4 Tips for When You Realize You’re in Over Your Head

By: Amanda

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.

colorful square tile background. Text: 4 tips for when you realize you're in over your head - cordially back out of commitments, plan it all out, enlist help of others, know you're not alone.

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.

Of Possible Interest:
How to Say NO
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topic
Self-Care 101
Healthy on the Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash | Andrew Ridley

Midterm Madness Mental Health Tips

By: Heidi

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.

Small orange flowers with sky in the background; Text: Tips for managing mental health

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.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Heidi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Masaaki Komori

Using Creativity to Disconnect

By: Heidi

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.

Using creativity to disconnect - sketchbook on desk with watercolors

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.

Of Possible Interest:

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Tim Arterbury

The Art of Maintaining a Busy Schedule

By: McKenzie

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).

Tips for Maintaining a Busy Schedule

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.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read McKenzie’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Jessica Arends

Be More Productive by Being Organized

By: Whitney

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!

Be more organizedComputer

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.

Email

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.

Workspace

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!

Read Whitney’s other posts

Photo source

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

By: Taylor

I recently read the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. This self-help has been around for some time and has even been staring at me from my bookshelf for a couple years. This past week I gave it its deserved attention and found myself quite inspired. It took me a while to get through, but with many notes and concentration I now know what the seven habits are and how to institute them into my life and work.

7 habits

Below you will find the seven habits and a brief description of each:

  1. Be Proactive- Start each day by hitting the ground running. Take initiative and move! Make your ideas happen and always find the light at the end of the tunnel.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind- Identify and clarify your short-term and long-term goals,but don’t let these ideas be binding if life takes you down a different path. When coming into a new company ask yourself, “What positive changes do I see being made by the end of the month? The year?”
  3. Put First Things First- Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! What items on your to-do list will help you attain your goals? Put the most time and effort into these things rather than the mindless tasks. Creating detailed schedules can help you make sure everything gets done with the enriching tasks having the most time.
  4. Think Win-Win- Strive for compromise and mutually beneficial relationships. Good relationships will carry you a lifetime. There is not much to gain from short-term wins or arguments.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood- Taking time to understand and listen to others will take you a long way. You will be knowledgeable and consequently perceived as trustworthy. Furthermore, since you put in time to listen it will be reciprocated!
  6. Synergize- Energize groups! Accomplish what no person alone could have. Creating teams with a positive work vibe is critical for effectiveness.
  7. Sharpen the Saw- This habit goes beyond the workplace. In order to take care of business, you have to take care of yourself! Find self-fulfilling activities such as yoga, meditation, or hiking. Also important is healthy eating and exercise.

I highly recommend checking out this book if you are interested in this type of reading! I have done some brief research looking for similar reads and found numerous titles that may interest any character. Happy reading!

Check out our Books Worth Reading Pinterest board for ideas of other books to read.

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Kick Productivity Up a Notch

By: Taylor

Recently I read the book titled, “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” by Laura Vanderkam. It was a quick and easy read that inspired me to change my daily routines in order to make my days more productive. She took an approach that evaluated the schedules of many ‘successful’ people in the world today, many of whom are CEOs and business owners. What she found was that the key to being productive was to take advantage of the morning hours. For somebody who likes to accomplish as many things as possible in one day, I became quite inspired!

Prepare for tomorrow quote

Typically, throughout our days we drag through lectures and work meetings while spending our little bit of free time catching up with friends or perusing Facebook. By the evening time, we might find ourselves lethargic and therefore more often making excuses not to do certain things. What are things I pass up to hang out in bed in my pajamas? Homework, working out, and reading just to name a few. Before the world is stirring, it is easier to narrow your thoughts and find the drive to do great things. Imagine yourself in an 8am meeting after just rolling out of bed on the verge of being late. Now imagine yourself in an 8am meeting already having exercised, reviewed your goals, and read the news. The change in performance with an early morning routine can be astounding. Here are just a few ideas for your mornings:

  1. Exercise: Nobody is at the gym so there is no pressure to get ready or look good. You also will have the opportunity to shower afterward without heading back to school or work with wet hair.
  2. Be a Visionary: People complain that there is no time to think these days. Spend your mornings setting goals for the short-term (what you want your day to look like) as well as the long-term (lifelong career or organization goals).
  3. Self-fulfilling Activity: Meditating or praying can be a great way to clear your mind for the day. Also, if there is a craft or project you’ve been wanting to do, work on it before school to get you excited and optimistic.
  4. Professional Growth: Read professional articles or journals. Benefit from the insight of those in your field and their strategic thinking.

I want to be one of the most successful people in a book someday like many of you, so I’m starting the change now! Rising early may be one of your greatest challenges in life. I advise making the change with ease. My new morning routine will include yoga or group fitness classes, getting through long reading assignments, and eating a healthy breakfast. What will you make of yours?

Of Possible Interest: 

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