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Reflecting on my growth in 2021

Hey Gaels,

Welcome to a new semester! I hope you all had a restful winter break and are feeling refreshed and motivated as we get started with 2022.

With my winter exams occurring early in December, I was fortunate to have almost a month-long break from classes. Like many of you, I used some of this time off to document my personal and academic highs and lows of the past year.

2021 was a defining year for my academic growth. In the final semester of my undergrad, I took on three academic commitments that were completely new and intimidating to me at the time: I began TAing, private tutoring, and mentoring with SASS. The year also contained some exciting milestones. I completed and presented my undergraduate thesis project toward the beginning of the year; then, I wrapped up my first semester of graduate school at the end of the year.

Although I’m proud of myself and grateful for these accomplishments, I feel hesitant to characterize my academic growth by these “highs.” Rather, I believe that it was the countless setbacks and struggles that I faced when writing thesis drafts and studying for graduate classes, my willingness to openly recognize these struggles as room for growth, and my overall willingness to ‘put myself out there’ and take risks that truly dictated my growth in 2021. I learned more useful information from my mistakes than from my achievements.

Since making this connection between mistakes and growth, I have felt strongly motivated to identify areas of improvement for the new semester and to make changes accordingly. Many of the challenges I faced last semester revolved around the same three core themes:


  1. Time management: I would spend too much time on certain tasks, causing me to rush other tasks or stay up late to complete them. I also found it hard to prioritize between my extra-curriculars and coursework. Thus, I plan to allocate a maximum duration for my tasks this semester—one that cannot be exceeded—to ensure I always have some downtime and motivation to work efficiently.
  2. Perfectionism: I delayed handing in many assignments until they were “perfect,” which also set me behind on other tasks. Thus, I plan to practice setting more realistic standards for my work. After all, I also need to allocate time for other commitments.
  3. Procrastination: I found it easy to delay large tasks with far deadlines, such as scholarship applications for my thesis and end-of-term reports. Thus, like Santosh, I plan to set deadlines for smaller chunks of these tasks using the SASS assignment planner.


The biggest change I am making heading into the winter semester is my note-taking strategy: for all of my university experience thus far, I have used pencil and paper to create 100% of my study notes. I have been very reluctant to change this system. However, to (hopefully) optimize my efficiency, I took the risk and bought the iPad Air over the break, which I plan to use for all of my note-taking/studying going forward as a substitute. Stay tuned, as I will provide updates on how the switch from paper to touchscreen works for me!

I’m wishing you all the best in the winter semester and with your goals for the new year. Hopefully we can all regroup on campus after reading week! Stay healthy, and happy 2022 J


– Shahnawaz

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Three ways to adjust

Hey Queen’s!

I hope exams went well and that you have enjoyed your holidays 🙂

Fellow first years, last semester might have been a rough one, but we made it and had at least some time to relax and recharge. Now we do it all over again—but this time a little different!

Zoom lectures, and their beloved breakout rooms, are making a comeback. I know this might be a hard time for many of us, especially since we’ve had such little time at Queen’s so far, but it’s important we stay positive and try our hardest to make the best of it. Provisionally, online learning is only place until the end of February. Although there is always the possibility that the rest of the semester will be online, there is still a chance we will be back in person. I’m using that to motivate me—I can’t wait to get back to the people and places I got used to last semester!

Yes, the stress about rent, residence fees, and countless other issues is real. However, a little stress is making me think deeply, and that’s helping me to accept that this is our reality. I have to find ways to adjust. Keeping my head up for the winter and staying optimistic is the best way to get through these hard times. I’m going to have to adapt to learning online all over again, but at least this time I have learned what works and doesn’t work (no more lying in bed during my classes!). This semester I am not going to let online learning distract me from getting an education. The following are some things I am going to make sure I adhere to in order to make this second transition to online learning a smooth one:

  1. Stay in contact with friends

These isolated times can take a major toll on our mental health so I really think it’s important to keep ourselves connected to those we spent a lot of our time with at Queen’s. Me and my friends are going to be having virtual movie nights together and Facetiming each other throughout the day, even if we’re just doing work because having each others’ presence is going to help us feel like we’re still together.

