Original post on 1/10/16 (theundergradexperience.blogspot.com/)
Happy New Year! I Hope you are all doing well. By now you must have all begun your spring semester or are beginning within the week. I hope you are all excited for the new semester and got the classes you want to take, I know how frustrating signing up for classes can be!
As you begin the new semester and look to improve from the previous one, ask yourself where you were lacking last semester and see if it’s an area that can be improved on or be compensated for. There are three things that I urge each of you to prioritize this semester; time management, resources, and consistency.
This is rather straight forward and a concept I'm sure each of you have been lectured on tirelessly. Why the broken record? It is because this is a skill that people suck at, even adults struggle with it, myself included. It is one of the simplest but yet one of the most powerful skills one can possess. To be able to efficiently plan and schedule your days means that you will be able to complete tasks in a timely fashion, minimizing errors and unnecessary stress. So why do we suck at it if it is so simple and beneficial? It is because life happens. We are easily distracted, whether it is social media or laziness. We each have our unique distractions that prevent us from effective time management thus minimizing our level of productivity; as a college student this will be reflected on your performance in school.
Alright, time management is important, we get it! Now what? Well, understanding the importance is one small part to the solution. Understanding what things occupy your schedule and which are distractions is the next step, and the bulk of the solution.
I am a fan of writing things down because our mind has a funny tendency of distorting reality to please us; habitual tardiness will seem like once in a while occurrences, our abilities overestimated. How many times have you thought to yourself, "pshh, I could do that", only to downplay your failure after a couple attempts. The point I am trying to make is that we are not very accurate at estimating and assessing situations. That is why I believe writing down the things that are distractions, or take up a significant amount of time on your schedule will be invaluable. Also, just because something takes up a significant amount of time on your schedule does not make it a distraction, in fact it could be vital, but noting it will allow for efficient time management. Once you have a list of both things, see which are necessary and which aren't. Based on this, make modifications, reallocating time from things that aren't necessary to things that are, especially if you realize you are pressed for time on the things that are. Below is an example of a list you can make.
- Video games (1.5 hrs/day)
- Social media (1 hr/day)
- TV/Netflix/Movies (1.5 hrs/day)
Take up time
- School (6 hrs/day)
- Sleep (7 hrs/day)
- Workout/exercise (2.5 hrs/day)
- As you can see, distractions are the things you could do without but are fun leisurely activities, which are perfectly fine, while the things that take up a significant amount of your time are more vital.
- Based on this, there are 4.5 free hours to either study or do something else. Let’s say you need more time to sleep because you are feeling tired. That comes out of the free hours. Any other modifications will come out the free hours until you are left with none, then you have to start modifying how much time you spend doing various activities. There are variables which you can’t change, such as hours spent at school, so it will have to be taken out of somewhere else, ideally from the distractions side.
Now that we understand the importance of time management, we can talk about tools to help you manage your time.
Google or any platform that provides the tools I am about to mention should be your best friend. I personally use Google because I am familiar with their product, my program (most educational programs also) use their service, and they have a good selection of tools. I also use Windows to a lesser extent, but they provide identical tools as Google, just for people who have a Microsoft (outlook) account. Calendar is one google app I use extensively; it's useful for planning my day and reminding me of important times. This will help you remain punctual and organized especially if your schedule is busy. There are cool features with Gmail that allow you to simply add events or reminders to your calendar if you receive an email containing a date or time. If you have an Android phone, you get direct notifications sent to your phone to remind you of upcoming events. There are other cool features with the calendar app, most of which you guys probably know of, but to the others, now you're in the know. If you need more information or if anyone wants to add additional tips for these services, please leave a comment.
Most of these services also provide cloud storage which is perfect for transporting various contents without the need of a physical storage device.
Resources are essentially any tool, structures, or persons that help you successfully accomplish any task from homework, internship, to school in general. The list is vast. This post you are reading, this entire blog is a resource. Its purpose is to assist you and give you solutions to roadblocks you might encounter in your education. Resources are abundant for college students, unfortunately most of these resources are not common knowledge, you usually have to dig deep to find them. And when you do find these resources you should make it a habit of sharing it with your fellow classmates. Call it karma or whatever, but I believe there is never a negative in sharing knowledge and helping others succeed. As I've mentioned, there is an abundance of resources available to college students especially through your school.
The library is one of these resources provided by your school. There are free books for you to borrow. While other people spent hundreds to thousands of dollars on books, I spent far less because I used available resources. For calculus, the tutoring center had books which I could either do homework with or take pictures of and use later. I had an old calculus book to practice with as well. The library had some of the books that I had to read for some of my classes. Friends had extra books and there were cheap books available through student run bartering pages on Facebook. My strategy was to view the required and recommended text for a class as early as possible and then searching through all my resources to see if they could be found there, if they weren't on there I would switch the class. There are courses that are required and ones that you genuinely are interested in, if that is the case you obviously don't want to drop these classes and the books might prove to be useful investments, but if that is not the case, I say save the money.
I mentioned one resource earlier that I will elaborate on, that is tutors! Calculus was the hardest thing I had encountered. I was able to succeed in that course because not only did I manage my time wisely, but I utilized the tutoring center. I can only speak for my alma mater, University of Arizona, that had a fantastic tutoring center that helped with a plethora of subjects, but I assume other schools should have this.
Your advisors and professors are also useful resources. They have a wealth of knowledge about the coursework, different programs and majors, scholarships, internships, and solutions to many of the problems you might be facing. There is help around the corner everywhere in college, you just have to connect to the right people to get that help, don’t be shy to ask questions. And like I said, your friends are also resources. Surround yourself with people who are active in their program and school; you will pick up a few gems from them.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the main event, the reason you all came here, CONSISTENCY!
Everything I have said before this pales in comparison to the value consistency has. If you've ever heard anyone speak to you about success but did not mention consistency at least a hundred times (sarcasm, but seriously) they lied to you and did you a disservice. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing is a product of one attempt. Sure there are one in a million scenarios but if you are a numbers person like I am, I wouldn't place my bet on that probability. Google, Apple, Microsoft and many other powerful corporations are all the products of consistency. These powerhouses were not built in one attempt. The founders had to be consistent with good practice. Consistency does not equate success, because you could do bad practice consistently. Time management and utilizing your resources aren't things that you're going to do once and see success, they must be reproduced and done on a consistent basis. A lackadaisical approach will give you lackadaisical results. You must learn good practices and be consistent with those practices, also developing and improving upon those practices for success. If you notice you are not performing the way you want with your academics, it will behoove you to switch practices until you find something that reaps rewards and be consistent with that practice. Unsuccessful people are ones that continue down a path that has failed them before. Consistency can lead you into and keep you in failure or it could lead you into and sustain your success, the key is to find good practices and be consistent with those practices.
So, what you are telling me is, if I follow these three things I will get straight A's and become a millionaire?
Of course, when have I been wrong.... Kidding, but this is a small piece to the puzzle that I hope will help you achieve greater success with your studies. There is no one right answer. Always have an open mind and be willing to learn, because I believe there is a lesson in every interaction we have.