To kick off the new semester, let's talk about some tips to find your groove. Whether you're shell-shocked about being back in class or welcoming the structure with open arms (guess which I am?), these tips will help you get back in routine.
Before you start, briefly reflect on last year. What was your class schedule like? Other responsibilities? Are they similar or different from this year?
If similar, what worked and what didn't last year? Did you take advantage of time between classes to do work? If different, what strategies will help you adapt to these changes?
Maximizing your productivity is the big picture, because when you're getting things done, you'll feel successful and grounded.
To Do Lists
Think about how to keep track of your tasks. I've seen to do lists written on scrap paper and tucked into laptops, structured academic planners, bullet journals, post-it notes, Google Tasks, OneNote tracking, and more.
What have you used in the past? And did it work? Structured planners don't seem to meld with my schedule now-a-days. It's less about keeping track of what class is when and where, more about organizing assignments and research to-do's in the midst of other ideas. I've tried bullet journals, too, both simple and "cute". For me, and for friends I've talked to, as well, the bullet journal took too much time to prep for each week. I'm all for Sunday night prep for the week, but the bullet journal system derailed my attempts to let go of those college perfectionist tendencies.
Time of Day
I'm a morning person. Partially because I've always been, mostly because my dog is. Getting up and getting moving can be hard at first, but the routine of an early bed time, and accomplishing half my task list before 10 AM sets a great tone for the day.
Choosing what to do during your "best time" of day may change depending on...lots of things! If you need to do readings for your dissertation, taking a morning each week at your favorite cafe or holed up in your office may be what you need. If you need to have important meetings or presentations then, schedule them during that time. For less urgent tasks, carve out time elsewhere. Answer emails in that afternoon lull, or set a timer for 1 hour when you get to the office to go through your inbox and then take advantage of when you're finally awake in the PM.
Location Location Location
Just like with time of day, you can place certain tasks in certain work places. Read best in the comfy arm chair by the window? Do that. Answer emails in your PJs with your morning coffee? Go for it.
For me, I can usually divide tasks into studying, data prep, writing, reading, and miscellaneous. Data prep needs quiet and 2 monitors. Writing needs music and a bustling environment. Reading needs printed paper and highlighters (and somewhere comfortable). See what I'm getting at?
Earlier this week, I spoke with new students with tips on success for their first year of graduate school. I emphasized that they shouldn't compare themselves to other students. Everyone works differently, has their own strengths, and communicates differently. Just because Bailey shows up early for class and seems to churn out work, doesn't mean she skips her afternoon nap (hint hint).
Check out my post on feng shui to help you with your routine. Design an uncluttered workspace and maybe you'll trick yourself into productivity.