  1. Stay active

Now that we are going to be going back to sitting at our desks all day for lectures, completing assignments, and studying, it’s even more important that we make sure we stay physically healthy. I am going to make sure I get in daily walks between my classes. Although walking in the city where I live does not compare to walking by the lake at Queen’s, getting in this movement will not only keep my muscles moving, but also help my productivity.

  1. Stay on track

When we’re online and at home, it can be really easy to skip lectures and get distracted. I suggest making a schedule for yourself. Set out regular times when you’ll “attend” asynchronous lectures, so you make sure you consistently watch videos and keep up with other tasks. Then, use a planner to organize all your to-do tasks, which can help free your mind from the stress of juggling all the due dates for the tasks you need to accomplish. Hopefully, taking this approach will motivate you to get things done. In this way, you can also carve out time for yourself to either spend by yourself or with family or friends—and that time can be spent guilt-free without thinking about work!

I hope you try some of these things out and find out if they work for you! Good luck with your studies and I hope we all learn a lot this semester!

– Noor


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How can it all fall into place?

Hi Gaels, happy 2022!!

I’m writing from my hometown, Guelph, and I’ll most likely be staying here until we’re allowed to go back to campus (goodbye, rent money; hello, good food!). Wherever you are for the beginning of winter term, I hope it is where you want to be and that you’ve made a comforting space for yourself.

I took a lot of winter break to relax and do nothing. My body and mind needed to heal from last semester and final exams, so I gave them lots of sleep, food, and hugs from family. I revisited books and shows I loved in high school and elementary school. My mind felt at ease when it was thrust back into a time where I wasn’t as worried or stressed. I watched the new Spider-Man movie with my younger cousin. Despite her shrugging review of “not bad,” I loved it to pieces. Overall, the winter break was one of the best things of 2021.


Cat sleeping on an open book

Since it’s now 2022 and a new year, I’ve asked and been asked about new year resolutions. Some of my friends have shared their commitments:

  • take more risks and do more things they want to do,
  • go to the gym more and get a specific GPA,
  • attend all lectures,
  • prioritize their time and who they talk to better,

For me, staying on top of my health and tasks and better prioritizing my time are key.

Despite a long time reflecting over the winter break about what exactly went wrong last semester, it’s still difficult to pinpoint how it all came crashing down. Like I said in my last blog, the catalyst may have been failing my test, but nothing else went wrong. I was doing everything I needed to do, albeit wordlessly and without a lot of passion.

Thus my goal for 2022 is to focus on the things I love to do and to stay on top of my responsibilities. I believe that one of the reasons why last semester turned bleak was because I didn’t set aside time to do what I like: baking, going out with my friends, or just reading a book. School drained a lot of my energy, and I didn’t give myself the love to recharge. In my first year, I wrote a SASS blog that explained how our roles and responsibilities are filled with tasks that are analogous to glass balls and plastic balls. Plastic balls are tasks that can be dropped, and they’ll be okay. Glass balls shatter when they’re dropped, which is why taking care of them is vital.

A plastic ball that I could have dropped was a homework question that I spent 30 minutes trying to solve, a problem that was worth 1% of a 15% homework set. Instead, I sat there, frustrated at this homework question rather than taking a break and hanging out with my roommates. I know how important homework and school is, but at this point, all I was dropping were glass balls that centred around friendships, relationships, and my own wellbeing.

I want to prioritize my time to include talking to the people I love and focus on the bigger tasks that are worth more. In school, that means big exams or big assignments. In my wider existence, that is my health, my relationships, and my impact to the world.

I read a few days ago a quote from the Zen monk, Shunryu Suzuki, a few days ago: “When we have our body and mind in order, everything else will exist in the right place, in the right way.” To me, this phrase is reassuring and comforting. I want to remain calm in a chaotic world and focus on what’s best for myself, which is why I’d like to stay on top of my health and my tasks. I want to believe that when I’ve tried the best I’ve could to keep my life in order, everything will fall into place.

