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Don’t let November’s workload get you down!

By Sarah-Louise Ruder, 2nd-year Philosophy/Physics student

As I turned to the next page of my calendar this past weekend, I was shocked by the amount labs, culminating projects, and tests which are coming up in the next few week, not to mention the regular, weekly workload for my courses. It seems that we have just survived mid-terms season of October and yet the to-do list is just as intimidating!

The good news is that planning ahead and a positive mental attitude can make the upcoming weeks quite manageable. Take advantage of this week to make a plan of attack for the rest of the year.

1. Take time to reflect. At this point, most midterm and assignment results have been released and you should have a pretty good idea of where you stand in your courses. Take recognition of where your hard work has paid off. One of the most important parts of maintaining a positive mental attitude is taking time to celebrate your accomplishments. Did you notice that your new note-taking strategy really paid off when it was time to write the mid-term? Awesome! Did you make a study group to prepare for the test which helped you understand the concepts? Great!

Next, look at where things have not turned out the way you wanted them to. Be kind to yourself. I often find that I am my own worst critic. Ask yourself why things have turned out the way the did. Was it simply a problem with the amount of preparation? Or, maybe it was your approach for the assignment? Often it will become clear to you what has led to those results, but if you are having trouble understanding, try booking a meeting with your professor to discuss how to refine your approach to the course. Professors are a great resource for your success and will usually appreciate your proactive approach. Try not to dwell on what what went wrong, but focus on what you would like to work towards.

2. Set goals. A great way to stay motivated is to set goals. The SMART acronym helps to make sure that your planing is effective. Set goals that are SPECIFIC, rather than vague, because you’re more likely to accomplish them (e.g., ‘go to the ARC three times a week’ instead of ‘get in shape’). Your goals should also be MEASURABLE so that you know when you have accomplished them. By focusing on what it is you need to accomplish, your goals can be ACTION-ORIENTED. However, it is also important to make sure that your goals are REALISTIC and TIMELY — what’s the deadline for accomplishing your goal?

Remember to revisit the goals you set yourself at the beginning of the year. Don’t be afraid to change your goals based on how things have gone thus far. Take advantage of this time to revaluate your academics and set goals which will motivate you in your studies.

3. Maximize your productivity! As university students, we often have very busy and diverse schedules, which makes it easy to lose track of time. Try giving yourself a regular routine of wake-up and bed times. A regular sleep schedule will help your physical and mental health, allowing you to be at your best during the busy weeks ahead. But there is another benefit to this strategy! When you choose to wake up at the same time, even when you don’t have an 8:30 class, you can get a lot of work done before your classes.

Also, take advantage of found time. This can be a one-hour break between classes or while you’re waiting for your pasta to finish cooking at dinner. As you’re standing in line at CoGro, whip out the cue-cards for a quick review. You would be surprised at how much more you can accomplish in a day by using time more efficiently!

Over the next few weeks, focus on getting back on top of your good study habits and setting a good foundation for your future tests and exams. I like to think of each month as a blank slate to keep up the good work in some aspects and change the things that have not been going so well. Don’t let the November workload ahead get you down! Staying motivated and productive now will help you be the best student you can be.

Photo courtesy of Richard Fisher under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.