My Recipe for Making Decisions

By: Amanda

During our young adult lives, there are many decisions to be made. It starts with selecting a college, then major, possibly an internship, job/grad school for after graduation, and whether or not to relocate. The list goes on and on, but you get the gist. Yes, this is a sea of opportunity, but it can also be overwhelming. 

Throughout my lifetime I have been notorious for being indecisive. Even a simple decision, such as what to have for dinner is something I toggle with. The larger decisions have historically been even more difficult for me. I believe I dragged my mom with me to 12 different colleges before finally flipping a coin and choosing UMD (yes, it was the best decision ever!). During my time, I have narrowed down a recipe as to how I make decisions. No, it’s not perfect, but here is what I have learned.

Image: Top of multicolored brick building with clouds in the sky
Text: Recipe for making decisions from an indecisive college student

This is the starting point of the process when it is realized that a decision needs to be made. First, start out by taking inventory of the current situation. Where are you at in life and where do you hope to go? Make a pros and cons list. Draft out ideas. Let the creativity and brainstorming flow!

Talk to a few trusted individuals who know you and the situation well. Explain the situation and listen to their advice. They may have an outside perspective. Oftentimes, close friends and family may be able to point out something you may not be able to see. Additionally, they may prompt you with questions that will help to open up to other ideas.

Depending on the nature of your situation, it may also be appropriate to schedule an appointment with us, at UMD Career & Internship Services. I have done this countless times when navigating planning my career path. I am sure I will do it countless more times as I approach graduation and the numerous decisions that come with this stage of life. 

UMD also has free counseling sessions (for students) through Health Services. They often will work with students on decision-making issues. Check it out if you feel it is appropriate for you. 

Image: nature trail in woods with letterboard on ground.
Text on letterboard: The path to your goals might have some curves.

This being said, it is important to trust your gut. At the end of the day, it is your life and your decision to make! Know that the weight of whatever decision is being faced, big or small, is something that can be handled. Take other input like a grain of salt. Take advice and tips that fit YOU, disregard the rest. 

Once I diagnosed this reoccurring struggle in my life, I looked into some resources. Books, podcasts, YouTube videos – you name it, I probably have checked it out. Here are a few of my favorite resources:

At the end of the day – it is crucial to own what is decided. The best advice I have ever gotten is simply to “just make a decision, don’t turn back, and make the most of it along the way”. I think you will find that it is not about the decision made, instead, it is about making the most of whatever you decide to do and not looking back. 

Of Possible Interest:
The Grass Isn’t Always Greener, But You Should Check Anyway
Don’t Overthink It preview on the What Should I Read Next? podcast
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topic

Read Amanda’s other posts

Tips for Balancing Work and Life

By: Rachel

It’s probably no secret to you by now that life involves a lot of balancing. College is a great example of this: you have schoolwork, keeping up your living space, possibly employment, activities, relationships, health, hobbies…it seems like the list could go on forever! While the areas of your life might change over time, you’ll likely find there will always be multiple, and making time to have a healthy balance of each of them can be tricky. College is a great time to explore what this looks like for you and adopt some practices that will help you balance work (or school) and your personal life.

Keep in mind this will look very different for everyone, and what works for someone else might not work for you. It’s really about finding a balance for yourself, and what that looks like will probably need to change over time. Here are a few tips/suggestions of places to start:

Make the most of your calendar.
Yes, a calendar can be great for keeping track of important dates or deadlines, but it can also be a powerful tool for planning your time. Block off times to finish big projects or when you’ll be working. If it’s helpful, put in the times you plan to exercise or hang out with friends so you aren’t tempted to fill that time with something else.

Image: rock stack with ocean in background
Text: tips for balancing work and life

Write to do lists.
There are tons of ways you can do this — on paper, in a planner, using an app — but I have multiple to do lists for my school projects, work goals, and personal things I need to get done. Lately I’ve been using the app Todoist. You can make different lists for different projects, classes, areas of your life etc., which I love! When I look at what I hope to get done each day, I try to pull a couple items from each list.