Our 2022 goals may be totally different, and that’s what exciting about a new year. Every day is a new day to restart and try to achieve our goals, one step at a time.

Good luck to everyone on the beginning of your semester! 😊

– Liyi


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New Year, New Possibilities!

Hello Gaels!

Happy New Year and New Semester! It’s been a few weeks since we last caught up. I hope all your winter breaks were relaxing, fun, and memorable! It sure felt nice waking up with no impending assignments to do over the past few weeks. Now, as we begin our winter 2022 semester, I am looking forward to seeing what’s in store

Before writing this blog, I took some time to reflect on my previous semester to see where I could have improved.

  1. One area for improvement is to have a more structured schedule. I felt as though I was struggling to keep up with the workload as the semester progressed; I want to have a schedule where I’m able to complete my tasks while also having breaks within my day. From my experience with remote education last year, I learned that online study is heavily dependent on our ability to create our own structured and focused schedule. There is no longer a set time for classes and studying in groups is not going to be as common, so we must hold ourselves accountable for completing all the assessments this term. Moreover, last semester, while I did finish my assignments on time, I did have to cram for a few quizzes.
  2. I am going to be using the SASS Assignment Planner to make sure that I can complete assignments one part at a time. In the past, this planner has helped me tremendously in not only allowing me to gain an understanding of how much work I have to do in a day. By breaking down a large assignment into smaller parts, I feel reassured massive projects are doable! Doing a small portion each day allows you to focus and put your best effort into each section, which contributes to improving the final product. If you are already dreading the thought of doing a long assignment this semester, try this amazing SASS resource out.
  3. I want to make my study sessions more effective. Last semester, I experimented with some really helpful strategies to helped me improve my focus while studying:
    1. Keep my phone out of reach and on silent
    2. Have a dedicated study area in my room
    3. Avoid studying on a couch or bed (or any extra-comfortable piece of furniture!)
    4. Take small breaks in between study sessions

Near the end of the fall term, I felt as though I was having more effective study sessions, so I want to continue to improve this semester. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for new ideas as we all move back online.

What are your goals for this semester? Take a look at your experiences last semester and see where you might want to improve this term. There are always ways to refine your approach! I hope that we won’t be doing remote education for too long and that you all accomplish your goals this semester! Good luck, and let’s make this semester the best one yet!

– Santosh

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Exams are important, but so are you

It feels like the season finale of a very long, very tumultuous show. We are nearing the end. I hear my roommates coming home at 4 AM after a study session at Stauffer. I find me and my friends exchanging encouragement and motivation with a bowl of $0.25 ramen on the side.

I have five exams. After those five exams are over, I can go home and relax with my friends and family. In the time between now and that car ride back home to Guelph, I am trying my hardest to hold myself together.

My journey this semester has not been easy. Even though I’m a second-year student, it was still my first time on campus. Navigating this new part of my life apart from my mom and boyfriend, my two most prominent supporters, has been extremely hard.

I got my first failed test a few weeks ago. It was a major catalyst for a depressive period. At first, I was in a state of shock. I thought I did decently, so how did I fail it? I floated around the class, trying to determine if this was a me thing or an everyone thing. It turned out it was an everyone thing: the class average was 50%. Even though I tried my best and the class average was 50%, my sadness or worries didn’t just disappear.

I tried a tutoring session for that course. It didn’t help, which caused me to spiral even more. I felt hopeless. My mind went in hundreds of directions, but the general trajectory was this: if I were to fail a course, my GPA would drop, my transcript would show it, I wouldn’t be able to get any internships or jobs, and I’ll never make any money or buy a house or make the people around me proud.

When I type it—and you read it—it sounds silly, doesn’t it?

  1. Failing a test doesn’t mean failing a course.
  2. If you fail a course, you can do it again. Simple as that.
  3. Jobs value your character and work experience more than a letter on your transcript.
  4. School and careers are not linear. There is not one path you have to take to be successful. No matter what I did, I’ll make it out fine as long as I worked hard.

The logic in my head was fool-proof, but my body disagreed. I still feel a knot in my stomach, I’ve probably cried more times in the last month than in the previous five years, and it’s a lot harder to get out of bed in the mornings.

