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15 Habits to Develop for Back to School

15 Habits to Develop for Back to School


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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Good luck to you this year!

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

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    Last Updated on September 28, 2020

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

    Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

    One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

    When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

    So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

    Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

    This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

    Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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    When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

    Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

    One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

    Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

    An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

    When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

    Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

    Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

    We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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    By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

    Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

    While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

    I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

    You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

    Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

    When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

    Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

    Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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    Con #2: Less Human Interaction

    One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

    Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

    Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

    This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

    While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

    Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

    Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

    This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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    For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

    Con #4: Unique Distractions

    Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

    For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

    To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

    Final Thoughts

    Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

    We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

    More About Working From Home

    Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

    Reference

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