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

Navigating the Curveballs

By: Amanda

Sometimes life throws you curveballs. As a student or a working professional, whether it is through illness, injury, or essentially anytime you need to take time off, it is crucial to know what your options are in both school and work life. Here are a few areas to look into:

Meet with your Academic Advisor
Academic Advisors are a wealth of knowledge just waiting to be tapped into. They can help to understand options when going through sticky situations. Their job is literally to aid in keeping students on path towards graduation. Take advantage of your assigned advisor, after all it is a free resource built in to your tuition. 🙂 No matter what the situation, you can count on your advisor to have the answer to your question, or be able to direct you to where you can find the answer. Depending upon the situation, they may suggest a medical withdrawal. As daunting as this process may seem, open communication with your academic advisor will help all run seamlessly.

Image: looking down on colorful pens in a jar on a grey background
Text: Navigating life's curveballs

Medical Withdrawal
With proper approval, a medical withdrawal on a student transcript is not something that will make or break a student’s academic career. There are three main steps that go into a medical withdrawal. First, a petition must be made. Through a petition on the OneStop website you can cancel all classes or individual classes, depending on the situation. Keep in mind, that if only one class is canceled, there should be a brief explanation why one class is being canceled and not others. On the last page, you can have your advisor recommended the withdrawal. Second, there must be a medical supplement form submitted. This is simply a form filled out by a Medical Professional with specific dates and information. Finally, keep in mind a tuition refund. Adjusting credit load can alter tuition, as well as financial aid. This is the most complex part of the process and if not done right could potentially make a student owe money. Make sure to set up an appointment with OneStop to work out the fine details.

Family and Medical Leave Act
FMLA requires employers to provide job secured unpaid leave for all excusable medical and family reasons. In order to be eligible for FMLA the employee must be at the business for at least 12 months and work at a company that employs 50 or more employees in a 75 mile radius. As college students who will be soon entering the workforce, it is important to have knowledge in this area and be fully versed in all rights.

Counseling Sessions
Remember that through UMD each semester you get 10 FREE counseling sessions with your tuition. This is almost one counseling session per week. No matter what you are going through, know that you are not alone and there is always someone here to talk. Once you’re out working, your company may also have an Employee Assistance Program the provides consultation and referral services in counseling and a number of other areas. Here’s what is available to UMD employees, as an example.

Life throws difficult curveballs and situations our way often and it is important to know how to deal with them. These resources are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to resources offered. The first step is to meet with an advisor or your supervisor and see what is available for you!

Of Possible Interest:
Disabilities in the Workplace – all our blog posts on the topic
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topic

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Jessica Lewis

Changing Your Mindset

By: Rachel

Sooner or later, it seems like we all reach that point where we’re ready to be done with the semester, and we don’t care who knows it. It’s all we seem to talk about, and sometimes it’s even reflected in our work. The reality is, you’re going to face seasons like this throughout your life. Perhaps you’re just sticking out your job for two weeks until you can move on to the next one, or you’re just gliding through the last few days before your week-long vacation. Maybe right now you’ve got your eye on that diploma regardless of the GPA attached, or you’ve determined these last few weeks are just an inconvenience (albeit busy!) that must be endured, because your mind is already preoccupied with summer.

In my opinion, one of the biggest contributors to living a successful life is finding joy in the present moment. So many of us get caught up in what’s less than ideal about our current lives, and we believe things were so much better in the past or they will be in the future. Often times, we were complaining just as much then and we will just as much in the days to come, unless we change our mindset.

Image: colored confetti on brown stone background
Text: Change your Mindset

I’d like to offer you a few practices that might help you change your mindset to help you make the best of every situation you find yourself in. It’s important to recognize that not every aspect of life is ideal or healthy. There are times where enduring feelings of negativity might be a sign to take a different path, change majors, or find a different job. But, even the path of your dreams will have a few rocks in it; the key is not to let them trip you up.

  • One of my favorite ways to find joy in where I’m at in life right now is to ask myself what I’ll miss about it years from now. Sure, college can be a struggle, but when I look at my calendar and get stressed about the jam-packed days that never look the same as the next, I picture myself as a 50-year-old pining for the days that were filled with variety, and it makes me appreciate my current life a little more. I’m sure we all got sick of eating every meal in the Dining Center at some point, but I knew the day would come where I’d run out of fun meal ideas and dread washing the dishes, so I made the most of it.
  • I’ve found it extremely helpful to have close relationships with people of a wide variety of ages. These people can lend you perspective, and while the problems in your life right now might loom bigger than any others you’ve ever experienced, people with more life experience can usually assure you that what seems like the end of the world actually isn’t. It’s like that insurance commercial, they know a thing or two, because they’ve seen a thing or two. They might not always know best, but having friends who have already survived college or their first years in a full-time job can tell you what things are not worth working yourself up over and other things that are worth pouring your energy into.
  • Practice gratitude. Many of you have probably heard of the 21 Day Gratitude Challenge, where you write down 3 things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days. Scientists say this is long enough to form a new habit. The point is, regularly recognizing the aspects of your life you can be thankful for means you’ll be more likely to embrace even the trying times with gratitude.
  • Taking a step back and reminding yourself of the reasons why you’re on the journey you are can be a great way to recenter your mindset. Maybe you really struggle with school, and you can’t wait to be a counselor holding appointments where you’re able to help people. Well, you know you’re probably going to need a degree to do that, so focus on the end goal, and try to make the most of each step along the way. Perhaps you don’t love the types of job positions you find yourself in now, but you know you have to put in your time to earn the kind of position you really want. Give your best to that role, and try to focus on the aspects you enjoy.

I truly hope you’re able to use these tips to embrace the last few weeks of the semester (and your life as a whole) by appreciating the present moment. Sometimes all it takes is a little change in your mindset.

Best, Rachel

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

Read Rachel’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Chris Barbalis

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:

Read Heidi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Tim Arterbury