So, I left it up to the professionals and adults.

I booked a counselling appointment. I booked a therapy appointment. I called my mom, brother, and boyfriend’s mom. I had a Zoom meeting with my program’s academic advisor. I went online and tried to find people who went through the same things that I did and see if they had any input.

I want to share what I’ve learned:

  • My worth is not decided by my grades, a failed test, or an extra year at university – it’s my kindness, empathy, and consideration to others that are important and notable.
  • Not all days are the same, and some days or weeks, we’ll feel like quitting as things might not be in our favour. Take a break, talk to people, and come back stronger.
  • We don’t have to take one path in school. We can move some courses and take a fifth year, and truly enjoy what university offers: clubs, new people, and new experiences. It’s supposed to be some of the best years of our life.
  • Be patient; nothing worthwhile comes overnight. We have a lifetime.

My university experience this year has been study, study, study. To be blunt, it has not made university very enjoyable for me. If you’re struggling, there are so many people we can talk to that want to help. Adults have been in our shoes and can give us sound advice. During our call today, my mom told me, “You’re still just a kid. Let us help you.”

Let’s take care of ourselves. We only have a couple more weeks to go.

I’m crossing my fingers that the reassurance I’ve already received will last me until I set foot back in Guelph. But if I ever need a bit more, I know where to find it.

Good luck and happy holidays, Gaels! – Liyi

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The Best Study Spots in Kingston!

Hey Queen’s! Welcome back for another blog post 🙂

How have your past couple of weeks been? I know many of us have been overloaded with assignments after our midterms so hopefully we’ve all been able to get those done! Over the time between my last blog and this one, I have made it my mission to explore various study spots around campus. So, grab a coffee (or a tea, if you are like me!), and get ready to read for the best study spots on campus and beyond!

Desks in overhead shot of Stauffer Library

1. Joseph S. Stauffer Library– 101 Union St, Kingston, ON K7L 2N9

Stauffer is your typical library. Computers, desks, books, confused people trying to catch up on a week’s worth of modules (oops, maybe this one is just me…). There are various desk types for you to choose from so if you are one of those people who need a lot of space, you have options. But you NEED to get there early because spots fill up quickly! That is one thing about Stauffer, ALWAYS busy. The study rooms are also quite nice, which is great if you need to work on a group project or study with your friends but don’t want to disrupt the rest of the library with your laughter J If you are looking for some sort of board to draw on to explain concepts, most of the rooms only have chalkboards, which can be a little messy!

Overall rating: 3.5/5


Long table and chairs

2. Bracken Health Sciences Library – 18 Stuart St, Kingston, ON K7L 2V5

Ahhh, I love this place! As a health science student myself, I’m a little biased about this place. If you are looking for a dead silent place to study, this is it. Bottom floor couches. Absolute perfection. I could spend all day there! I love the floor to ceiling windows as well as the plants hanging all around. Outlets are also everywhere so you’ll never have an excuse to procrastinate J. They also have some really nice study rooms with comfy chairs, a TV with an adapter for you to project presentations, and a whiteboard. If you are one of these people who need to separate themselves from everyone else to actually get some work done, you need to try the individual sectioned-off desks. When you sit there, it’s literally just you and that assignment. No more distractions!

Overall rating: 5/5


Students studying at desks and couches in well lit room with large artworks

3. Common Ground Coffeehouse – 284 Earl St, Kingston, ON K7L 2H8

Study vibes at their finest. Common Ground is one of the best places to go if you are looking for a social but studious environment. This is the place to be on campus if you want to sip on your coffee and chat with a friend while doing a little bit of work. I will say that there will always be some background noise at this place so it may not be the best for focusing but it does have a beautiful environment! Also, if you ever decide to come here, the bagels are a MUST! That’s a nice positive of coming to work here: endless food supply J. There aren’t many seats, though, so if you are planning on going, my advice is to get there early.

