The start of term is my favorite time of the year.
It feels like the perfect opportunity to start fresh and set myself up for a great year. When I move back to campus, get all my new school supplies, and the weather gets (slightly) cooler, I become so excited and motivated for the upcoming year. I feel more prepared and confident than at any other time.
In today’s post, I thought I’d share my tips and tricks so that you can feel the same way too. Whether you’re starting your freshman year of college, or you’re returning for yet another year, this guide should help you not only start off the school year right – but maintain that confidence and preparedness for the rest of the year, too.
1. Set Goals
Setting goals is a great way to focus all of the motivation and excitement you’re feeling into a few achievable tasks. This can also help when you begin to lose steam midway through the term (hey, it happens to all of us).
The key here is to not get carried away (i.e., setting too many goals) or give yourself unrealistic goals. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself this year – but be honest with yourself. Setting yourself up to fail is worse than not giving yourself any goals whatsoever.
I like to start with a list of 5 goals for the year. I typically have 1-2 academic goals (i.e., my goal GPA, a grade I’d like to shoot for in a challenging class), a personal growth goal (a new habit I’d like to establish, or a skill I’d like to see myself strengthen), a health goal (maybe eating from home more often or attending a class at the gym twice a week), and a relationships goal (this can vary from romantic, platonic, or familial).
As you establish these goals, you may begin to see smaller, more easily attainable goals along the way. I call these “checkpoints” and though they seem small, it is important to give yourself credit for them. About once a month set a reminder to check in with yourself and track the progress of each of these goals. Is there something that is no longer serving you? Have you already achieved a goal without realizing it? Do you need to tweak any of these goals to make them more realistic?
Documenting this progress and celebrating your successes (small or big) along the way can reestablish that excitement and motivation you felt at the beginning of the year. It also can help keep you on track to achieve those goals and end the term as great as you started it.
2. Be Proactive
A proactive approach to the school year is your best tool in college (and any time, let’s be real). This starts at the very beginning – yes, I’m talking about Syllabus Week. Most college professors provide the entire course schedule on the first day, meaning every assignment, project, and exam is listed way ahead of time. Our initial reaction as students when we see this is to think, “Oh, I have so much time!”
This is true and untrue. While you don’t need to overwhelm yourself with things to do, the slow pace at the beginning of term is the perfect time to establish proactive habits. If we don’t, when the year gets going, it can blindside us if we’re not prepared.
Go ahead and knock out those first few assignments. Establish your routine of finishing assignments a few days before they’re due, studying for exams well ahead of time, and being familiar with the course schedule.
These habits don’t just include academic pursuits. If you have a few hours a day where you don’t have anything to do, reflect back on your goals. Is there a 45-minute gym class you could squeeze in during this time? What about an extra study session or coffee with an old/new friend?
3. Stay Organized
In order to be proactive, staying organized is a MUST. What good is being proactive if you don’t know what’s going on or where an assignment is? Being organized will not only help you stay on top of your assignments, but it will also ease your stress and anxiety.
As I stated before, your professors most likely will provide a course schedule on the first day. One of the best things I’ve done is to go ahead and write down when all of my exams for the semester are. This helps to remind me of when they are approaching as I fill out my agenda day-to-day with the current assignments going on. I don’t like to write down every assignment, because if I don’t keep up with what’s going on during the day-to-day homework or suggested studying, I am less likely to remember them or use my agenda resourcefully.
Academically, it is great to stay organized using an agenda and binders or folders to keep assignments and resources together. Personally, organization extends into keeping your room clean, staying on top of your laundry, and honoring your commitments. In your relationships, this can mean scheduling in time to FaceTime family members, meeting up with friends, and just taking some “me” time every now and then.
4. Wake Up Early
As a night owl, I am notoriously bad at this. But I have to admit – when I get up earlier and give myself more time in the morning to get ready, eat breakfast, and knock out a few easy tasks, I feel more prepared to “take on” the day.
This doesn’t mean you need to get up at 5:00 AM – or maybe you’d like to, though it sounds like death to me – but giving yourself a good hour/hour and a half before you need to leave for class is a great idea. While some people like to hop right in with an early morning yoga class or a run, I tend to take things slow and ease into the day (probably because I am not a morning person). This means some morning journaling (I like The 5 Minute Journal app), listening to a podcast as I get ready, and making a fulfilling breakfast.
Whatever you think you can handle before class, make sure you stick to it. There are always mornings when we simply cannot wake up, whether we’re ill or we’ve stayed up late finishing an assignment, but repetition will make this become a habit that you’ll thank yourself for.
5. Don’t Overwhelm Yourself
Staying motivated, acting proactively, and trying to achieve your goals can seem daunting. Trying to stay happy and productive in the many different aspects of your life – school, work, health, etc. – can also feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin.
When this happens, it’s okay to take a step back and evaluate what is making you feel so overwhelmed. If there’s anything that needs to immediately be dealt with – take care of it. Then, put down the textbooks or skip your yoga class. Draw a bath, put on a face mask and some happy tunes, or just take a nap. There’s nothing wrong with needing a break for a night – so long as it’s not every night that you’re blowing off doing what you need to do.
Implementing these five simple habits will not only help you start the year on a good note but will also ensure that you stay ahead of your assignments, feel fulfilled and productive rather than simply “busy,” and will keep you on target for achieving those goals. Now get out there and kick ass!
We’re rooting for you!
Madi and the rest of The Gilded Twenties Team.
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