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Last semester: you’re sitting in your bed at approximately 11 p.m. and it’s the night before a big exam. You’re stressed out because you procrastinated studying until the night before. You begin to start cramming for the exam and morale is quite low. The feeling is all too familiar. So, before you find yourself in the same situation when the new school year begins, here’s a few things to do differently this semester to minimize stress and maximize success.
Make a morning routine
There are many small and simple steps that can be taken to ensure that your day is as productive as possible. One of the most important of these steps is getting into a daily routine, or even just a morning routine. Having an orderly morning routine can set the tone for the rest of your day. One thing that is really helpful when beginning a morning routine is setting an alarm to wake up at the same time every morning, even if your class schedule fluctuates or you have nothing planned for the next day. A fixed wake time will help your body adapt to a schedule, which will help you wake up without the hassle of setting 10 different alarms a minute apart and can even help you fall asleep at night.
Once you’re awake nice and early, brew yourself a cup of coffee and take the extra time that you have with your morning to decompress and plan out your day. Obviously you don’t have to stick to a precise, hourly planned schedule, but it’s extremely helpful to remind yourself of any upcoming exams or due dates for the week. This will help you stay on top of things so that you’re not blindsided with assignments you’ve forgotten about until the last second, because we’ve all been there.
Eat well-balanced meals
Don’t get bogged down by calorie counting or limiting yourself to a restricting diet. Instead, eat food that’s going to make you feel good. Maintaining a balanced diet consists of giving your body the nutrients that it needs to function at its highest potential. This can be achieved by limiting foods with artificial preservatives and making sure that you’re consuming plenty of proteins such as beans, fish, eggs or meat. It’s also important to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables every day.
Part of eating a balanced diet is being realistic, too. We all have cravings, and satisfying those cravings every so often is perfectly okay. Keep in mind that depriving yourself can be just as detrimental to your health as over-consuming, so try to find your personal balance and stick to it. If you’re unsure about where to begin when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet, Pitt offers many resources that can help you learn what it means to properly fuel your body.
Once you start procrastinating, it’s nearly impossible to stop, so your best shot is to avoid avoiding things in the first place. Buy a planner and organize your due dates and deadlines. Be sure to write down any important upcoming dates and make a habit of referring back to these throughout the week. I find it helpful to make little boxes that you can check off as you go, so it’s almost like you’re rewarding yourself every time you can check an assignment off the list.
Avoiding procrastination is also much easier when you’ve minimized any surrounding distractions. I find it helpful to do my work in a public place. When I work at home, I often find myself picking up petty tasks like folding my laundry or cleaning my room to avoid doing my real work. Whether it be the library or a coffee shop, working in a public facility helps to focus because there are fewer personal tasks calling for your attention in that space.
Take study breaks
If you find yourself cramming for an exam the day before and are short on preparation time, it’s going to be really important to get the most out of the little remaining study time you have. With that being said, the most effective way to study is in reasonable increments. After studying for about 45 to 60 minutes, be sure to take a couple minutes to clear your head. This could mean going for a leisurely 10-minute stroll around campus or, if the temperature outside is negative degrees, taking a nice long look out the window. Studying in hourly increments with 10-minute breaks in between is proven to rejuvenate concentration, refresh your mind and increase your productivity.
Get a good night’s sleep
Let me start off by saying, if you’ve procrastinated to the point where you’ve deemed it necessary to pull an all-nighter … just go to sleep. Your sleep schedule is going to drastically impact your productivity and performance, playing a vital role in both your mental and physical health. Sleep even helps your brain function properly, so if you’re aiming for success your sleep should not be sacrificed. Instead, make it a priority to get a good night’s sleep, even if that means missing out on certain social outings. Trust me, your brain will thank you the next morning.