Overall rating: 4/5


Sculpture in park by waterfront

4. Breakwater Park

The natural environment. As Queen’s students we really should take advantage of the lake we have on campus. I know that since winter is coming, it may be a little cold to sit outside and study here but at least once this school year, I strongly recommend studying here at least once. I loved coming here on those beautiful warm and sunny days to just sit in the sun at one of the picnic tables and go through my flashcards. Downside is the wifi is weak here. If you are able to work on something that doesn’t need internet, or you need to cut off net access to concentrate, you should come. A bonus is that when you are done, you can also take a stroll by the lake and get in some exercise and enjoy the weather. Go alone or with friends: either way, it’s great to get outside and surround yourself in nature.

Overall rating: 4/5


Stacks and students studying below in library

5. William R. Lederman Law Library – 128 Union St, Kingston, ON K7L 2P1

Coming here makes you feel like Elle Woods. You are surrounded by thick books and people who are in that study mindset. It really motivates you to get yourself together and get some work done. A huge plus of this place is that the rooms are very spacious, especially the basement, considering the long tables they have. I find this allows me to get all my stuff set up in a clear way which I think lets my brain sort of declutter and focus on what’s in front of me. It does lack scenic views though, which can sometimes make you feel like you really are just there to study (which is what you are there for, but your brain doesn’t need to know that J). Personally, I don’t come here as often since it is a little far from most of my classes.


Students at long tables in warmly lit coffee shop

6. CRAVE Coffee House – 166 Princess St, Kingston, ON K7L 1B1

This is your classed-up coffee shop. With its contemporary style, it’s a gem for Queen’s students. Crave is off-campus, but its comfy couches, large tables, and sleek décor make the trip there worth it! Also, wifi is free here so getting comfortable and working away is quite easy! One of the best parts of this place is their food. Delicious sandwiches, salads, and desserts are always available here which comes in handy when you need to take a break from that math problem that’s been hurting your head for the past half hour. Grab some friends and check this place out, I promise it won’t disappoint!

Overall rating: 5/5


Long bar and small round tables in coffee shop with traditional tiled flooring

7. Balzac’s – 251 Princess St, Kingston, ON K7L 1B4

European vibes. This café actually makes you feel like you’re in Rome on summer vacation. The traditional yet modern design with the exposed brick is very comforting and motivates you to park yourself and work away. Again, this place is off campus so you will have to do some walking to get here. Wifi is free, so no worries about how much you’ll be able to get done! The food here is amazing too: hand-crafted everything! Espressos, teas, coffees, cookies, croissants, they’ve got it all! My advice is to use the delicious food as motivation. Once all your tasks are done, go right ahead and treat yourself 🙂

Overall rating: 4.5/5


People study at modern coffee shop

8. Juniper Café – 370 King St W, Kingston, ON K7L 2X4

Relaxation at its finest. This café faces the lake, allowing you to feel that tranquility and relaxation as you work. Their décor consists of vintage pieces, which you can admire as you work. The outdoor dining may not come in handy now, but in the warmer months, coming here is a MUST. Grab your laptop, order a drink, and sip away until all your work is done. Not to mention, the walk down here is also beautiful and allows you to fit in some exercise. Take a break to enjoy the food and view to re-energize yourself before your next study session.

Overall rating: 4/5

Well, that’s it from me for now! Hope you guys enjoyed my tour of Kingston’s best study spots and will try some of them out if you haven’t done so already J  

Good luck studying for exams!

– Noor

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Beating Burnout as Semester Ends

Hi Gaels! Sweater weather is over, and now it’s a more candle-lighting, holiday music-playing, and “Why is the weather so cold and my class so far?” time of year.

We are finally nearing the end of this semester. I will be 37.5% done with my university career once exam season finishes. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions, and the thought of winter break approaching is a significant relief. Many of the classmates I’ve talked to have had their fair share of struggles. We can all agree that the winter break is much needed.

In my last blog post, I talked about motivation and gave a short breakdown of Mel Robbins’ fantastic TED Talk, “How to stop screwing yourself over.” The entire TED Talk was an intense session encouraging us to do things we don’t feel like doing to make something of ourselves. I must say, though, that those feelings can only take us so far.