Set boundaries.
You might find the areas of your life blend together, and sometimes this is a good thing, but it can be helpful to have some separation. An example: a lot of people who work from home find it’s hard to feel like they’re ever really away from work. Setting boundaries can help you enjoy each part of your life. Maybe this means having a space solely dedicated to work or vowing not to do homework in your bedroom. Maybe you set boundaries with your time, such as “I won’t do work after 10 pm”, or “before 10 am”, or “after 4 pm on Friday”, whatever that looks like for you. The point is setting a boundary, and most importantly, holding yourself to it.

Have some barrier activities.
You might find it helpful to have an activity that breaks up the different parts of your life. Some people like to exercise, take a shower, or change their outfit at the end of their work day. Having a ritual can help your body and mind transition into your personal time.

Learn to rest.
I’ve found at some points, the most productive thing you can actually do is rest. Sometimes this is exactly what you need to be able to approach whatever you’re doing next as your best self, whether that’s a clear head to crank out a paper or the emotional reset to be the best friend you can be. Rest can look like calling it a night and finishing something the next morning or taking a 20-minute nap. I’ve had to learn what real rest looks like though. It’s tempting to scroll through social media or watch an episode of a show when “taking a break”, but we all know how easy it is to get sucked into spending more time than we’d like on that, not to mention it usually doesn’t help you feel more rested. Take a couple minutes and truly take a break by relaxing, closing your eyes, going for a walk, stretching, etc.

In order to have balance between the different areas of your life, there are two things I’ve found to be essential: intentionality and discipline. Make the most of the time you spend working so you don’t find it eating its way into your hobbies and personal time. Avoid distractions when doing your schoolwork so you can get it done and truly enjoy the breaks you take with your friends. This goes for your personal life too. We all have to spend some time doing things we’d rather not, but strive to fill your life with things you find fulfilling. For all this to work, you have to be disciplined. You can make a schedule of how you’ll spend your time, but if you don’t actually stick to it, you won’t experience the benefits. Make adjustments as needed, but try to to meet the goals and keep the boundaries you’ve set for yourself. I think you’ll find this leads you to a fuller life you’re happier living.

Best, Rachel

Of Possible Interest:
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on this topic
Healthy on the Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Rachel’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Jeremy Thomas

Finishing a Chapter of my Life & Writing the Next

By: Paying

Throughout my high school years, I was lost and scared for life afterwards. I was given the label “First Generation College Student” and felt like I couldn’t reach out for help because I was different from my peers whose parents and relatives were able to guide them throughout college preparation. I dreaded going to school because I felt like a disadvantaged follower; someone who couldn’t seem to catch up and be on the same level as everyone else. I felt embarrassed to voice that I had no clue what I wanted to do in life and soon, these insecurities along with doubts about myself led me to lose sight of who I was. 

The one place I felt I could express myself was in my English class, the one place I felt I could soar and excel. It was in that very class where I first heard of the program Upward Bound. A TRiO program that provides opportunities for high school students from low-income families; and high school students from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree. This is the help and guidance I’ve been looking for; I felt hopeful as if I can succeed. Finally

Young Asian woman sitting at table with resource materials.
Paying tabling for the office

I remember thinking there’s no other way for me to excel and be a first generation college student that my family could be proud of. Although I was scared to be assessed and interviewed, I gave 110% and prayed I would be accepted. When I heard back “no” from the program, I was devastated. What I felt like was my last chance at success was gone but for some reason, that hope remained; hoping for that little ray of light shining in a storm to guide me. Ironically enough, the rejection that gave me hope is what changed my life. A month later I was contacted if I would be interested in joining the program.

Throughout the rest of high school, I began to find my own voice and make decisions for myself. One of those decisions was made because of a summer day of 2015: the day I visited Duluth for the first time and toured the University of Minnesota Duluth. I remember walking down the local shops to the lakewalk and up to the lighthouse where I took a photo to remember this moment. I didn’t know it at the time, but in a way that lighthouse was the light I had been looking for. 

