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4 tips for getting organized and staying focused

Santosh, Life Sciences, Class of 2023SASS Peer: Santash

Hi everyone! I hope all of you had a nice transition into the academic year. If it were anything like mine, you would have had a very eventful one and a half weeks to say the least. From purchasing all my required materials to attending introductory Zoom sessions, I am slowly adapting to the new learning environment. Based on my experiences in my previous years at Queen’s, and the first week of courses this year, here are my top tips for getting started as assignment deadlines start to approach:

  1. First, if you have not done so, take a close look at your syllabus for each course: it is one of the most important documents that you will come across. It not only gives you a thorough outline of the course and its content, but it indicates the required reading/study material, and every assessment and how much it is worth. The syllabus will give you a very good understanding of what to expect over the next four months, so if you use it to prepare a timetable and calendar for yourself, you won’t be shocked when you realize that a course consists of weekly quizzes, or three midterms in the span of a single month. Next on the must-check list is your course timeline on onQ, which reminds you of what content you are expected to finish and which assessments are due each week. With remote learning, staying on top of all your course content is half the battle itself, so following the timeline is an amazing way to track your progress. A quick glance at the timeline before you start your work each day will only take a minute, but it can potentially save you a lot of time from cramming, or even worse, regretting a missed assessment.

  2. Creating a daily schedule based on your syllabus and course timelines can go a long way to staying on track. A schedule also helps maintain my focus because I know exactly what needs to be done and when I’ll do it—and that’s going to be challenging when we’re all studying remotely. A pro tip is to create times for breaks, snacks, meals, and downtime, which will help you maintain a clear mind. Try and stick to your schedule, but do not be hard on yourself if a task or two is incomplete by the end of the day. Especially at the beginning of the semester, it might be hard to gauge the time a task might take, so don’t rush to complete your list: the quality of your understanding is much more important than the quantity of the tasks you finish.

  3. In my last blog, I mentioned that a goal of mine this semester is to work on my time management skills, and remote education has put this to the test. Over the past one and a half weeks, there have been quite a few moments where I opened Netflix to watch an episode of Friends, searched for the “perfect” song to listen to on Spotify for a few minutes, or browsed through social media. However, these occurrences have been decreasing as each day passes thanks to a new technique I found to reduce my phone usage during my study periods: I simply place my phone behind my laptop so that it is blocked from my point of view. This has helped me immensely because I can now work on my courses without needing to fight the urge to check my latest notification. Even though there is still a long way to go, I can safely say that I am gradually working towards my goal for the semester. I hope that you are inching closer to achieving your goals as well!

  4. This semester might feel much more isolated than previous semesters. That might take a toll on your motivation as the semester progresses, but even simple online can help you stay on task. For example, I just used the SASS online Assignment Planner to help me finish a discussion post for my Global and Population Health course. The Assignment Planner gives you a simple, step-by-step schedule for completing any assignment. It was wonderful to follow the planner and finish my assignment without cramming. If you’re getting started on papers or reports right now, check it out!

Take advantage of all the help that is at your disposal and make this semester a positive first experience at Queen’s, or your most successful one yet. Best of luck and see you next time!