5 Tips for a Successful Semester


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With the beginning of a new semester, it is a great time to get organized and set yourself up for success.

Carol Etzel, HOWL Editor

The new semester is here already. Here are a few tips on how to be productive, mindful, and successful this spring.

1. Create a system to stay organized

One of the best things you can do to set yourself up for success is to organize your work and deadlines. Everything is online, and I know it can be especially easy for assignments to go unnoticed. There are a few ways you can tackle organization.

One way is to write all your deadlines down at the beginning of the semester. Put these deadlines on a calendar that you check regularly. Alternatively, you can put the deadlines on a spreadsheet. 

Another way to stay organized is to print out your syllabuses. Pay special attention to the pages that include a class schedule. You can use this as a checklist and cross off the items as you complete them.

If you aren’t a big fan of those methods, you could always rely on to-do lists. At the beginning of each week, take a look at your work for every class. Organize this into daily to-do lists and cross items off as you complete them.

Whatever method you choose, it can be beneficial to see all of your assignments in one place. Staying on top of even the smallest assignments will set you up for success this semester.

2. Take breaks

Productivity is important, but to maintain productivity, it is vital to rest. This can be hard to do, especially if you feel like you are too busy and there is no time for breaks.

Challenge this thought. If you need a reminder, put a break or rest time on your to-do list/schedule.

Even a quick 15 or 30 minute breaks between work sessions can make the day feel less overwhelming. Do something for yourself during this time. Maybe go for a walk, read, watch a few TikToks, or take a quick nap.

Taking a break will help you feel recharged when you return to your work. It will also be more realistic and manageable to work consistently throughout the day if you plan for breaks ahead of time.

3. Set a routine

If you struggle with uncertainty and change, knowing that your day will start and end the same way can be comforting.

The first step is to set an intention or goal for your routine. Then add a few steps that seem manageable, and you’re set. Your routine does not have to be very long. It can include anything you want.

Routines are a great tool because they are predictable. It can feel reassuring to have stricture and stability in your life. This will help you manage your stress and have more productive days.

4. Remember that it is okay to have bad days

Sometimes I view the semester in absolutes. I will complete all of my work, and I will have a productive day, or I will fail. This is not a healthy perspective.

Managing your expectations can be difficult, especially if you tend to hold yourself to very high academic standards. 

Not every day is going to be productive. You won’t always be able to cross everything off your to-do list. This can feel like failure or defeat, but it is not.

Listen to your body. If you need rest or if you are struggling mentally, that is a valid reason to take some time for yourself. If you are having a few bad days in a row, challenge yourself to complete one small task. This will help you get through the day while still being mindful.

5. Reach out for help if you are struggling

The past year has been isolating, and it has taken a toll on everyone.

If you are struggling in your classes, reach out to your professors. Go to their office hours. It can feel like there are more roadblocks in remote learning if you do not understand the course content or if you have questions. The professors are still there to help you, though.

This tip can also be applied outside the classroom as well. If you are struggling outside of school, reach out to someone in your life. This could be a trusted friend or family member. Other options include journaling or mindful exercises.

Although we are not seeing our professors and classmates in person, they are still here to help us succeed.