As unfortunate as it is, summer is over, and if anyone else is like me, trying to find the best way to return to a routine after spending two and a half semesters online. No longer am I able to roll out of bed ten minutes before class, brush my teeth, wash my face and throw a clean shirt on before sitting down at my desk. Nor can I spend the 15 minutes between classes doing work for my internships or putting final touches on projects I did not have time to do earlier.
Instead, every morning I face the task of waking up, making sure I have all of my class materials, and making it to campus on time for my classes. During the 15 minutes I have between classes, I run from one building to the next or up and down the Daniel Hall stairs.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about it. I would much rather be in person than sitting on Zoom all day long. But I will say, I did have to make a few adjustments to ensure success, especially after the summer break. As a senior graduating in December, I have collected a few tips to ensure my success when re-entering an in-person, routine schedule. Here are 10 tips that have helped me succeed thus far in the semester that you can implement to ensure a painless transition into the semester.
- Use a planner or an online calendar to organize your schedule
I use both. I use my planner for daily to-do lists, significant assignment due dates and appointments or meetings I have that day. I use my Google Calendar to outline my class schedule, block off work time and plan reminders for significant assignments. By having these two forms of scheduling, I can assure that my class schedule, two internships, club memberships, work and social life all stay organized. Using this technique, I do not become overwhelmed and know precisely what is coming up and when.
- Organize your workspace
I cannot be productive with a mess around me. And now that I’m running around to various places again, my workspace often looks like a tornado at the end of the day. That is why every night, I take five minutes before I go to bed to organize my room. I return my books back to where they belong and put away any clothes or shoes lying around. It seems like a pain, but when I wake up in the morning, I feel less overwhelmed waking up to a clean room and feeling more productive knowing where everything belongs.
- Read through the syllabus before your classes start
With about two and a half weeks in, your opportunity to do this has already passed. But you should consider doing it in the spring semester. I find myself a lot less anxious when I know what to expect of the class after reading the syllabus. This way, I know when all of my significant assignments are due, what I need to order for my classes and what the professor expects of me before the course starts.
- Try to get ahead of your work
I know what you are going to ask. The semester has barely started, and you are already grinding out work? It sounds insane, but I like working ahead or as ahead as I can. That way, if anything surprising comes up, I am not freaking out trying to work the surprise assignment into my hectic schedule. Instead, I can attack it with confidence and continue to perform at my best academically.
- Set an alarm
As a college student, I know this seems daunting. I also love to sleep. But setting an alarm and getting up early sets me up for success in the day because I am more likely to do work in the morning than at night when hanging out with all of my roommates. Usually, I set my alarm clock for 7 a.m. That allows me two and a half hours to wake up, get ready, eat breakfast, look over my schedule and create a to-do list for the day before I have to head to campus so that I am not overwhelmed.
- Make sleep a priority
There are a few things I cannot do and trying to work at 2 a.m. is one of them. Throughout my college years, I have come to understand that more than anything. My body needs sleep to work effectively. So, I try to go to bed by midnight at the latest each night. That way, I wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day.
- Pack meals
I used to eat a granola bar for breakfast and spend all day on campus, coming home at 5 or 6 p.m. starving and tired. This is not the right thing to do for your body when you are sitting in a classroom all day long. Your body needs fuel. Real fuel, not an iced coffee and a granola bar as your meal of the day. To put it in perspective, your brain uses 20-30% of your energy intake. That means to work best and synthesize all the information you are learning, your body needs a balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner. That means throwing a sandwich, pack of nuts and an apple into your bag is worth the time it takes in the morning. Your mind and body will thank you!
- Get your body moving
There is something about sitting in classrooms all day long that doesn’t jive with my body. After an hour or two, I notice my focus tends to trail off, and I get distracted easily. To combat this, I take time to break up my day and go on a run, workout or even stand up and stretch my body out so all the blood can get moving again and I can return to my work more focused.
- Pre-pack your backpack
As an English major, I am reading an immense amount of books that I have to bring to class on their respective day. I find it helpful to look at what I need the night before and put it in my backpack. That way in the morning when I am trying to get out the door, I can throw my bag over my shoulder and go, confident that I have what I need.
- Give yourself a break
Of course all of these tips are great, but they become insignificant when you focus so much on school that you forget to take time for yourself. Burnout is real, and if it happens early on in the semester, it is hard to get rid of it. By allowing yourself to do something you enjoy, you will find your semester a lot more enjoyable. What are things I like to do to take time for myself? I like to dance, watch a movie or TV show with my roommates, go for a walk or listen to music to relax.
Written by: Elizabeth O’Donnell