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Peer blog: Mastering the in-between times

Liyi, Engineering, Class of 2024

Sometimes there are weeks where our days are packed with midterms, big labs, and time-consuming assignment submissions. The stress levels are high and emotions run wild, so it’s not surprising that these are the weeks we talk about most. I’ve noticed that not a lot of people talk about the weeks—the type of week I am having right now—where coursework is light enough where we are not running around like headless chickens, but also not light enough where we can totally relax. These are the in-between weeks when we are trying our best to be productive but we have some free time.

This feeling of in-between is stronger since I have no synchronous lectures or tutorials except for a Geology lab on Monday and a Physics tutorial on Friday at 2:30. Since my only synchronous commitments are at the beginning and end of the week, the days in between seem like a blur. I find myself slowly doing my work in the early part of the in-between time because I assume that I will have the motivation to do homework faster later in the week. But I never do.

Have you heard of the story where a turtle and a hare race each other? Everyone assumes the hare would win since hares can run faster. In the story, the hare takes many breaks since they are confident that they will win, and then falls asleep by a tree. The turtle, slow and steady, moves forward without breaks and ends up winning while the hare is still asleep. I feel like my usual approach is like the turtle’s: I aim to go slow and steady. Unfortunately, I seem to take as many breaks as the hare does. That is not a good sign.

So what am I doing to change my approach?

Last week I talked about calling school “fun” and “exciting” due to the intellectual challenges and unprecedented events. During those in-between weeks where none of that happens, it becomes much more difficult to find something to be excited about. This week, I’m going to try some of the strategies from the “Making it work… at home,” lesson on the SASS site to improve my work efficiency and effectiveness. Throughout the years, I have enjoyed using daily planners, but I never liked to constrict myself to strict schedules that count everything out by the minute. I liked the freedom of not having schedules, but now I think it is a bit detrimental to me.

That might need to change. One of the things I want to try is thinking of school like a full-time job, or even like back in high school where there were 4 periods allocated to each class in a day. This way, I can completely focus on one task for a specific amount of time. Since I have also always had trouble with trying to multitask different courses within a timespan, I want to try allocating one chunk of time for one task. There are many new methods I want to try, and as I am writing this, I am slowly getting excited to work again. Remember that what works for me won’t necessarily work for you, but try something new from the working at home resource!

A couple of blogs ago, I discussed my Mod 1 group mark, and how I was upset at the marks we received back. Looking back, it seems amazing how fast the mind can grow and learn from then until now. Last Monday, I had my first physics midterm. I was confident I had prepared well enough: I thoroughly watched the lectures, I did the practice problems until I understood them, and I ensured there was nothing I was confused about. When the time came to write the exam, my heart dropped. The questions on the exam were difficult, and it was the type of test where you had to know the concepts and be able to apply them in tough, new ways. It was hard, and for the majority of the time, I did not know what to do.

I went through the 5 stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance– in less than 5 seconds. I accepted the situation right away because, really, what could I do about it? I’m glad that the ways I practiced overcoming hurdles—read about them in my last blog if you didn’t already—are helping me in these situations.

Even if a person does everything right, they can still struggle. That kind of sucks, but it is a tough reality, and as one of my friends says: “We move.” We must get past that. In the end, I will study hard for my next midterm, and I am excited to use the new tools from the SASS site to keep myself going! Though this week may not have been as hectic as the last, I still want to use my time wisely and effectively as the semester draws to a close.