Work Smarter, Live Better
By Sophia Kim
Holiday season is in full swing. Colorful lights and festive music surround us as we eagerly wait for winter break to come. Despite the cheerfulness of this month, we, as students, still face the gauntlet of homework, papers, projects, and tests. Now, many of us feel stressed and unmotivated. For example, are you unhappy with your grades even after putting tremendous effort into school? Are you sleep-deprived and need more time to relax? Do you find yourself procrastinating or struggling to manage your time? If so, you might need to change your daily routine and declutter your mind for a fresh start to 2019. Although most people commonly give up on their New Year’s Resolutions, in an effort to avoid defeat, here are some tips that you can take to slowly improve your work habits and make the rest of your school year run smoothly.
It’s All About the Balance
First, it is important that your mental health is stable and you maintain a steady balance between your work and free time. It is not good to be focused on school 24/7, but you shouldn’t skimp on your school work either. Procrastination may be a huge factor as to why you may be experiencing an imbalance in your daily life.
Julianna Trahey, a CRN student, says, “I think I procrastinate so much sometimes because I feel like there’s other stuff to do -- some things are just more important than others, and I end up putting everything off until the last minute.”
However, according to Laura Vanderkam, a writer, author, and speaker on work-life balance, we all have enough time. Vanderkam says that “time is elastic,” which means we can stretch it according to our needs by filling it up with our priorities.
For example, emergencies happen, and when they do, we make the time to respond to them. Our schedule instantly changes when an emergency occurs -- we make room.
You can do the same for your daily priorities. Vanderkam suggests creating a priority list containing three categories: career, relationships, and self. Note what your priorities are in category and try to balance all three. If you notice that one seems to dominate, then perhaps you need to focus on building the other two with new priorities.
For instance, if you think of your career, or school life, most often out of the three, then you may need to take more time to build good relationships with those around you while also taking care of yourself by doing things you love.
Finding a balance among these three things makes life more enjoyable. Vanderkam once stated, “Time management is not about cramming more stuff that you have to do into your days...I think time management is really about planning in the things we want to do.”
Get the Most Out of Your Time
Wen it comes to schoolwork, strategy is key. Students often feel burdened by their homework and as a result avoid it until the last minute.
As Trahey says, “Finishing the school day knowing you still need to do so much as soon as you get home is not a good mindset.”
Thus, it is important to have a positive mental attitude while you work in order to feel motivated and energized. This attitude results in more productivity. So try these tips:
First, try cleaning your workspace. Organize your writing utensils and throw away scrap papers. Put away unnecessary binders and textbooks but keep ones you need somewhere close. This way, you feel less messy and more prepared to start working.
Brian Tracy, a public speaker and author who focuses on topics such as self-development and time-management, has said that only placing the tools you need to accomplish your goals around your workspace is an effective trick.
By doing this, you do not have to get up in the middle of your study or work time, which prevents getting distracted or being tempted to take a break in the middle of completing an assignment.
Another trick you can use to clear your mind before you work is to make a list of the items you must get done that night, ordering the items from most to least important. Further, try writing these items down on a piece of paper rather than typing them out; you could easily get distracted by being on your phone or computer.
Having a game plan works as a reminder to not waste time by placing all of your goals right in front of you. Even making a snack or changing into comfortable clothes can help you feel calm and less intimidated by your work. Incorporate these small rituals into your daily routine to increase productivity before you even get to school or work.
Break It Up
Breaking up tasks is very important, especially if you have a hard time getting started on an assignment. Trahey expresses a common misconception when she says, “If you have a long deadline, it seems like you have a lot more time than you actually do.”
Most students have experienced this -- they wait until the last minute to complete an assignment and find the task much more laborious than originally meant to be.
But Tracy often reminds his audience that taking one small step in a process and disciplining yourself to get it over with will prevent you from procrastinating. It is just that one, tiny step to create a domino effect.
Once you start, you will know what work must be done and can begin to organize how you will break up the task.
Most students have heard of breaking work into chunks but do not always approach their work that way. The key is to consistently work at bits and pieces of your assignment so that by the time the deadline comes around, you have a finished product.
Even if you barely have enough time left to work, complete a part of the project that takes five minutes; squeeze any bit of work possible into your time. This will make sure you are progressing each day. For example, during homeroom you can complete small portions of homework from your first period class or small portions of a larger project for another class. Do this activity each day and you will complete a large portion of your work before you even get home.
If you have a hard time disciplining yourself to work on a project, try setting informal deadlines for different stages of the assignment. Making these informal goals will help you move forward more fluidly and will make sure you have the project complete in a timely manner.
But remember: do not overwork yourself. The point of breaking tasks up into smaller pieces is to make the project more manageable. As long as you keep chipping away at something each day, the process will feel less burdensome.
If you are struggling with your workload, take a moment to step back and analyze your habits. Decide that from now on, you will work smarter.
Get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions by building up better habits now. As Brian Tracy states, “The starting point of overcoming your previous programming….is for you to make a clear, unequivocal decision to become excellent at the way you use your time. Everything follows from that.”
If you mentally start changing, your actions will follow. By the time 2019 comes along, you will have already started to improve.