How to Start the Semester the Right Way

It is my second week of classes for the Spring 2018 semester, and I must admit that it was off to a rocky start. The week prior, I worked 90 hours, a limit of which should not have exceeded 30 hours in a week because of my part-time status. I went to my first day of classes exhausted due to this, I woke up late because I allowed myself to sleep in, and I showed up just thirty seconds before my professor closed the door.

Coming from a hustler and studious individual, this is not at all my norm. I enjoy planning, prepping, and setting alarms to ensure punctuality. This second week has been off to a better start–after I slept for ten hours every night my first week–I slowly began to get back into my groove with the following useful tips and motivations.

  1. Be realistic with yourself and abilities. Truly understand how many activities and responsibilities you can handle effectively. You may need to conduct a self-assessment of sorts and scrutinize where you’re placing your energies. If you cannot adequately put all of your effort into every single thing you’re doing, you are overestimating your abilities. Do not slack on projects because you have many to complete; Pair down, and give your all into the whatever number of projects you can do well.
  2. Utilize a vision board. This New Year, I finally created a vision board that I am proud of, and find incredibly inspirational. It consists of boujee looking girls, girl boss outfits, and some fictional-but amazing- inspirational women (Leslie Knope, Hermione Granger, Micheala Pratt, and Elle Woods). There are also a few pictures of cute offices and organized stationery. Use the images that most inspire you, and feel free to change the vision board throughout the year, or as you develop new role models or passions.
  3. Get a planner and/or bullet journal. I use an Erin Condren Vertical Layout planner that I purchased via Amazon. I was limited in my ability to choose the cover, due to my interest in the hard-bound version, rather than the popular spiral-bound. Find a planner that works best for you, and understand that it may take trial and error. This is the reason my bullet journal is essential. My planner has the monthly and weekly layouts needed, while my bullet journal holds my detailed daily to do lists and spreads. Learn what combination works for you, and know your organization style. This is what will most likely make or break your semester.
  4. Write out detailed to-do lists and FOLLOW THROUGH. As I mentioned previously, I use my bullet journal for this. This may sound silly, but the very first thing I write in my to do list is, “Wake Up.” It allows me to immediately check off a task, and reinforces the completion of other tasks. My morning routine is something of which is quite ingrained in my mind, but I continue to write it down for days when I wake up late, have more than usual going on, or have other, unusual items written down. A routine is great, but adding something not in the routine can throw one off. I take the safe route, and make sure every detail is written down, whether or not it is memorized.
  5. Take time during the evenings to de-stress and prepare for the days to come. Getting ready for sleep varies by time each night, but I’ve been attempting to remain consistent with 10:00-10:30 pm range. Now, I am in college, so even though I’m getting ready for bed at this time, I may stay up later afterwards to do some reading or light homework. A simplified version of my night routine goes as follows:
    1. Work out & log calories, distance, and machine into planner.
    2. Do yoga for about 15 minutes, and log this into my planner as well.
    3. Remove my makeup with makeup wipes or coconut oil.
    4. Shower, exfoliate, wash my hair, and get all clean.
    5. Brush and floss my teeth.
    6. Moisturize my body with a nicely fragranced lotion.
    7. Apply a face mask if it was a particularly stressful day.
    8. Slip into cozy clothes and slippers.
    9. Brush my hair, and put in leave-in conditioner or hair oils.
    10. Make sure all my makeup is off (my mascara continues to come off in the shower, so I tend to take off my makeup before and after showering as a precaution).
    11. Use Oxy-Wipes for my acne.
    12. Use face roller with coconut oil to massage face for about five minutes.
    13. Leave excess coconut oil on overnight as face treatment .
    14. Place petroleum jelly on my lips.
    15. Place a blanket or soft towel over pillow on the nights using a coconut oil face mask.
    16. Look at my planner, cross of completed tasks, and transfer uncompleted items to the next day.
    17. Write out a detailed to-do list for the next day, and brainstorm my outfit.
    18. Fill out habit tracker, and attempt to complete any leftover items.
    19. Shut off all the lights except the bed-side table lamp.
    20. Get cozy in my bed and read a book that is not school-related.
    21. Video chat with my love until we decide to get some sleep (We go to universities nine hours away from each other).
    22. Make sure my alarms are set, and the phone volume is turned up loud for my heavy sleeping.
    23. If I’m in the mood, play an ASMR video by Gentle Whispering on YouTube to help me fall asleep. Turn down the phone brightness so the light don’t keep me awake.
    24. Get some beauty sleep.
  6. After getting the syllabuses, make a “Master Syllabus,” consisting of important dates and deadline for all classes on one sheet. This way, one only needs to keep track of one paper, rather than five different packets.
  7. Figure out a note-taking and organization system that works best for you. This depends on the professor and class-type, but I try to type all of my notes in class. I print notes off after each class so I can place corresponding handouts behind them easily. I use a 1″ binder for the semester, of which holds all five of my classes. My schedule is color-coded and in the back cover pocket. I keep all of my material in the binder until an exam is taken and received it back. After this, the exam is stapeld to corresponding lecture notes and handouts, and placed it in a 2-2.5″ binder kept at home. At the end of the semester, all of my notes, handouts, quizzes, and exams, are organized by content, and ready in packets to aid in studying for final exams.
  8. Know if you’re a night-owl or an early bird, or know what you WANT to be. At the moment, I am a night-owl, brought on because of the many third shifts I work.  Last semester, I was an early bird. An early bird is my comfort zone due to my love of waking up early, getting my day started, and working while others are sleeping. I’ve had to adjust my way of thinking, because sleep is needed for overall health and well-being, and illness has been had previously due to believing that sleep was unnecessary. This was wrongful thinking, and has resulted in an increasingly difficult time finding my niche for studying this semester. It’s good to challenge yourself to wake up earlier, but take into account how long you stayed up, and how much sleep you’ve gotten thus far in the week.
  9. Get out of your comfort zone. As cliché as this is, it is the reason why my semester has gotten off to a better start than last semester. In the fall, I had been to my professor’s office hours once, and it was because of mandatory advisement. This semester, it is the third week, and I have been about four times, as well as scheduled a meeting for this week. Furthermore, I emailed my professors on research assistant-ships, and because of that, am the only student in my major assisting with professioanl research, another factor aiding in my graduate school application process. Prior to the semester starting, I made an appointment at my school’s Career Development Office, received feedback on my resume and graduate school recommendations, and started my semester motivated before it even began. It has taken me a long time to become this way, because as an extremely introverted person, all of these emails and conversations made me very nervous. However, my field of study – social work – is something of which I am very passionate about. Because of this, I do what I have to do to ensure success.

These are the tips that I have come to use for my semester, and are quite frankly, the reasons why success is prevalent in my life. Keep being motivated, and continue to strive for greatness. You will have lazy days and incredibly stressful days, but with a change in perspective, you can turn your semester around and begin chasing greatness.

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