Young Asian women talking to a recruiter at a job fair
Paying talking to a recruiter

With an undecided major and no career plans, I moved into my dorm on the UMD campus in August 2016 and made a promise to myself: if I looked back on the years of my college life, I just wanted to say I had fun regardless of what else happens in life. I’ve had people question and doubt my decisions, people who wondered if my mindset would be my downfall. Through it all, I made sacrifices in order to for once in my life, do what I want for the future I dream of for myself. Four years later in April 2020, I’m proud to say I didn’t just have fun, but I had the adventure of a lifetime. 

I grew from being a timid, and careful human to a proud, carefree woman. I became someone who others could look up to for guidance and leadership through my newfound families: the Asian Pacific American Association and the Hmong Living in Unity and Balance organizations. I found new lifelong supporters in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion as well as the Career and Internship Services office. I found who I am and who I want to be with the help of Duluth and everyone who has been a part of the city. 

3 young women showcasing professional dress
Paying, Rachel, & Stephanie at Dress For Success 2020

This journey has not been easy by no means, but how can you truly experience success without fighting for it? Thank you to those who have mentored me, guided me, and allowed me a chance (& maybe even a second chance!). During this time of chaos in the world, Duluth remains my lighthouse and has guided me through the darkest and roughest part of my life and will remain to be my home. 

Thank you to everyone who came along this journey through my blog posts in finding myself and in hopes that it helped you also. Remember that no matter what happens and whatever others may say, choose for you. It may not be the right way or the best way, but it could be the way that works FOR YOU. Keep fighting for your successful future and I believe you have everything it takes to reach your dreams.

Until next time everyone!

There is nothing more beautiful than finding your course as you believe you bob aimlessly in the current. Wouldn’t you know that your path was there all along, waiting for you to knock, waiting for you to become. This path does not belong to your parents, your teachers, your leaders, or your lovers. Your path is your character defining itself more and more everyday like a photograph coming into focus.” —Jodie Foster

Read Paying’s other posts

Photo sources: UMD Career & Internship Services

The Importance of Mentors While in College

By: Kiara

As a college student, it can be beneficial to have a mentor when you find yourself struggling to make a decision or are in need of encouragement. Even though I haven’t had a formal mentor in college yet, I have often asked older students in my workplace and in my extracurricular activities for advice. This has greatly helped me throughout my first year of college to stay motivated and achieve my goals. I think anyone can be a mentor since there is always something new to learn from each person you meet. Being able to talk to someone you trust who has experienced similar things as you can help you gain valuable advice, learn new perspectives, and advance your career. 

Image: book shelves at an angle with lit lightbulbs dangling from ceiling
Text: The importance of mentors while in college.

Gain Valuable Advice
In any unfamiliar situation whether it’s a new job, class, or club it’s important to reach out to others and ask for advice. An official or an unofficial mentor can answer your questions and clarify any confusion. For example, when I started my job at Career & Internship Services more experienced staff members helped me learn the office procedures and expectations. Mentors who share their stories with you can help you figure out your own life and you can also learn from their experiences. Asking upperclassmen about what classes to take, what clubs to join, or any type of assistance in general can aid you in navigating these new situations. It can be comforting to know that someone else has been in your place and understands your challenges. It’s also reassuring to have someone who listens to your academic difficulties or personal problems and can help you plan for your future. 

Learn New Perspectives
Having a mentor can open up new perspectives in the process of sharing ideas and asking questions. Mentors may have qualities in common with yourself and may also have qualities you would like to develop. Qualities I aspire to have from some of the people I look up to include being more outgoing, patient, and a better listener. Mentors can also challenge you to consider different points of view to help you see the bigger picture. This can give you the opportunity to see the positive side of an adverse situation. Additionally, having an outside perspective can shed light on potential difficulties or bring up other valid points to consider when making an important decision.

