Getting into the groove of a new school year can be tough. It seems like the last semester ended yesterday, and summer jobs seldom leave time to relax and recuperate from the stress of final projects, essays, and exams. While you can’t get back the sunny summer days you spent working — instead of on a beach — you can start this next semester off in the right headspace and set yourself up for success. Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People outlines seven practices that will help you get off to a good start and maintain that positive outlook throughout the semester.
HABIT 1: BE PROACTIVE
Student translation: Start your assignments and readings early. Stop binge- watching Netflix. Netflix lulls you into a false sense of security and those due dates come up a lot faster than you think. If you have a lot of due dates clustered together and getting everything done doesn’t seem feasible, ask for extensions early. The earlier you ask, the more likely your professor is to see a forward-thinking, hard-working student who deserves a break. You can avoid putting yourself in a tough spot later on by taking control of things ahead of time.
HABIT 2: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
Student translation: Plan your essays before you write them. Plan your study schedule. By making sure you have carved out time to get everything done, you have the best shot at getting what you want — whether that’s an A (or whatever grade you are aiming for) or to make it through the semester without having a breakdown. Starting the semester and your assignments with a clear destination in mind is imperative. It will help keep you focused and moving in the right direction.
HABIT 3: PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
Student translation: Figure out what your priorities and values are. It can be difficult to determine your goals for the semester and to have the discipline to achieve them, but it helps if you keep in mind what you are working towards.
Is getting the A worth sacrificing your mental health? Would you be satisfied with a B if it means you maintain your sanity and have time to participate in extracurriculars? Put the things that matter most to you at the forefront and continuously try to choose those things, even when it seems difficult to do so.
HABITS 4, 5, AND 6: THINK WIN/WIN, SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD, AND SYNERGIZE
Student translation: These are the three habits that relate to the dreaded group project, and will hopefully make it more interesting and less stressful. When working in groups, try to settle on decisions that are mutually beneficial and satisfying for everybody. This takes effort and will probably result in compromise from all parties. However, when everybody feels like their ideas are being heard and used in some form, they are more likely to contribute enthusiastically. The other aspect is that you cannot propose solutions where everyone wins if you don’t deeply understand the situation, project, and your partners’ perspectives. When collaborating, listen to understand rather than to reply. Instead of forcing your plan on your group members, try to come up with a plan for the project together. The work that comes out of group projects can be amazing, especially when everybody feels like they are involved and respected.
HABIT 7: SHARPEN THE SAW
Student translation: Make time for yourself, whatever that may look like for you. In order to do your best at this university thing, you need to make sure that you are mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy. Looking after yourself and your health looks different for everybody, but it generally includes taking time for things that don’t include schoolwork. This could mean going for a run, playing your favourite game, napping with your dog, or grabbing coffee with a friend between study sessions. By taking care of yourself and taking time off of your studies, you can make sure that you are actually productive during the time that you dedicate to your schoolwork.
Photography my Milo Knauer.