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17 Back to School Lifehacks to Start Your Semester

17 Back to School Lifehacks to Start Your Semester

    I remember a few years ago when I was gearing up to start the fall semester of my undergraduate’s degree. I was just getting into productivity, how to spend my time more wisely while working and educating, and how to get the most out of school. I didn’t get the luxury of “simply being a student”; I was a more than part time worker and full time student.

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    It was rough to say the least. That is, until I found some solid recommendations for making school and getting things done easier. So, instead of making you scrounge around for the same resources, here is a handy list to get you started.

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    Here are the 17 best lifehacks for your college semester:

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    1. The Productivity Made Simple series. The Getting Things Done system was one of the most helpful ways to stay on top of my school and work life. This series will help you get started with GTD in a simple way so you can stay productive too.
    2. Police Your Productivity with RescueTime. One thing that inevitably happens when trying to do school work is that you will tend to get side tracked. Look something up on Google, and boom, you are reading something about the Kardashians. Take your time back with RescueTime.
    3. Advice for Students: How to Talk to Professors. The first of many of Dustin Wax’s excellent articles. Talking to your professors is extremely important if you want to get a good education. Here is how you do it.
    4. Why You (Probably) Shouldn’t Take out Loans for College. Being in debt up to your ears sucks. Although getting money for college in the form of loans is pretty easy now-a-days, you may want to reconsider if you have the options.
    5. Back to School: How to Graduate from College with a High GPA. Okay, GPA isn’t everything, but it’s definitely something. Whatever you think you know, employers mostly care about it. So, rather than role your eyes, learn how to get the highest GPA you can.
    6. 5 Tips for Effective Digital Note Taking. We are now more connected than ever, so taking digital notes during class is the best way to go if you want to be able to search and reference them easier later.
    7. Freshman 15: Coping with the First Year of College. For all you freshman out there, take this article to heart. And, what better guy to explain what to expect in your first year and how to deal with it than Mr. Wax.
    8. Back to School: Keep an Academic Reading Journal. We all know the benefits of journaling every day, but it doesn’t have to just be about your hopes and dreams. You can also keep an academic reading journal to reference through your entire college career. Now that is smart.
    9. Tools for taking notes in school. Let me interject here. If you need some ideas for note taking during college, may we suggest these fine tools:
    10. The Ultimate Student Resource List. Even though it’s a little older, this list still holds true today. There are a lot of good resources here to set you up for a good school year.
    11. How to Study. A nice list of all of the different ways you can study for school. Remember that studying the one way will work for some but not for others. It’s important to know that you have options.
    12. Advice for Students: Start Planning Now for Life After College. I wish I would have taken this to heart and did it a little sooner than the last few months of school. A great way to make sure that you have a job after school is to start working on your after school plans while you are in school.
    13. Advice for Students: Taking Notes That Work. Some people take notes for the taking notes sake. Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure that when you are taking notes that they are relevant and functional. There is nothing worse than reviewing for a test with a bunch of crappy notes that don’t make any sense.
    14. 10 Skills to Succeed at Almost Anything. Yeah, that includes college.
    15. Advice for Students: 10 Steps Toward Better Writing. I found while going to school (as well as while in the real world), writing well was one of the most important skills I could have. So many students were bad at it, so being good at it helps you stand out.
    16. 6 Things That Every Workforce Entrant Should Know. If this is your last school year coming up before you enter the real world, congrats! Oh, by the way, there are a couple of things you should know before you venture into the workforce.
    17. How to Revamp Your Study Habits for Better Grades. Cramming for quizzes and tests is no way to get through school. Follow Clint’s advice to change the way you study to become more efficient and effective.

    Do you have any good lifehacks for college goers? If so, drop them down in the comments.

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    (Photo credit: Education book on table via Shutterstock)

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    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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