Advance Your Career
A mentor can advance your career by growing your network of contacts.  Specifically, mentors can connect you to opportunities they have had in the past such as rewarding internships or jobs. Students who are pursuing the same career path or major as you can give you great insight about what their experiences have been like and what they have learned. I have learned that a mentor can also help you identify your own strengths and weaknesses and can aid you in improving upon those qualities.  Having someone you can turn to for career advice can assist you in choosing your major and deciding your career path. For instance, talking to someone with more experience can teach you about careers you didn’t know even existed or inspire you to stay focused on your current career track. Learning from others taught me the importance of being open to advice and suggestions which can help us avoid drawbacks and make better decisions. 

Building a network of mentors can not only help you in college, but can also provide you with support and guidance later in life. I am thankful for the advice I have received from my unofficial mentors since they have helped me learn from my mistakes and prepared me for the future. Overall, formal or informal mentors can assist you in accomplishing your goals within your personal and professional life.

Of Possible Interest:
Mentors: Be One; Have One
• NetworkingOn the Job – all our blog posts on these topics
• Key to NetworkingNow that You’re on the Job – our Pinterest boards filled with resources & articles

Read Kiara’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Janko Ferlic

Finish Strong

By: Kendra

Editor’s Note: even if you’re not a current college student, these tips can still be applied to major projects or deadlines you have in your work.

Here’s some crazy news: we only have two weeks of class before finals week. As we all know the end of the semester is always a busy, stressful, and overwhelming time. This semester is a bit different as we are all learning remotely, so I wanted to provide you with some tips that can help make it more manageable. 

Start Early 
Starting several weeks in advance, begin looking at what you have for finals in each of your classes. Because everything is due within one week, it can often be overwhelming. By starting early, you are able to get a head start on your papers, projects, and studying, so it doesn’t feel so stressful during actual finals week. I also like to work ahead as much as I can several weeks before finals so I don’t have to worry about other assignments when it is time to start studying for finals exams and writing final papers. 

Image: desktop with open paper planner, coffee cup, and dish of paperclips
Text: Finish strong

Know Your Expectations
Every class and every professor is different. Take some time to read through your syllabi for each class to know the expectations your professor has in place for your final. If you are having a final exam, you should know if it is cumulative or not. If it isn’t, know which chapters the exam will be focusing on so you know what to prepare for. It is also helpful to know what type of exams you will be taking — multiple choice, short answer, etc. — as this will also guide your studying. For projects and papers, it is important that you understand the expectations that your professor has. This will help you avoid losing points for not meeting the finals’ requirements. Also, by doing all of this in advance, you will be able to contact your professor if you have any questions. 

Know Your Deadlines
Be sure that you know the dates and times of each of your exams, as well as due dates for projects and papers. Write these down in a planner or add them to your Google Calendar to be sure you don’t forget. There is nothing worse than missing a deadline! 

Break Up Big Tasks  
An additional tip I have is to break up projects or papers into smaller tasks. Here’s an example: If you have a large research paper due at the end of the semester, set yourself a due date for the outline, then split up your writing by sections/topics and give yourself due dates for each of them. Then, add these dates to your planner or Google Calendar to keep track of them. This will help you stay on top of your projects and not have it all come crashing down on you the day before it is due.

Take Breaks
During this time in the semester, it is important to avoid becoming burnt out. To do this, remember to take breaks. Whether you are studying for exams, writing a paper, or working on a project, giving yourself some time to be active, get a snack, or just let your brain rest is crucial. Try to work for an hour and then take 15-20 minutes to let yourself relax. I have gotten really good at remembering to take breaks and it definitely helps me be more productive! 

Prepare for Technical Difficulties
Because we are all learning remotely this semester, I am sure we’ve each experienced some technical difficulties. Be sure you know what to do in these different scenarios and prepare for them. If you have to use a new system or browser to take an exam, practice using it before the actual exam to avoid issues. Know how to contact your professor, too, so that you will be able to quickly get a hold of him or her if something were to go wrong. 

The end of the semester is always bittersweet because it’s exciting to have a break, but then you remember that you have to make it through finals week first. I hope that these tips help you feel as little stress as possible the next few weeks. Good luck on your finals!

