The new year is here, and with that, a new semester has begun. However, many of us have jobs, relationships, hobbies, and various other obligations in addition to our academic ambitions. Here are the top ten tips that I have found to be essential in juggling school, work, hobbies, and my sanity.
1. Think like a manager.
Set clear, measurable expectations for yourself. Is it more important to you to finish your program in a certain number of semesters, or to graduate with a 4.0? Giving yourself standards to meet based on measurable quantities can help show you when you need to adjust. I’ve even known people who measure their stress level on a scale of 1-10, and if that score is too high at the end of a semester, they know to scale back their course load next time. For me, thinking like a manager also means setting yourself up for success. Some ways you can do this may be scheduling time in your calendar specifically for doing schoolwork or setting a reminder for yourself for when you need to order your textbooks. It is a general philosophy that I utilize at work as well as at school.
2. Stop being a perfectionist.
I discovered over the course of my first semester that the amount of time and effort it takes to make a paper a 100% versus a 95% is not worth it. That time is better utilized towards work on another class, catching up on deadlines at your job, or better yet, towards self-care.
3. Streamline your workflow.
This goes back to setting yourself up for success. At the beginning of each semester, I put the due dates for my assignments into my calendar and insert an essay template for each paper I have to write. This includes a preliminary reference sheet for my papers, since I know before I even start writing it that I will probably have to cite the textbook.
4. Make a good first impression.
Introduce yourself to your professors, and make sure those first assignments are top notch. Then, I find that professors will be much more lenient later on, as I’ve already established myself as a good student.
5. Be kind to yourself.
I gave myself a really hard time when I got my first B last semester. Unnecessary. Being hard on yourself doesn’t do you any good, and you are better off getting started on the next assignment. Take it one day at a time. If you totally mess up on an assignment, it is okay. The trap is dwelling on the perceived failure. Let it be a fluke, and jump right back on that horse.
6. Delegate everything you can.
If you have a community of people who can support you, take advantage of it. Whether your partner is offering to do the grocery shopping, or you just need to get coffee with a friend to vent, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. I find that people are more than willing to help if you just ask.
7. Communicate with your professors.
Sometimes this can be intimidating, but every time I have reached out to my professors about a challenge for a particular project, they have been able to guide me back into the right direction. They are a resource, use them!
8. Use Technology!
There are a ton of apps that will help you be successful, whether it’s blocking apps and websites to help you focus or creating new habits. I’m a huge RPG nerd, so one that I’ve really enjoyed is Habatica, but there are so many variations of the habit tracking apps that you are bound to find one that works for you. It’s just a matter of exploring.
9. The Rubric is EVERYTHING.
Often times, I will get carried away with the topic of a paper and do a bunch of work that I didn’t even need to do. It’s great that you cited 11 more articles than required, but then you didn’t have time to do that final spell check and got a B anyway.
10. Be present.
Grad school is going to be over before you know, so try and take advantage of the resources your program provides while you have them and network, network, network!
Again, these are just some tips that I have found, personally, make managing my time between work, school, and relationships easier to navigate. Hopefully at least one of these tips will work for you and will inspire you to make 2020 your most successful year yet!
Tom Beheler is a Maker Associate for Arlington County Libraries and a professional actor. He is currently in his penultimate semester at Valdosta State University, pursuing his MLIS. You can follow him on Instagram @apl.makertom or @tomm.obj