New school year, new you! It’s the time when you’re most motivated to toss out your unproductive habits, get organised, and hit the books. And it’s a cliché by now that most New Year resolutions have the shelf life of fresh produce – good while fresh, unable to keep more than a week.
If, this year, you’re absolutely resolved to make this your best semester ever (despite having promised yourself the same thing for the last few years), here are some resolutions that should make your list. We’ve also come up with some helpful tips on how you can stick to your goals, so as not to lose steam when the semester starts to get crazy.
1. Get to (most of) your lectures
Who hasn’t ponned class once in a while? It’s way too easy to forget that you’re actually missing out on guidance on key concepts from an expert, besides wasting a ton of university fees.
Instead of vowing to get to ALL your lectures (yep, even the 8am ones), try giving yourself some realistic leeway. Save up one or two occasions to skip for when you really need to rush an essay, and honestly evaluate whether the lecture is really helpful for your learning.
Dr Julien Payne, a strength and conditioning specialist says that to stay on track with your goals, you need to have “a purpose behind your plan”. So there’s no point dragging yourself to truly unhelpful lectures where, say, the professor just sums up points from the readings – it’s all about optimizing your learning, not getting a gold star for perfect attendance.
2. Set aside time for your readings
Readings are a pain, but doing them regularly will help you absorb better and make your life much easier come finals. The key is to be thoughtful about not just how much, but when, you’re planning study time, so as to make keeping to it as easy as possible.
According to sleep doctor Dr Micheal Breus, author of The Power of When, working in sync with our body’s natural clock is key to learning and producing our best work. We learn most effectively when our brains are in acquisition mode, from around 10am-12pm and between 4-10pm.
Besides natural body rhythms, it’s also crucial to make studying work with your routine. For instance, if you know you like to go out on Friday evenings, try not to schedule Friday night mugging sessions in the hope that Herculean self-discipline will miraculously seize you. Similarly, don’t force yourself to hit the books on days where you’re usually tired from CCA practice.
3. Procrastinate less
Studies show that as much as 95% of students procrastinate. You know how it is – you sit down to study, decide to check your phone for one second, and two hours later you’ve still done no work.
Procrastinating less is too big and vague a resolution to tackle, so the key is to break it down into smaller goals. You might have heard of the mnemonic S.M.A.R.T. as a guideline to successful goals – this stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Limited. For instance, rather than just telling yourself to stop procrastinating, figure out the specific ways you like to procrastinate, and measure your improvement by setting a certain duration for finishing an assignment.
4. Make at least one friend in each class
Everyone needs a class friend with benefits. From saving you a seat when you’re late, to making group projects less awkward, to helping you take notes while you’re sick, having a friend in each module can make class much more bearable.
This doesn’t necessarily mean compromising on the classes you want to take, to fit your friends’ schedules. You can always try striking up a conversation with your tutorial mates, or exchange numbers with those you typically say hi-bye to. Having a buddy to laugh with at the prof’s odd pronunciation of “sample” can make you actually look forward to going to class – which also helps you achieve your resolution of attending lectures more!
5. Sleep better
Running on cocktails at night and caffeine in the morning, then pulling all-nighters around assignment time – being a college student is practically antithetical to a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, it’s also doing you a lot of damage. Poor sleep is linked to obesity, depression, low immune function and bad concentration, amongst many other things.
This New Year’s, make a resolution to snooze more – at least 8 hours a night, the ideal requirement for university students. To increase your chances of keeping to this goal, be sure to carve out time in your daily routine for sleep. For instance, rather than telling yourself you’ll finish your work faster, start on it earlier so that you can go to bed at the right time. Experts also advise sticking to the same sleep and wake-up times to help regulate your body clock and creating a bedtime ritual to prepare you for sleep.
6. Save up to study abroad
University offers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to study abroad – whatever your experiences, chances are you’ll have memorable and even life-changing adventures there. (Check out what Digital Senior has previously shared on the little-known perks of going on exchange and 15 things I learnt in exchange.)
If you’ve already got your dream destination figured out, work towards your big trip by setting aside some savings each month or getting a part-time job. Even if your parents are willing to finance you, spending feels so much sweeter when it’s your own money.
7. Get involved in a new activity
Once you’ve left university, you’ll probably never again have such a flexible schedule in your life – think summer holidays and customisable timetables. There’s no time like the present to take up an activity you’ve always thought about doing, whether it’s kayaking or volunteering at the SPCA.
If you can, get a friend to do it with you, join a group, or simply tell someone about your progress. This social accountability helps you to commit more effectively to your big plans.
As you get cracking on a new and better you, remember not to beat yourself up too much about your missteps. You might fall behind on your sleep debt or struggle to fit everything into your schedule, but these minor difficulties are completely normal – you have all year to get back on track. Happy New Year!