Of Possible Interest:
Productivity & Wellness; On the Job – all our blog posts on these topics
Now That You’re on the Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Kendra’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Northfolk

Self-Guidance: The Key to Success

By: Paying

All our lives, we have been constantly guided either by our parents, teachers, and/or society. It seems as though a good ⅕ of our lives were following what others have told us to do. As little five-year-olds, we have already started to be shaped to become successful and live a future with purpose. The question now is: what does it mean to actually be “successful” and how do we achieve that? 

When I first started my education in a head start program until the end of my 8th grade year, school was just a part of life and you don’t question it. When high school hit, the struggle of not knowing my strengths and interests complicated the vision that had been engraved in my head: graduate high school, attend college, finish in four years, and spend the rest of my life loving my career. I didn’t want to drop out of high school and disappoint my parents, I didn’t want to take a gap year after high school to figure life out, and I didn’t want to go into college not knowing what I’m there for. 

To answer my questions, I sought guidance from my Upward Bound advisors who emphasized the advantages of college. They reassured me that it’s okay to not know everything and that it was completely normal to feel the way I did. We researched colleges that could offer me what I would be interested in and would enjoy attending. Soon after, I officially declared that I would become a Bulldog at UMD in 2016. 

Image: Colored pencils in cup
Text: Every path you can take has its pros and cons, which varies person to person. The key is to believe in yourself and put in the effort to achieve your success.

After two years of my college life, I knew I had made the right choice to come in unsure because soon I realized how passionate I was in English related courses and declared as an English major. However, I didn’t know where to start because no one around me had a similar path of becoming an editor and once again I was lost. 

The career counselors at Career and Internship Services, along with my alumni friends, guided me through it as they provided stories of their own or others who have been in the same spot and the different paths they’ve taken. Although I was afraid to share my struggles of uncertainty, it definitely cleared my head and made me more confident in my future decisions and to this day I continue striving with the same confidence.

As my last year of education is wrapping up, I realized that soon I won’t have education to keep me busy anymore. Now I have to go out into the “real world” and make my own decisions for my own life, which is a very scary, yet exciting, thought. Throughout my life, I had asked for guidance from my family, my peers, and my academic mentors but now I’ve come to realize that I have started to guide myself. From asking for internships even if there aren’t any listed and becoming the interviewer rather than the interviewee to learn more about the career and/or organization. I am finally guiding myself to live the life I will enjoy and want.

I may have chosen to go through college but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to become successful. Some who never completed high school also reached success and same with those who decided college was not meant for them. A close friend of mine who I could not make it this far without once told me, “Success can’t be measured, it’s not an endpoint. It’s felt by both you and those affected around you.” Every path you can take has its pros and cons, which varies person to person. The key is to believe in yourself and put in the effort to achieve your success. 

Read Paying’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Crawford Jolly

Does Music Help Productivity?

By: Stephanie

In my last blog post, I talked about using a planner to stay organized and to maximize your productivity. Sure, a planner can increase this but only to a certain point. Another factor that can help you be more focused on finishing tasks is to listen to music (at your own risk)!

From New York Times, Dr. Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the music therapy program at the University of Miami, conducted a study on workplace performance and concluded that, “those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas” (source). When you are listening to music, your mood turns positive and completing tasks become fun rather than a chore that needs to be finished by the end of the day. 

However, some types of music actually worsen productivity. The study, Psychology of Music, has shown that “complex music can distract from tasks that require high degrees of concentration” (source). When you are trying to read and comprehend what you’ve read, music with heavy beats or loud clashing can disrupt your deep thoughts. 

Image: headphones on yellow background
Text: Does music help productivity?

So, how do you choose the best music for you? Here are some factors you should consider when finding the next song on your playlist!

Some of us tend to enjoy music the most when we can actually sing the songs that roll through our playlist, but we lose focus on the work in front of us. How many of you can say they’ve had to stop mid-thought to sing their favorite lyrics? Yes, me too! Looking for instrumentals is a good way to counteract this. That’s one less factor to worry about!

