Insider Tips to Optimize This Semester

When it comes to making the most out of your school-results, we’re literally the experts. It’s not arrogant, it’s just what we’re good at. That’s why we thought we’d share some of our favorite secrets to optimize your work to get the best results ever this semester. Let’s get started on the right foot, and make those New Year’s Resolutions happen.

“There’s no time like the present.” Just because it’s cliched doesn’t mean it isn’t true, because it is! The first thing you can do to cut back on stress AND anxiety this semester is get organized. We’re not suggesting you learn an entirely new time management system when you’re still adjusting back to school from Winter Break. We’re just suggesting you take an afternoon out of your weekend or use your next insomnia attack to keep track of time. First, gather your syllabi and/or whatever school-calendar you have access to. Highlight the deadlines for projects, quizzes, tests, and days with no class. If you have multiple highlighter colors you can dedicate one each to category (quizzes, tests, etc.) 


Next, whatever you use as a calendar–an app on your phone, Google Calendar, the attachment to your email provider, the planner in your backpack, or that cute calendar on the wall that your grandmother gave you from her latest charity subscription–keep it handy. All those highlighted bits from your syllabi and/or school calendar? It’s time to set them in stone, more or less. Using yellow or orange if you can, go ahead and write down ALL the scheduled quizzes and assignments you have this semester. Yes, all of them. No, it’s not as overwhelming as it sounds. These should be the things that are worth a significant portion of your grade, but not necessarily the majority of your grade. Be sure to do this for each of your classes!!!

In red, write down all the tests, exams, due dates for papers, deadlines for drafts, and so on. Anything that is worth a large portion of your grade. The human brain is wired to remember things in red, orange and yellow the most (probably because in nature these colors indicate really important things for our survival.) so having a color-coding system for your calendar will make it THAT much easier to remember.

Last, go through and write down all the days that class is canceled or there is a school holiday in blue. Any reason you have time off gets to be blue. This will help you when managing time to study, and it will help to see a reminder of time off when you’re overwhelmed. (For instance, “Okay, I feel like I’m drowning in schoolwork right now, but only 3 more weeks until Spring Break! Then I can sleep in as much as I want!”) Blue is a relaxing and calming color, so when you look at this on your calendar you’ll likely feel a little relief. 

Now that your color-coded master calendar is done, go through and compare dates with anything important. Away games, work schedule, holidays, performance dates, recital dates, and so on… all of those are important. If you email your professor now about an extension for the exam you have after your first away game of the season, they’re more likely to be flexible. If you notice that all of your English 102 classes are on Wednesdays, working the late shift on Tuesdays may not be the best idea. Leave yourself enough time to study and sleep, when possible. Reach out to your boss(es) now and try to change your schedule around. If your boss can’t guarantee you get every Tuesday night off, then at least you can tell them the specific dates you need off. And just in case you know you’re going to be celebrating wildly any weekend, it will come in handy to know you need to study ahead of time. You’ll thank us later!

Woohoo! We’re ready to think about the more fun stuff! Now that you know when crunch time is, it’s time to think about self-care, wellness, and your social life! They say that there are three things you need in school: sleep, studying, or a social life–pick two! But you’re too smart to believe that. You can have all three …in moderation. You’ve got your deadlines. You’ve got your class schedule. You’ve got your work schedule. Now it’s time to make sure you’re leaving time for all three of that magic trifecta. If you KNOW you’re going to be up until the wee hours of the morning for Thirsty Thursday or you’ll be waking up at the crack of dawn for worship on Sundays, you’re going to need to plan some time to make up for the sleep deficit those hours earn. The same goes for any early morning classes or practices you have–ESPECIALLY if there are any early morning/late nights that are not a part of the majority of your schedule. (To this day my body still hurts thinking of the sheer level of tiredness I’d feel at 5am every Sunday morning when I worked as a church musician to help get myself through college. Needless to say, Sunday afternoons were for napping, and Monday nights were for going to bed extra early!) Be sure you have an awareness of when and how to make up for those all-night study sessions. It’ll really help you avoid burnout later on in the semester, even if you feel like you’re fine for now. Making sure you’re leaving time for sleep will also keep your spirits high all semester. 

You’ll also need to leave time to socialize. You may think that those weekly phone calls home and your study groups will be enough to survive the semester. It may not be realistic to have some time to socialize every week but if you CAN squeeze in 20 minutes of conversation after class with a friend, or pop by your favorite’s professor’s office during office hours for a quick chat, it’ll help your mental health and emotional wellbeing. Even if you just small talk about the weather, studies show that connecting with other humans makes us feel happier. And when we’re happier, we do better work. Not to mention, your brain will remember all those factoids you’re studying that much easier. 

Having some face-to-face interaction (even over video chat!) can really make sticking out the semester more bearable. And with all the change going on in the world, we could all use anything that helps us stay sane! (Am I right, or is it just me!?)

Last tip before we sign off until next month… While you’re making sure you leave time for studying and sleep and social connection, make sure you are mindful about getting enough sunshine. Countless studies show that sunshine helps to balance mood, improve immune system, optimize mental clarity, help us get better sleep, and even reduces the risk of some diseases! It’ll be worth your while to get 20 minutes of sunshine every day. And don’t be afraid to get creative with your rays! You can combine other activities if you feel like you don’t have time. Go do your assigned reading by a bright window. Ask a friend to go for a quick walk on a sunny path. Sit near a window in the library or in class. Your body, mind, and GPA will thank you. 

We hope you find these tried-and-true tips to work for you! Good luck planting the seeds to your bright future this semester! If you need help with time management, studying, or other tips, we’re here. 

Until next month,

Planting Seeds Tutoring & Test Prep