I completed my last midterm on the penultimate Friday of November. Finals are barely days away. I know that these weeks right now are the perfect ingredients for burnout and loss of motivation – we want to stay in bed all day because of the cold, we’re longing for winter break, and the fear of finals is causing us to procrastinate. Plus, lots of us are coming down with colds and flus, and there’s talk of new Covid variants. Eat healthy, get sleep, and wear your masks, people!

While Robbins’ TED Talk may be helpful for us students during the thick of it, it’s harder to stay motivated when we’re nearing the finish line and exhaustion is catching up. And that’s okay. We’ve worked hard.

I want to share some common burnout symptoms and fixes that may be helpful to you, and hopefully, you can catch them before they take root. One of the most frustrating symptoms of burnout is that you don’t want to do anything: homework, assignments, club work, studying, laundry, cleaning your room, or even going out with friends. Other symptoms include (and I’ve been experiencing these too) feeling exhausted despite having a decent sleep, not concentrating, getting irritated and stressed over minor issues that usually don’t affect you, and bouts of depression and overwhelming sadness.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming when all the feelings come at once, and you don’t know what to do. Queen’s has some services that may be beneficial during these stressful times. I want to personally mention the Student Wellness Services counsellors. If you’re dealing with depression, anxiety, or other illnesses, please reach out to them. Queen’s also has Academic Considerations for these circumstances that would be helpful to research. Lastly, I recommend following the Instagram account @queensuniversitybewell to see some events promoting mental health, including the ever-wonderful Oscar the dog, who hangs out in Mitchell Hall every Friday at 1-2 PM to bring a little bit of joy to us all!

Now, for some simple tricks to tackle burnout before it becomes a bigger problem:

  1. Hide your phone when you’re doing schoolwork. It is distracting. Put it somewhere you can’t see, or you will be looking at it every two seconds. Turn it completely off, put it behind your laptop, or ask your roommates to stash it for you.
  2. Break down your responsibilities to make smaller, achievable benchmarks that you can complete daily instead of working a 12-hour grind the day before it’s due. That way you get a small spike of dopamine from each small achievement—rather than the overwhelming dread of putting things off until the last second.
  3. Set reasonable goals. That might mean just passing. It might mean achieving a 4.0 GPA. Perhaps it’s just submitting all your assignments and quizzes in time (something I, ahem, am not perfect at!. Pick a small and achievable goal for the next few weeks. Being unrealistic just adds more unnecessary stress to our lives.
  4. I always, always, always recommend the term calendar to visualize what significant assignments you have to do within the month. Pair it with a daily calendar to break down your weekly tasks. Scheduling helps prevent burnout because you can plan your time better and set when to achieve the benchmarks mentioned in step 2.

Lastly, in burnout season, self-care is vital. Make sure to spend time drinking hot chocolate with friends, going out to eat and treating yourself, lighting a scented candle or two, or whatever else floats your boat. Talk to a counsellor, talk to your uppers, and speak to your peers to discover how they handle tough times. If there’s anything I’ve learned about talking to my friends about how I cried over school, it’s that they have done the same.

Student sitting at desk with head covered in towel

Here’s a photo of my friend currently going through it.

As one of my uppers once told me, “Chin up, kid. Don’t let your crown fall.”

Good luck on your exams—see you in January!


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Creating your best work environment: a practical guide

Hey Gaels,

Congrats on making it through another midterm season! No matter how difficult the last few weeks may have been, be sure to congratulate yourself for getting through them. The last two weeks of grad school were the most hectic to date, but I did my best to maintain a healthy work-life balance and also took breaks whenever possible. With school looking a little lighter post-midterms, I am hoping to schedule more frequent breaks to get away from prolonged periods of sitting.

On that note: do you ever wonder how many hours you spend at your work area every day (or night, if you’re anything like me)?

This question came to mind because almost all my waking hours last week were spent at my desk preparing for the upcoming wave of midterms. Unfortunately, my experience is not uncommon, nor is it exclusive to midterm season — COVID has forced us to accept virtual learning as the new normal, and this shift has made it very difficult to separate work from the rest of our lives. I would even argue that the shift toward online learning predates the pandemic. Indeed, more and more courses are starting to incorporate a blended learning model of delivery that replaces traditional in-person classroom components with new virtual components.