Task Difficulty & Repetitiveness
Although this seems like common sense, you may not know how hard the work you have to do is, until you play music. If you find yourself distracted while completing a task that may seem simple, the work that needs to get done may require a lot more focus and thinking. Try turning off your music and easing into your work, if you’re getting more done than you were before with music, I think the appropriate conclusion is to continue without the music.

With task repetitiveness, a lot of us get bored of doing the same thing over and over. You start to become unmotivated with your work and even question what you’re doing. With the help of some good tunes, you’ll make repetitive tasks “more pleasurable and increase your concentration” (source). By doing so, it’ll be less boring and more fun with an upbeat background!

Increases Physical Productivity
While working out, I know for some of us, we dislike hearing our own thoughts echo inside our minds. Listening to music can help with that. It can distract your deep thoughts and help you become physically productive and without even realizing it, it helps increase the quality of your workout. As a matter of fact, “music improves physical performance by increasing capacity to exercise longer and harder, and delaying fatigue” (source). So, when you’re feeling exhausted from a heavy day of work, listen to some music at the gym to help you increase that intensity!

Overall, music can increase productivity in the right tasks. Be careful with your choice of music and if you have no idea where you’d like to start with your music, you can try listening to these five different types (source):

  1. Classical Music
  2. Nature Music
  3. Epic Music
  4. Video Game Music
  5. Ambient Soundtracks

Of Possible Interest:
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topic
Healthy on the Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Stephanie’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash | Malte Wingen

CULTURE SHOCK? How To Understand and Embrace It!

By: Gao

First and foremost…
What is culture shock? Culture shock is the array of emotions one feels when being exposed to a different cultural environment or perspective than their own. This can be applied to anyone and everyone in situations that are new to them. For me, it was moving two and a half hours away from home for college. For others, this may include: moving to a different state, starting a new job, going to workshops or conferences, and much more. There is not one way to experience culture shock; it is perceived and rooted differently for individuals because of their unique experiences, modes of processing, and backgrounds. 

The 4 Stages of Culture Shock

  1. Honeymoon Stage — this the first stage in a situation where everything seems to be going great! Life is good, no stress, new beginnings, all hopeful, and exciting expectations for what is to come. 
  2. Crisis — things take a turn and become more seriously rooted. You’re realizing this is completely different than what you expected, or wanted, and now you’re stuck. You don’t know where to go, you’re confused, anxious, or scared even. This is often the most difficult stage to be in. Breathe, it’s going to be okay!
  3. Recovery and Adapt — here, you identify the problem, speak your truth, understand the context, and find what is going to help stabilize you and neutralize the situation. You are finding your grounding and making the effort to battle your crisis. You’ve got your head in the right place, keep going!
  4. Acceptance — in the end, you come to accept it. Move along with your life, onto the next chapter, and let things flow. It is time to begin again and indulge in what you have gained from this experience. 

NOTE: This is not a set flow of how culture shock may hit YOU. Some people may go straight into the crisis stage, recover, adapt, and then honeymoon. Others, may jump back and forth between stages and that’s okay. 

Image: rock stacks on log on rocky beach shoreline
Text: culture shock: how to understand and embrace it.

Your experiences are valid!
My parents came from camps in Thailand during the Vietnam War as refugees. This makes me a first generation Hmong American womxn and fuels my unique experiences and understanding of life. However, my “adulting” journey and bicultural identity pushes different cultural perceptions and ambitions from those of my parents. Deciding to leave home to further my education instead of marriage, ignited a protest between me and my parents. Thus a crisis is born, and so the stages unravel. 

A few weeks into the semester, I started to find my grounding. I got a job, became close with my roommates, and accepted that my experiences and perceptions were valid. I discovered resources through my roommates, advisor, counselor, and even my job as a peer educator!  It made the reality of leaving my home an opportunity to create my own. Despite the many times I felt alone, confused, and scared I came to find that I wasn’t. There was a whole community here ready to support and help me; the honeymoon stage was finally kicking in.  

How can this apply to you?
As a college student, you are being exposed to a very different world around you. One you may not have ever known or have only dipped your feet in. It is a time where freedom is given, responsibilities run toward you, and motivation and passion begin to ride the highs and lows. And it doesn’t end here! 

