Plan ahead now and thank yourself later!
Karl A. Menninger, the world renowned psychiatrist from Topeka, KS is often credited for saying that “anticipation is the best defense”. Like many quotes stating the obvious, this advice is relevant in most all aspects of our everyday lives. We are students, workers, friends, family members, and good citizens: and in each role the more we plan now, the more we thank ourselves later.
Think of your role as a student. If you take 12-15 credit hours and are expected to spend at least another two hours per credit hour outside of class studying, then you are looking at 36-45 hours per week focused on school work (this doesn’t account for any prep time to study like library research, meetings with faculty and other students, etc.). Of course, this time commitment is an average, which means some weeks you might spend less time, like right now during the first week of the semester, and some weeks you might spend much more time, such as preparing for exams or finishing up class projects. Some variability is expected, but the more time away from your studies now means more time needed later.
Now a brief obvious moment about the relationship between time and energy. Notice for yourself so that you can describe in some detail when you feel like you have the most energy to be productive. Are you more energetic in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Do you have more energy if you eat breakfast; have a heavy lunch and light dinner or the other way around? Do you feel less energetic if you slept only 5 hours the night before or even the night before that? Do you feel more energy after you exercise for 45 minutes or are you too hyped-up to study? Your personal answers to these type of questions are important because they will help you maximize the time you spend studying, working, and socializing. In short, if you study for two hours when you feel more energetic, then that study time will be more productive than if you study for two hour feeling tired and sluggish.
So what is a student to do? Well, remembering Karl A. Menninger, the best defense for watching the semester slip into mid-terms (and possibly not notice that several assignments are due around the same time) is to anticipate the fast pace that this spring semester will move. You can start be setting a few specific goals that balance your school and work life with your personal life. Examples of these types of goals are: go to class every day; complete all assignment as scheduled; eat breakfast every weekday; exercise four times a week; visit Career Services this semester; visit with at least two faculty members outside of class this semester. Next make a weekly schedule that blocks all class and lab times as a priority and then block other commitments like work, church, organizational meetings—and don’t forget time for meals, exercise, etc. This weekly schedule should also include a consistent time each day to study.
As the first few weeks roll on, it is important to revisit your goals to see how well you have kept your schedule each week. Review the past week and decide what helped you reach your goals and preview the next week by looking at each day and noting any changes to your schedule so that you can make the necessary tweaks to keep you on track. By reviewing your past performance and previewing the upcoming week, you can anticipate the time and energy needed to have a successful week. And each successful week will ultimately lead to a successful semester!