Ah, the start of a new semester. A magical time full of positive intentions, where we students resolve to overhaul our schedules and eliminate bad habits. For one reason or another, those goals don’t always manifest – but I’ve got a feeling 2020 is our time to shine! Here are 10 things I swear to be better at this year, with some practical solutions I hope you’ll try along with me.
1. Starting assessments ahead of time
We’ve all experienced that sweaty brow, bloodshot eye feeling of a last-minute assignment. While a looming deadline can be enormously inspiring, it’s also really stressful to attempt an entire essay in one day. No more of that!
My solution: self-trickery. By this I mean, in Week One I’ll look through my Course Outlines and find the assessment due dates…but instead of recording the true deadline, I’ll write down the due date at least three days earlier. By working to a different schedule, I’m still under the pressure of a deadline, just with the bonus of contingency time.
2. Getting organised
It can be hard to keep track of weekly course work, assessments, uni events, extra curriculars and work. Alongside my regular diary, I’m trialling a yearly wall planner to record essential deadlines. Dates can sneak up on you with paper diaries, so I’m hoping the yearly planner will allow me to look ahead and be more productive.
Getting organised also means strategising flexible assessment deadlines. For instance, if you have a presentation to give between Weeks Three and Seven, be sure to consider your workload for other courses and sign up to the best time for you. If you have people in your class who you know you work well with, ask them in advance if they’ll be your partner for the group project.
3. Doing the weekly readings
Alongside organisation comes weekly readings. As in, actually doing them. My strategy this year is to spend my free day on campus rather than at home, where the siren call of my bed is just so strong. The scenery of musty books and other people concentrating helps me stay on task. But if the uni library doesn’t work for you, you could try your local public library or a dedicated space in the house where you pledge to smash out your readings at the same time each week – routine is key.
4. Packing lunch
What’s the best way we can save a whole lot of cash and ensure we’re eating nutritiously at uni? Packing our own lunch of course. This is especially important for anyone like me with food intolerances, where a lack of preparation means a lack of anything to eat!
To get on top of this culinary challenge, we’ll turn to the place you can learn anything – YouTube. There are thousands of meal prep ideas (I recommend the ones with five ingredients or less) and you can follow along from the grocery shop to presentation. Another fantastic resource is the No Money No Time website, with easy and affordable recipes backed up by University of Newcastle dietetics research.
5. Sticking to an exercise regime
When semester gets hectic, physical activity is often the first thing to fly out the window. But I swear this year will be different, with my secret weapon: my mate Ken. Every few days he’s on my case, with a text saying, “When are we hitting the Forum bro?” Find yourself an exercise buddy – you’ll keep each other honest and it’ll make the whole experience more enjoyable! (Just remember to be kind with yourself if you do fall off the fitness bandwagon).
6. Seeing friends (& not flaking out)
With work, uni and family commitments, socialising with friends during our rare time off can start to feel like a chore. It’s easy to cancel plans in aid of Netflix ‘n naps, but there’s nothing quite like a belly-laugh with good mates.
To avoid flaking on friends in future, I’m going to be open with them about my schedule and not overcommit to plans I know I’m unlikely to keep. Responding “can’t go” in the first place is way better than replying with “going” and never showing up.
Another strategy for the introverts is to get up earlier on the day of a social event, to squeeze in essential ‘me time’ – reading fiction, listening to music or daydreaming. This should help to avoid the temptation to skip the party and stay home.
7. Attending class
This year the University implemented an 80% attendance requirement for a variety of learning sessions for first-year students in 1000 level courses. As we returning students know, some of our courses have always had attendance requirements, while other courses don’t – sometimes making the temptation to skip class all too real. But what I’ve learnt over the years is that it’s way easier to pay attention in person than it is to listen online. Having the ability to pause the video means that a 2-hour lecture ends up feeling like The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although I know this, the urge to go home after one class is still strong.
My strategy for this issue is to trial and change my class schedule if need be. Currently, I’m signed up for three 2-hour seminars of a Thursday – but if I find that I don’t have the mental capacity to do them all on Thursday, I’ll go to Manage MyTimetable on myUNI and look for a swap.
8. Going green
Climate change is happening at a rapid rate – so I’m pledging to do more ‘little things’ for planet earth.
The first step is decreasing my driving (hello parking savings) and increasing public transport use. Anyone who’s keen to jump aboard should get their concession Opal Card for student discounts on public transport (head to the Transport NSW tile on myUNI and follow the prompts).
It’s also worth mentioning some coffee outlets on campus offer a discount if you bring your own keep cup. If you’ve forgotten it, be sure to make use of disposable cup recycling stations. To wash up our containers and cutlery from that fabulous lunch we made, there are Survival Stations on all campuses with hot and cold water on tap.
9. Setting and kicking career goals
If like me, you’re not fully certain what you want to do with your degree, don’t fret! Help is on hand. The Careers Service is an excellent resource, whether you want to search for job vacancies on CareerHub or are looking for one-on-one advice. If you arrange an appointment with a career counsellor, they can go through your resume and offer pointers or hold a mock interview before your big day. The counsellors can even review your LinkedIn profile and offer advice.
Speaking of LinkedIn, if you’re not using it, now may be the time to sign up! It’s a great way to connect with fellow students, lecturers or people you’ve met at networking events. While you’re composing your profile, it’s a good time to think about your personal branding on other platforms – are you portraying yourself appropriately? Would you be embarrassed if a recruiter found your Facebook profile? Hmmm brb, just deleting some of those schoolies pics…
10. Slicing down screen time
Okay, I am majorly guilty of excessive screen time, to the point where I’ve had to get glasses! If you’re anything like me and the allure of Tik Tok is just too strong, it’s time to set a screen time limit. On apple devices, this can be done through settings > screen time > downtime or app limits. On Android, try apps like BreakFree and Dinner Time Plus for the same result. Or, to take a screen break the old-fashioned way, start slowly by banning devices at mealtimes, then also before bed.
Well, there they are in writing, 10 things we swear to do better this year. May the motivational force be with us. Good luck!