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Peer blog: Scheduling, focus, and fun!

Liyi, Engineering, Class of 2024

Welcome back, everyone! It has been a wild ride since the first day of university, but I’ve been enjoying myself. School is providing me with the drive, motivation, and strong sense of purpose that I lacked during the summer.

Some notable things have happened from my last blog until now. I gained two new Queen’s items for my clothing collection: a crewneck and the famed rugby jersey! Additionally, I am ecstatic to have joined the Queen’s Hyperloop Design Team. Finding ways to bond with the campus community has helped.

Nonetheless, being in engineering as a first year while attending Queen’s Zoomiversity has been a bit of a struggle. This semester I have calculus, chemistry, and engineering design and labs. Keeping up with the course load has fueled me into buying cold brew from the local grocery store (to drink as a reward for my hard work, not for the caffeine). So if you feel that the first two weeks have been tough too, don’t worry: I am right there with you.

Finding myself busy with my schoolwork, a new club, and work outside of school, I tried to find a planning strategy that worked for me:

  • Currently, I have a paper agenda to track big and regular events like synchronous classes and my work schedule.
  • I also linked my Google Calendar to onQ, so that it lists events, and test and submission dates. That means I can always quickly refer to what’s coming in the days and weeks ahead, and my phone can remind me a few days in advance of deadlines.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, every day I make my own checklist of what to do that day on a plain sheet of paper. I just use a plain piece of paper; it doesn’t have to be anything pretty or cost $30 from a fancy stationery store!

I’m trying out different approaches to managing my time. I don’t like a set schedule with every hour planned out by course/task, so I’m just trying to set times to start and stop working. In those blocks, I can choose to work on whichever task I feel would be most suited to my mood. Using my daily to-do list is helping me stay on track, even though I don’t have my day planned out in infinite detail. This works for me, but it may not work for everyone else. I think the most significant thing in the first few weeks of school is to learn about yourself and learn how you like to work the most effectively. You will carry these skills with you forever.

Staying on task can still be tough. During video lectures, I find myself sending messages to friends. I find this eerily similar to whispering to a friend in class—except this time, there is no teacher to tell us to stop talking and to listen!

As a result, I tried setting a timer to help me focus on work for a few minutes. I did not look at my phone until the timer finished. That was it. I am telling you, it worked. It worked like a charm, and it seemed too good to be true. I highly recommend it. If the standard timer app is too boring for you, I have got you covered! Try an app called Flora. Each time you start the timer, the app grows a tree. If you end the timer before it goes off, the tree is destroyed. That gives you the incentive to keep working so your tree grows to be happy and healthy. It is a brilliant app for people to stay on track to grow a virtual forest.

Remember that in the first few weeks of school it is beneficial to learn about yourself and learn how you like to work the most effectively. And there are plenty of apps like Flora to make focusing more fun!

I cannot wait to see what the next couple of weeks have in store for us. Let’s pull through together, Gaels!

Liyi's Tools for Organization