Considering how much time we now spend studying behind a computer screen, it is more important than ever for us to cultivate our optimal work environment. So, how can we go about improving our study space? Read on for my suggestions:


  1. Plan to avoid distractions

If you are anything like me, even the slightest distractions—from unwanted background noise to YouTube videos—can turn promising study sessions into productivity slumps. It often helps to identify sources of distraction ahead of time so you can make plans to avoid them. For example, if you anticipate being in a busy environment, such as the first floor of Stauffer Library, consider investing in ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones. My biggest procrastination trigger is my phone, so I have found that simply turning my phone off or keeping it out of sight during a study session can save me from hours of useless scrolling. Once there are no longer multiple stimuli in your environment fighting for your attention, it becomes much easier to lock in on your coursework and nothing else.  


  1. Keep your studying ergonomic

Ergonomic study spaces maximize productivity by minimizing any physical discomfort associated with studying. If possible, consider investing in a high-quality office chair (or looking on Facebook, Kijiji, etc. for a cheap/free one!) that helps you keep your spine neutral and your shoulders back, and be sure to adjust the brightness of your computer screen to reduce eyestrain. I also have noticed that my neck is least strained when my laptop is at eye level — if you cannot adjust your seat height, then consider changing the height of your laptop by adding/removing textbooks underneath it. Finally, be sure to avoid the temptation of studying in bed! I learned first-hand last year that any improvements in comfort are offset by a loss in productivity.


  1. Organize your study materials

Because it is easy to feel overwhelmed when your desk is cluttered, I recommend creating a mental list of everything that you will need (and nothing more) for a given study session. This approach informs me on how I should set up my physical work environment. For example, I typically reserve the top of my desk for resources that I will constantly be using (pencils, notebook, and laptop) while leaving less relevant materials (textbooks and binders) in my bag beside me.

Lonely rower in the sea and caption "Perseverance"

        4. Surround yourself with sources of motivation.

Whether it be a from a particular music playlist, a set of posters, or an inspirational quote, we all have our own ways of uplifting ourselves. The same methods can be applied to reduce the inertia associated with studying. For example, I always keep an hourglass on my desk for the simple yet potent reminder: “Time is passing, and passing irreversibly.” That realization alone is often enough to snap me out of procrastination.

Now that your environment is good to go, it’s time to get studying!

See you next time – Shahnawaz 

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Taking Time for Yourself

Hey Queen’s! It’s Noor again 🙂

So how did midterms go? Stressed about your results? I get it, but try and feel happy that it’s over! However you feel, know that you are not alone and that these midterms are just one part of our marks. There is always room and time to improve! Above all, cut yourself some slack. Most of us first years haven’t written an exam in over two years. It’s going to take some time before we get back into it again. Let’s learn from our successes and mistakes and stay optimistic!

I think we all deserve some sort of relaxation after a hard of couple weeks’ study. Below are some of my go-to activities that I think every Queen’s student should try before getting back into the grind. Give them a go and you’ll be more rested and, therefore, more productive.


Pavement and lake
  1. Take a stroll by the lake (a classic)

I love this one! I consider myself a morning person so starting my day early in the morning and walking by the lake is something I think has really made me appreciate how lucky we are that our campus is located by such beautiful scenery. I promise you that going on a walk in nature improves your mood, mental health, and physical fitness. Sometimes I am so busy that I don’t get a chance to do this, but now that midterms are done, it’s time for me to get back into it. So try it too: put in your earphones, listen to some music, and enjoy yourself!

  1. Go to the ARC and get in some exercise!

I’ve been wanting to do this one for so long. At the start of the school year, there was so much going on that I felt I just never had the opportunity, but now that I’m trying to destress, I plan to check out what the ARC has to offer. I’ve heard there are workout classes, intramural sessions, and drop-ins at the gym! I want to grab some friends (strength in numbers!) and see all the facilities at the ARC. Try some new sports, learn a skill, or beat your personal record; but whatever you do, be proud you are working on yourself and taking a break from school.


