Back-to-School Tips

A new school year is upon us! While I am not currently enrolled in classes, I've spent enough Augusts returning to academics to have a few tips. If you're not a student, congrats: these tips will apply to you if you want to boost your work life in meaningful ways. 

Assume you aren't not drinking enough water (unless you are making a deliberate effort). Additionally, while you'll need less water as the weather cools, that doesn't mean no water. I've definitely met people who were dehydrated almost constantly once the weather was bearable. Just drink some water. It'll turn your brain on. Also, eat something healthy, even if that means buying carrot sticks instead of chips. Your body is only as good as the materials it's made of. Spoiler alert: that includes your brain. 

Consistency is key. Find a workflow you can do regularly. That may mean saying no to things, so that you don't burn out three months into a four month event. Show up to every class. Do all the assignments. 

Be honest about your reading-with-comprehension speed. Sit down with a timer and read typical material for your classes (and if you generally have to take notes, be taking notes while you do so). Do that until you can calculate a reasonable average reading speed. Use that average to calculate how long your assignments will actually take. I have a fairly high reading speed (go me), but that doesn't mean there's a shortcut through time. If I think it will take me three hours to read an entire book, almost without fail, it takes three hours. Taking the extra four minutes to set the timer a few times and do the math will save you panic-time in the long run. 

Revise. Do your work as best you can on the first try; go back and fix it up once you know you've at least completed the assignment. People get zeroes on assignments because they're afraid to get B-'s. Trust me, it's easier to fix an essay that exists. It's much easier to fix plans that exist. 

Find your achievement level. That doesn't mean give up. It means push yourself until you feel it click: that pace that challenges you and makes you grow, but that doesn't leave you exhausted every day. Again, that might mean saying no to things (or saying yes to things that scare you). Being a high achiever is great. Being an over-achiever, stretching yourself past your limits, is foolish. Your body and mind can be challenged without being injured. If you are hurting yourself to accomplish your goals, you aren't doing your best. You're just hurting yourself. 

Form a study group. I'm actually a part of a study group with two high school students, so for me, study groups are not really about using each other's strengths to learn the material (although that is helpful and I've certainly been part of class-specific study groups before). What is critical about a study group is that they do work when they get together. In this case, they do their homework and I work on writerly tasks I wouldn't otherwise get done (and, since I'm a freelancer as well as a creative writer, there's not really a limit to how much I can work on, other than my own motivation). Plus, socializing can be difficult when school picks up. Join a study group and get your work done.

Crayola Twistables colored pencils are your new best friend. They don't bleed through regular books and will generally write on just about any paper you use them on, making them ideal for highlighting books or underlining.

Remember there's no Light Switch of Change™. You don't have to be your fully formed sophomore self on the first day of sophomore year. Be proud of your new clothes and backpack and binders, but remember also that you have time to change and grow during the school year just as well as the summer. If things start off on the wrong foot, find the beat and start over. It's tempting to treat the first day of school like New Year's, making resolutions no one actually keeps. Instead, remember that this new year is made of all the days you spend in it. Spend this one doing your best. Tomorrow will come in its own time, twenty-four hours after yesterday left. 



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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash