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.
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!
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.
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.
This past Fall I went into my sophomore year full of energy and anticipation like I was lining up to hit a home run at the plate. Freshman year I dipped my toe in the water with my classes, but now this was it, sophomore year was my time to dive in head first and get involved on campus. I attended the activities fair and put my name down on every sheet I could get my hands on. Yes, this all was very fun and of course, it was a good way to meet new people, but about halfway through the semester when my classes started to get difficult I began to see signs that I was simply spreading myself too thin. When I would be in one place, I was constantly thinking about my mile-long to-do list or what I had to do afterward. Although I had everything planned on Google Calendar, I was always paranoid, wondering if I was potentially missing a meeting I should be at. On top of all of this, I felt I was missing the essentials in life: quality time spent with friends and family, and time spent alone with myself. After discussing my issue with a few co-workers, I began to realize this type of situation is happening to students all the time. There are four key actions to take when you realize you are in over your head.
CORDIALLY BACK OUT. Backing out is something that everyone hates doing, it might make you feel like a flakey person, and could even be comparable to a break-up. First and foremost, it is absolutely crucial to end on good terms. If at all possible, talk to the group/person face-to-face and explain to the situation. Open communication is key. Be honest about what is going on, admit your own wrongdoings and apologize if needed. Ending on a favorable note makes it easier in the future if you have to work with the group/person again.
PLAN IT ALL. Whether it be an old-fashioned planner, Google Calendar, or Microsoft Outlook, find a method of planning that works best for you and stick to it. Sometimes seeing everything laid out can help you to figure out what is realistic to accomplish.
ENLIST HELP. Take a step back and reevaluate your tasks. Yes, I am sure some of them need to be done by you and only you, but is there a possibility you could get a co-worker or roommate to help you with the others? By even delegating one task from your to-do list, a slight weight may be taken off your shoulders.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE. At the University of Minnesota Duluth, we are given twelve free counseling sessions per semester. Take advantage of these. Talking with an external source can be an aid in finding clarity. Additionally, pinpoint the type of stress that you are having. Is it career stress? Drop in and see us at the Career and Internship Services office. Financial Stress? Go see what the OneStop can do for you. Trouble taking tests? Disability Resources is waiting to help you.
Although my sophomore year Fall semester may not have gone as planned (well, when do things ever go exactly as planned??), I was able to learn key life lessons. Know that it is possible to be fully involved on-campus, work, do well in classes, and have time for yourself when you plan accordingly and learn how to say no. It’s time for you to stop overworking yourself and a get a grip on your life.
Editor’s note: in our office we see mental health as a critical component of your overall career path. While these tips are directed toward college students, they’d be helpful for people who are no longer in college.
I think as students we can all agree we’re at the point in the semester where projects are piling up, the assignments are never-ending, and trying to finish your to-do list feels like being on a hamster wheel. I’m all about trying to see the best in a situation so I found some great mental health tips that therapists give their patients in times of stress.
Now more than ever as a student is it important to work hard towards school but also take the time for yourself and your mental health. Here are some tips to take on to get through these next few weeks.
Try writing your thoughts down Take 5 minutes or so a day to write down your thoughts, feelings, or ideas. This can help you process emotions you encounter throughout the day and destress from it all.
When you’re super stressed and overwhelmed, see if there’s any way to put a positive spin on it With so many deadlines as a student, think about how the stress of it is actually helping push you to get it done.
Counter negative thoughts with positive ones If you’re feeling like you can’t finish everything on your plate, recognize your hard work and all that you’ve accomplished that day. For times when you’re feeling you’ll never be able to make it happen, remind yourself with a positive thought that you always finish what you start.
Have a self-care arsenal Everyone has certain things or coping mechanisms that give them a boost when they’re feeling crappy whether it’s taking a bath, watching a YouTube clip, or putting on your favorite pair of sweatpants. These may be small tips, but it will give yourself something to look forward to after a long day.
Ask yourself “and then what?” when you’re stuck on an anxious thought Push your thought process forward by forcing yourself to think ahead. For example, if you keep worrying about receiving a bad grade on an exam, ask yourself what are you going to do to prevent it or what will you do to boost your grade after the exam.
Even though the end of the semester can be a stressful time for us all, keep in mind that all of your work will get done, focus on one thing at a time, and take a little bit of time each day for yourself.
How often do you take the time to disconnect? Like really disconnect away from your phone, computer, constant notifications, and email. In this day and age, we are constantly surrounded by technology as it is how we communicate, used for school, and work. Because of this, we are in constant connection with our friends, social networking notifications, and email. Although this is really beneficial, it can be detrimental to our health as we are always able to be reached nearly 24/7.
Now that you’re thinking about how often you disconnect, ask yourself, how often do I take the time to slow down. Like really slow down as in the to-do list can wait, the kitchen doesn’t have to be spotless, you didn’t get home as early as you wanted because you stayed after class to catch up with a friend type of slow down.
I wanted to bring this to your attention because I often find myself being in a state of #1 constantly connected to my phone and #2 not always taking the time to slow down.
So you find yourself in the same boat struggling to disconnect and to slow down and enjoy the moment or day that we have.
I propose to you take to make the time in your day whether it be ten minutes or one hour to explore and pursue your creative outlet. Yup. That’s it. A creative outlet. Why? Because all humans, whether you believe it or not, were meant to create. Creating something can mean so many different things. This can consist of dancing, painting, photography, doodling cartoons, playing a musical instrument, baking, gardening, and more. Whatever it is that you choose, allow yourself to have fun with it, share it with others, and not place an expectation on it that it has to be this perfect thing. For example, have you seen the Netflix show ‘Nailed It?’ These people are on a baking competition show trying to recreate these really intricate cakes done by professionals and the people trying to recreate them bake out of a hobby. The thing is, these cakes turn out laughably bad but that’s the point. It doesn’t matter how bad the cakes turn out, they all had fun (or were stressed by the pressures of reality TV…who knows) during the process.