The process and stages of culture shock will come and go all throughout your life. In your career, home, life goals, education, and much more. That is OKAY! These four stages will help you understand yourself and push through the many crises you will come across. It is not a program that you graduate from after you have completed the last step, it is an everlasting mechanism that aids you in recognizing the control you have on your life, and future.  

Of Possible Interest:
On the Job – all our blog posts on the topic
Diversity in the Workplace – all our blog posts on the topic
Now That You’re On the Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Gao’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Markus Spiske

Benefits of Using a Planner

By: Stephanie

Often times, we find ourselves overwhelmed in the pile of work we’ve accumulated over the day, week, or more! We either have meetings to plan, practices to go to, or exams to prepare for. I am here to give you reasons as to why you should use a planner.

If You Write It, You Won’t Forget It
Many people I talk to, surprisingly, do NOT use a planner. Shocker statement, yes. They’ve told me they have their brain to retain information as well as “remember” these events as they come. However, I know that is absolutely not the case for everyone.

Some of us don’t have the best memory, in fact, “within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of fifty percent of the information you presented” (source). We are so busy with our work, we tend to forget what we just said! However, writing it down will help remind you what tasks you need to have completed before the end of the day. You won’t have to use your brain space to remember these that you need to complete and forgetting might be a big yikes in the future.

Text: Benefits of using a planner
Image: planners stacked on white background

Priorities, priorities, priorities!
Once you’ve viewed all of your tasks, you’re at least not panicking about what you may have forgotten to do! Now you can organize what needs to be done first. Organizing your to-do list will help you with time management and finish your work efficiently. Start with the deadlines. If something is due three weeks from now versus the next day, starting with the closer due date makes much more sense than starting a project that is due later. 

Health Benefits
Having a planner is a stress reliever. When I look at my planner, I know that I feel less stressed because I know exactly what needs to be done. I also use my planner for work because my schedule is not always consistent and meetings are very frequent. Keeping a planner will help you because it is a stress reliever that will keep you mentally healthy.

Procrastinating… I think not!
Most of us have good habits but a bad habit that some of us may have is procrastination. Planners keep you from procrastinating! After looking at your planner, you might have so much to do that, there’s no time to put it off. So, make it a good habit to use your planner and stomp your bad habit of procrastinating. The more work you finish before bed, the more sleep you’ll get!

Develop A Skill
Using a planner can help you develop many helpful skills that are beneficial for you. You will stay more organized and on top of your game from planning what you have to do. Another skill you’ll slowly develop is time management. Because you will be prioritizing your tasks and work that needs to be completed, using your time wisely is very critical. Lastly, you’ll develop strategic planning. Prioritizing your tasks and finishing things when they need to get done will maximize your productivity and help keep you healthy. You will be able to fit more activities in your schedule and even get that exercise that you’ve been putting off since New Year’s!

Links to favorite planners: Bullet Journaling; Planners

Of Possible Interest:
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topic
Healthy on the Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Stephanie’s other posts

Tips for Time Management

By: Kendra

In starting my second year here at UMD, I have found myself having to make some changes from how I lived out my first two semesters here. Specifically, I have had to put more thought and effort into managing my time. During my first year at UMD, I took only 15 credits per semester and I took them all in-person. Also, I worked only about 10 hours per week. I was involved in intramurals, psychology club, and dedicated to working out, which has all remained. This year, though, I am taking 18 credits, 12 of which are online, and working 20-25 hours per week. Because of this increase in coursework and time spent working, I needed to add and change some of my previous habits in order to better manage my time. I’m sharing my tips with you for how I make sure I get everything done when it is supposed to be done: 

Prioritize Sleep
If you’re anything like me, getting enough sleep is CRUCIAL. I cannot function productively on less than eight hours of sleep each night and I strive to get nine. Of course, I want to stay up late watching movies, spending time with my friends, or catching up on my favorite Netflix series, but I know that if I don’t get enough sleep, my productivity the next day will plummet. So how do I do it? I give myself a bedtime. If I know I need to be awake tomorrow morning at 8 AM, I make sure I am in bed with my phone and computer powered off by 11 PM the night before. I am the type of person who needs a while to unwind before falling asleep, so I try to be in bed even earlier so I can watch a show or read for awhile and still get my 9 hours of sleep. This helps me wake up and feel energized to tackle my day.

