Staying Ahead

Happy Sunday, y’all! Now that “syllabus week” is over, I thought I’d shoot out some [unsolicited] advice about beating senioritis, or general second semester laziness for those who are not graduating just yet. While in the long run grades arguably don’t mean much, for some it really counts so it’s important to develop smart habits at the beginning of the semester. For those who have already settled their post-grad plans, however, I hope these tips will encourage you to at least stay organized in your general daily tasks. Being organized just makes you feel great and really boosts your productivity, so here are seven tips for staying ahead of yourself:

  1. Set reminders
    Forgetfulness is a part of human nature, but you don’t want this to become a habit or something that people know you for (i.e. “Oh, he/she always forgets stuff). Set reminders in your phone for information the moment you hear about it, and for information you know you would easily forget, set multiple reminders. I would advise setting reminders to alert you five to ten minutes after your alarm goes off in the morning so you know what to prepare for that particular day, but ultimately you should set your reminders according to your personal schedule and how you generally function. If you prefer to have a planner, keep it on your night stand or anywhere you frequent in your room when you’re not carrying it around so that you won’t forget.
  2. Give yourself incentives
    Whether it’s rewarding yourself with a full night’s sleep or a Netflix binge, giving yourself an incentive will push you to finish the work you need to finish. On the same note, do not reward yourself with procrastinating on other work! If you know your will power isn’t the best, ask a friend to pick a reward for you. Nothing motivates a person more than rewards and it’s even better when it comes from another person.
  3. Avoid procrastination [as much as possible]
    I get it–easier said than done. One thing that worked for me was working on my homework once I got back from class because I was still in school mode; this is a habit I developed in high school that worked throughout college. Because of the existence of block schedules, internships, clubs, etc., I understand going home and doing more work isn’t always an option for everyone. You can’t beat procrastination all the time. But do you really want to stay up all night only to not do your best work, look like you got hit by a truck the next day, and go through a whole day of falling asleep in class and people constantly asking you if you’re okay? It’s not always worth it.
  4. Create an environment of productivity
    If you’re going to be spending an extended period of time somewhere doing work you’d rather not be doing, you should at least feel comfortable in that space. Clean off your desk, make sure you have enough lighting, lay out all of your materials in an accessible manner and put your phone on Do Not Disturb/turn it off. From there, you can get into flow and finish all or most of your work in a faster manner than you would have previously. If you have designated your room to be a place where you relax, do not do your work in there. If you have to move into the living room or even move all the way to the library on campus, the most important thing to consider is whether or not that particular space is a place you consider to be a working environment.
  5. Establish daily goals
    At this stage in life, we think we should only be focused on our five-year plans, but daily goals are just as, if not more, important. Your daily goals should act as a catalyst to your larger goal(s). Ask yourself: What am I doing to bring ‘x’ into my life? X can represent success, happiness, stability, and the list goes on. Life acts a conveyor belt and while there are always unprecedented accidents and malfunctioning, there is always a solution as well. So, what are you doing today to create a better future for yourself?
  6. Stay focused on yourself
    In college, we’re constantly weighed down by the opinions and concerns of others. We are subconsciously comparing ourselves to others by either saying we’re not doing enough or convincing ourselves we don’t have to do as much because no one else is. Self-deprecation really curbs productivity and creativity because we’re so distracted by what’s not happening rather than focusing on what is happening. Do what you can and make sure it’s your best inside and outside of the classroom. Remember that you are creating the life you want and whatever anybody else is doing should not play a role in your decisions.
  7. Do not treat your social gatherings like appointments
    This is a rule in school and a rule in life. I felt I would put this last because we often think that “being busy” means putting the things we enjoy last on the list and that’s simply not true. There were far too many times I met up with people only to feel like I was a point on their checklist. From the constant checking of their phones to the general lack of interest in the overall conversation, I felt I may as well have just stayed at home and saved my money and time. If you know you don’t actually have the time, reschedule when you know you’ll be able to give another person (or group of people) your undivided attention. And if you’re that busy where you actually do have to schedule time with your friends, don’t make your friends feel like you’re doing them a favor by squeezing them into your schedule. Your social interactions shouldn’t feel like tasks and it’s a waste of your time and their time.

Being organized is an underrated skill, but it is highly sought after in the professional world. This is something you want people to know you for and something you don’t want to have to worry about. When you’re organized, you can achieve more. Trust me, staying ahead of yourself can only reap more benefits on every level. You can do this. Good luck this semester, everyone!

The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

xx, AE

 

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