When you become so engaged in an activity you enter ‘flow mode.’ During this flow mode, you lose track of time and get lost in it allowing the pressures and anxiety of daily life to melt away.
It is unfair to deem ourselves as creative or uncreative. You owe it to yourself to make the time to explore a creative outlet as this will allow you to disconnect and be better for your overall wellbeing.
Sometimes maintaining a busy schedule can feel impossible. Many students in college work and are involved in extracurricular activities, in addition to classes, making it incredibly difficult to continue this busy lifestyle. But fear not, as a seasoned pro at accidentally overworking myself I have some tips and tricks that help me keep it all together (and avoid overworking myself).
Get enough sleep It is recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This is something you should definitely avoid slacking on. When I worked overnights I used to schedule when I would get sleep to make sure I was getting enough rest. You can’t perform any task as well as you want if you are falling asleep while doing it.
Keep a calendar When you’re a busy person it is often hard to keep track of all the things that you’re doing. I have found it best to start a calendar. You gain the skill of time management and it helps you to anticipate how much time you have for the little things like homework or even a nap before class.
Make time for food Food is fuel! Not only should you be eating enough but you should also be mindful of what you’re eating. While I am an avid lover of pizza rolls I am also sure to be considerate of my portions as well as what I am putting into my body. You will get out of it what you put into it.
Always make time for yourself The most important time of any day is the time you dedicate to yourself. We all need a little bit of me time and practicing self-care is a really great skill to develop. Any schedule is manageable if you make time to do whatever it is you love to do.
Do you find yourself always sifting through piles of paper trying to find the one sheet that you need for your meeting in five minutes, or trying not to knock over the stack of books and other assorted items? Sometimes even finding where you put something on your computer is a problem! Then it is time to get organized. This can be a hard task to get started on and sometimes an even harder task to keep up on. It is important to start small. A good place to start would be your computer desktop. Then move on to your email before tackling your desk. If you are a visual person, making a list on a whiteboard that you can cross off what you have done, so you can see what you accomplished throughout the day might be a good idea. Getting a lot done will help you to be more motivated to keep up the good work!
Let’s get started with your computer! I know from experience that it can be very easy to just save everything to your desktop right where you can see it and it is easy to find. Pretty soon, however, your desktop is so full of documents, pictures, and other data that you can’t find anything anyways. This can be a big problem especially with all of the work that college students and other professionals do on their computer. I know that personally I save on at least five things to my desktop daily! This can add up very quickly. A method that I have discovered that works well for me is folders so that my computer is just like a filing cabinet only in a digital form. During the school year when I am taking classes I have one folder for each class. Any work that is totally completed goes in the specific folder. Inside that folder I may have two or three other smaller folders inside with various projects, bigger assignments, or groups of assignments such as journal entries. At the end of the semester all of the class folders for that semester go into one big folder with the semester name on it. By categorizing everything you can easily find documents that you need when you need them without having to go through all of them on your desktop. I have also found that I get a lot less stressed and overwhelmed when I set my desktop up in this way. This is also a good way to organize your computer on the job. It is important to have like things grouped together so that they can be navigated easily.
There are many people who have thousands of unread emails. It is time to clean those out! By having so many emails it is easy to miss something really important or forget to respond to someone. It is time to go through them and see what you really need. Much like your desktop you can also make folders for your email. What I recommend doing first is getting all of your unread junk email out first. I know that it kind of a pain to go through and check every one individually and delete them and it is really time consuming, but it has to be done. There is also an easier way to delete several emails in a row that are not necessary. The easiest way to tackle this job is to select the first one then while holding shift you can click on one four or five down and it will select all of the emails that are in between. You can then delete all of them at on time. Another way that you can do delete big bulk of emails at once is to go through and star all of the important emails when you have finished that you can go to the select button on the left hand side of the tool bar and choose the option to select all not starred email. You can then go up and trash all of the not starred or unimportant emails. I would not prefer this method because I would be too scared of accidentally deleting something important. Another way to organize your email is through your settings. In my email I have it arranged so that all unread emails are at the top and read emails are at the bottom so that I can see what I still need to take care of. If I open an email that I do not have time to deal with right away, I mark it as unread so that it remains at the top.
This final portion of organization is organizing your workspace. This is what I struggle with the most. I tend to have a big clutter of stuff on my desk because I am scared to throw away something that I might need. One investment that should be made in order to get the paperwork off of your desk is a filing system and filing folders. The filing system may be a small system that fits on your desk or a filing cabinet depending on what size you need. This does not have to be extravagant, just a way for you to organize the papers on your desk. Another way to organize your workspace is to get rid of everything that you do not need. Normally thinking that you might need something means that you will probably not ever use it or that you will use it so rarely that it isn’t worth keeping. It is just taking up space. Also get rid of any duplicates that you have. You don’t need two staplers, tape dispensers, or calculators.
By becoming more organized you will be able to be more productive because you can spend less time looking for things and more time getting work done. All of this organization does not have to be done in one day, but it is important to set your goal and to take small steps to achieve that goal. Organization is important especially if you are sharing your workspace with others. Having clutter may be very distracting to them so it is important to be respectful and on top of your game when it comes to being organized. It isn’t easy, but your hard work will pay off!