Queen's ARC at dusk
  1. Explore downtown

If you’re anything like me, you love to go on adventures and explore new places. As a first year, I really have not seen much except for the Queen’s campus so I am really looking forward to walking around downtown and seeing the city of Kingston! I plan to try a few coffee shops, do some shopping, and find some good restaurants. If anyone has any favourites, let me know!

  1. Have a movie night with friends (with good food, of course!)

This one I’ve done a few times with friends this year. It’s one of my favourite weekend activities! We usually go to a common room, set up a movie or whatever show we’ve been loving that week. We eat some good food together and enjoy our night. It’s a great way to take a break from school and spend some quality time with your friends. It acts like that reward at the end of a hard week – knowing your friends will be there at the end of the week is a great way to motivate yourself.


Why not give one of these activities a try and let me know how they go for you. Without giving yourself a break, how can you ever recharge yourself for what’s to come?

Anyways, that’s all for  now!

Talk to you soon,


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Heading into the Final Stretch of the Semester

Hey Gaels!

Can you believe we only have about a month left before the semester is finished? It feels as though I just moved back to Kingston a week or so ago! With the midterm season almost finished we are heading into the final stretch of the semester. It’s been a busy few weeks thanks to midterms, assignments, extracurricular responsibilities, but I am so glad that I finally have a little break before the final exam/assignment season is upon us!

Midterm season has been challenging in terms of material I needed to cover in a short period of time. Worse, I also had several labs and assignments to finish between my exams. While I made a detailed plan on how I was going to approach all these academic tasks, a few other responsibilities popped up here and there such that my plan became impossible to follow.

I am someone who loves to know exactly what I need to complete in a day because it helps me stay on track and not over-stress myself. Once my plan was out the window, it felt as though the three midterms, countless quizzes, and multiple assignments I needed to do were going to be an impossible task. All of that meant a lot of cramming for exams and last-minute adjustments to my assignments. Worst of all, I did not feel satisfied with my final product. While this did make me feel demotivated to work on the next assignment, I made sure to try to forget about that previous assignment and put my 100% focus on the next task at hand. When you’re down about work, even doing five minutes can help you get started and clear your mind. We all have hard times where we might not have had the opportunity to produce our best effort for a task but finding ways to move on is vital. Reflect on what works for you as you approach the end of the semester.

Stone with inscription: "Our future is greater than our past - Ben Okri"
Book Study Education College University Studying

What does your post-midterm situation look like? For me, I have to catch up on course modules that I was not able to complete due to my midterm exams. As my next two weeks are much lighter in terms of the workload, I plan to use this period to catch up on all that course content. A good place to get started on figuring out a bigger plan is SASS’ End of Term Planning Chart. It’ll take a few minutes to complete but it’ll give you a great handle on where to go next! Apart from academics, I also have to work on my extracurricular responsibilities and so the next two weeks will also be spent on them. That being said, my schedule over the past month has been all over the place and so my goal is to also get back into a normal daily routine that will help me stay focused!

The midterm season is a time when in the past I didn’t really put aside time for myself. Whether it is hanging out with friends, watching the latest soccer games, or just taking a break, I tended to think about nothing but my academics. This year, I wanted to focus on my mental and physical health during this stressful period by leaving time for breaks and fun. I was able to see the difference that this can make:

  1. I concentrated better, letting me complete my tasks faster each day
  2. I was much more relaxed (as I was able to destress by hanging out with my friends)
  3. I was able to spend quality time studying because taking those breaks helped me be reenergized and focus on my academics
  4. My mind was not exhausted from constant studying (or constantly thinking about studying) and this helped me to thoroughly learn concepts

If I could tell my first-year self one thing, it would be about the importance of taking those much-needed breaks during stressful times of the year! You’ll study better and more efficiently if you take time out.

Before the holiday season is upon us and you find yourself at home and deciding which of the endless Home Alone movies you’re going to be watching in your PJs, make sure the last month of the semester is one that you will be proud of! We can always change our future by focusing on the present rather than dwelling on the past.

Let’s finish off strong! – Santosh

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