Are you going back to school this year with the best intentions in mind?

Or are you on the opposite end, dreading the year because of how much of a grind school can be?

As a high school teacher and former teaching assistant for Queen’s University, I’ve seen and experienced both.

However, school can be a great experience if you develop some habits that will make your life easier. Listed below are some habits that I’ve learned from some amazing teachers, professors, students and the invaluable wisdom of the contributing authors of Lifehack.

These are all simple habits that require little time, but have a huge payoff.

Getting Organized

  1. One Folder (or Binder) for Each Class- At the end of each day, put all your notes and handouts in one folder, or binder, for each class. This takes less than a minute to do and will save you endless headaches when you need to find course material.
  2. Plan Your Day the Night Before – Spend a few minutes to write your to-do list for the next day. When you wake up, you’ll know exactly what needs to get done.
  3. Use a Calendar – Doesn’t matter if it’s digital, wall-mounted or the one you get in your student agenda. Use it and refer to it!

In the Classroom

  1. Show Up to Class (On Time) – Missing class requires you to put in twice the amount of effort to catch up. Even if you really don’t feel like it, show up.
  2. Take Useful Notes – Useful things to note: arguments, examples and answers to problems. Don’t get caught trying to make your notes look pretty. The more time you spend with different coloured pens and underlining, the less focused you are on the content of the class. This also applies to digital notes.
  3. Drop the Excuses – I assure you that teachers and professors have heard every excuse, numerous times. Stop spending time crafting excuses and just be honest.

Finances

  1. Pack Your Lunch – Schools make it easy for you to buy your lunch every day. Packing your lunch will help you eat better (hopefully) and save you money (which will probably go towards your weekend adventures). Speaking of which…
  2. Leave your Plastic at Home – Learn to live on cash when you go out. It’s very easy to get carried away with the spending when you’re having a good time with your friends.
  3. Always Think Long Term – Money is typically abundant at the beginning of the year and super tight by the end. Figure out how much you need in a month and make sure you have that for the last month of school. I’ve seen too many students attempt the $50 challenge (making $50 last an entire month) because it’s all they have left.

Assignments & Homework

  1. Plan Your Assignments and Work in Chunks – You do not work better the night before an assignment is due – that’s an excuse for your procrastination. Plan ahead and take on your assignments in pieces.
  2. Drink Lots of Water – Drinking water while working helps with your concentration better than loads of caffeine.
  3. Throw Away Your Highlighter – A professor during my first year of University recommended this to me and I haven’t looked back. When reading, write notes to yourself along the margins. Dialogue with what is written, ask questions and mark up the assigned reading like it’s your job. Your notes will tell you why particular parts are important to you.

Keeping Your Sanity

  1. Go for Daily Walks by Yourself – Spend time every day unwinding and gathering your thoughts. The exercise will also do you good.
  2. Isolate Yourself While Working – Close the door to your room, find an empty carrel in the library or work at a coffee shop away from school. Pick a place where your friends cannot find you in order to eliminate those distractions which keep you from getting your work done. However, when you work hard, you should also…
  3. Socialize Often – Find groups, or people, with similar interests and make it a point to get together during the week. Spending time with friends will help prevent burnout. Just make sure to hang out during your down time and not when you should be working, or in class.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you strike a work/life balance. This means focusing on school when it’s needed and focusing on life when it comes charging your way. Both will knock you down, but taking time to build good habits will help you deal with almost anything that comes your way.

Further Reading

For the ambitious, I found the following books to be invaluable resources to both my educational and professional career.

Good luck to you this year!

(Photo credit: Education Book on Table in Library via Shutterstock)

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