, and is nowhere near as time consuming as a phone call with friends, a series of text messages, or compulsively checking Facebook every few minutes.

All the above suggestions areplausible, if not typical and predictable.  I’m a great procrastinator and was in your situation until I rethought my whole approach to schoolwork and everything else that is important to me.

Your problem, initially, appears to be conflict of priorities.  Doing well in school is important to you.  However, going out with friends and hanging out at the beach is just as important. There is no reason that you have to stop having fun just because summer vacation is over.  Staying on top of one set of priorities does not have to come at the expense of another set of responsibilities.

Make a list of what is important to you. This could include school, going to the beach, hanging out with friends and hobbies. Once you have your list, figure out how you want to schedule it into your week.  I try to put almost everything that is important to me on my weekly schedule, from school and work assignments to hobbies and nights out with friends.  Focusing on just one thing, even if it is as important as school or something like going to the beach, is unsatisfying in the long run and most likely be counterproductive.

I realize that following a schedule doesn’t allow for much spontaneity.  How strictly you adhere to your schedule is up to you, but it is a good habit to plan your week ahead of time.

Follow these suggestions and your transition into the semester might be the smoothest, most productive one yet.

Good luck!