Back to school time can be both exciting and nerve wrecking for all of us. I remember when I was younger I loved back to school. I loved the idea of getting new clothes, school supplies and having a fresh start, getting on a more structured schedule.
With school starting back up I wanted to share what works for me. I know this year is especially different with social distancing. For me I have been taking all online classes for 3 semesters and each semester I seem to find another way to make it easier.
1- Separate your classes into colors
I have found giving a color for each class helps me know exactly what materials to grab and helps me as I make my semester plan. Each semester I buy a composition book for each class and find fun paper to cover them. The pictures below show the 5 I have for this semester. I personally never write the class name on them so I can reuse the notebooks for other things.
2- Have a separate calendar dedicated just to classes
This is a new thing I have started this semester. Some of my courses are only half semester and my accounting course is set up so you can do up to 2 chapters a week and finish before the end of the semester. I spent a good amount of time before classes started scheduling out holidays and making a rough game plan of the semester. I recommend writing it with pencil so you can adjust throughout the semester. I also take a colored pencil that matches the notebooks above so I can see which class it’s for.
3- Have a calendar displayed with daily tasks
It might seem excessive all these different calendars but it’s what works best for me. I have a main calendar hanging on my wall so I know what I need to do in my personal life. I put my exercise schedule, doctors appointments, vacations… etc. And have it displayed just so I don’t miss anything important.
4- Have a comfortable and personalized study space
With online courses your study space is crucial. I recommend keeping it simple. I found having a comfortable chair to be the number one thing, for obvious reasons. Lighting is a big thing if you can find a spot where you can get natural light and add a curtain for off days. For me having a personal fan is a must, it helps keep me calm and if I start to have a panic attack, it helps ground me. I like to keep some sort of treat available. I like tootsie rolls or starbursts (something to chew), but hard candies could be a good choice. I always have water with me and I love having a pencil holder that’s easy to take from. Sticky notes are my best friend, I keep a big block next to me. And lastly, make sure the background behind you is clean and professional. I know that for some students this can be hard. For example I live with my parents so my office is also my bedroom. I make sure my bed is made and that there’s nothing behind me that could be distracting, just in case I need to video chat.
5- Get whiteboards for each class
Here I go again with more scheduling. Using whiteboards has been the best thing for me. Each week I pick out a day (usually Fridays) where I sit down and plan out the next week. Each whiteboard is dedicated to one class and as you can see from the picture below I write a detailed day to day schedule. This way I know EXACTLY what I need to do that day. I can always get ahead but I know that I NEED to get that task done to stay on schedule for the semester.
6- Make a study playlist
Sometimes for me I focus better when I have music or talking in the background. I have a hard time listening to classical music, however I found that acoustic covers of popular songs help me.
I don’t have as difficult of a time as some do when it comes to distractions. My father works from home so between my parents and I, the house stays pretty quiet. However, just to be sure, I made door hangers so that I am sure to have no disruptions especially during video chats and tests that require the camera to be on or that are timed. This way no confusion happens and I feel less stress during a test.
8-Find small things you can do to take breaks
This one has been a struggle for me. I just feel this need to go and go until I’m in tears. My therapist encouraged me to find a hobby I can do on and off through the day. I went to the dollar store and bought various 100 piece puzzles. I can get them done in about 15-20 minutes and it’s the perfect break time. I also make a point to go get the mail in the day or dance to a song. Something to get your mind off of your work.
9- Take 1 day off each week
I know this can be difficult if you are working and going to school, but it is so important to take a day off. It can be any day that works best. I don’t do any work on Sunday’s (with the exception of occasional group projects). I didn’t do this until a close friend of mine told me how she did it and that it made her mental health so much better. If you plan your schedule a head of time you will rarely have to break this.
10- Be able to adapt
This one is still quite difficult for me because of my want for control. If you noticed on my school calendar picture, I have Saturdays on it but no work written. I call those my ‘in case’ days. If I get sick or need a mental health day I can move the work and work through Saturday. You will also notice that I don’t schedule a specific time of the day for any of my work. I do that so I know what needs to be done by the end of the day but I’m not tied down so I can adjust as needed. (For things like going to the store or having unexpected errands.)
So, that is how I organize and work through my semesters, I know it can seem excessive, but sometimes if you’re like me, you need things very structured and direct. That’s why multiple calendars work because each calendar is only sorting out one part of your life. Always remember to do what works best for you. If you do that you will be successful.
What do you find works best for you? I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow and comment on any of my social media platforms! And as always remember… You Got This!