Text: Tips for Time Management
Image: hour glass with blue sand on a rock beach

Use a Planner
By now, I am sure everyone has heard someone tell them they should really use a planner. I know it sounds cheesy, but believe me, it is so necessary. At the beginning of this semester, I spent hours looking through my class syllabi and writing due dates in my planner. I write every single assignment, project, quiz, and exam due date in my planner, which really helps me plan out my weeks. Then, on Sunday nights, I look at the assignments I have due during the upcoming week and make to-do lists for each day of the week. I like to make a list for each day of the week because it helps me balance the amount of schoolwork I do each day. I find that when I don’t do this, I procrastinate and push tasks to the next day and then I grow frustrated and stressed because I have more to do. I use Post-It notes for my to-dos and then I just stick them in my planner. When I finish an assignment, I cross it off on my to-do list as well as in my actual planner. Let me tell you — this is the best feeling ever. 

Use Google Calendar
Another resource I use when it comes to planning is Google Calendar. I have found that this is pretty hit or miss — some students use it and rely on it completely and others have never even opened it. Because Google is what our campus uses to communicate, I highly suggest using Google Calendar. If you need to meet with a professor, all you need to do is type in their name and you can see when they are busy. This can be done with students, advisors, and anyone on campus, too. For me, Google Calendar helps me plan my days. I have two calendars I use — one visible for everyone and one only I can see. I use my visible calendar for things I don’t mind people seeing such as my work schedule, class schedules, and when I have meetings and such. My other calendar, though, is what I use for my personal life. I schedule when I am going to the gym, time with friends, and really anything I am doing outside of school. What is amazing about Google Calendar is that I can have my work/class schedule visible to everyone and my personal schedule private, but one of my professors will still see everything I have going on if he or she were to look at my calendar. This is because Google just writes ‘Busy’ on time slots that are scheduled privately. Each week, when I am making my to-do lists, I check my calendar to see what I have going on each day, which helps me make realistic to-do lists for each day. 

Stay on Campus
This is definitely something that is much different than last year, as I was always on campus. Now that I live off campus, I have learned that in order to be as productive as possible, I need to stay on campus as much as I can. When I go home, I find myself getting cozy and then not wanting to come back to campus or getting anything done at home. This also requires planning, though. If you have breaks in your days, try your best to stay on campus so you can get some work done. Packing a lunch is also a great way to make sure you are not tempted to go back home throughout your day. Want to get a workout in? Either pack the things you need for the gym and go when your day is done or consider getting a locker in the locker room so you can leave your gym essentials on campus. By staying on campus as much as possible, I find myself accomplishing more and being more productive. It also makes going home at the end of the day super awesome because I typically am done for the day when I get home. 

Take Breaks
This is my final tip for being productive and managing your time. Taking breaks while you are studying or working on assignments is extremely important. Whether it be watching a short Youtube video, getting up and walking around, or just spending a few minutes on your phone, taking breaks will help you be even more efficient because it will keep you from burning out. I like to work for 45 minutes and then take 10-15 minutes to let my brain relax. Sometimes, though, I will take a little break after I finish an assignment to regroup before moving on to the next task. For me, this pushes me to work hard on homework because I know I can rest once I finish or once the time is up. It also helps keep me awake because I don’t allow myself to just sit and work for hours and hours on end. 

The life of a college student is busy — there’s no getting around that. That’s why it is so important to manage your time and make sure you are using it wisely. I had to alter my time management skills from last year to better accommodate to my life this semester. Ultimately, it is up to you to find time management strategies that work for you, but hopefully some of my tips are helpful. 

Best, Kendra 

Of Possible Interest:
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topic
Healthy on the Job – our Pinterest board filled with resources & articles

Read Kendra’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Aron Visuals