August: A month of new beginnings! ((by Olivia))

To the Western world, the month of January marks the beginning of a fresh new year.  I, however, have always felt that the first of August was the start of my personal ‘new year.’ An admitted school supplies geek, I probably embrace this time of the year more heartily than others as it’s a good excuse to splurge on no-smudge hi-liters and pretty, functional notebooks.

Now that I am about to start school again after a two year hiatus, I’ve been considering my undergraduate experience and wondering what might help me continue to be successful in the more rigorous academic environment of graduate school. Classes don’t officially start for another month and I am already feeling a tad stressed with my current job ending, settling my upcoming move, and believe it or not, completing pending assignments  for the first week of classes.

At fist glance, these tips might seem basic and old news. However, we all know that complicated details will just make us more annoyed/stressed and less likely to follow through during crunch time. Here are a few simple rules, in hopes that we can adhere to these Top 3 School Year Resolutions and keep our sanity and healthy immune system intact while maintaining those good grades that got us here in the first place!

1. Planning/Prioritizing

Oh man, I love To Do lists. However, sometimes I end up making a list about my lists so I can keep track of them! Keeping a list neat, organized and in one place will be key to success. Any good suggestions for a great brand of planners/notebooks/schedulers?

Prioritizing is more challenging but extremely necessary. I’ll admit it- I struggle. I currently use a ranking system of numbers (1- high, 2-medium, 3- low urgency) but find that hardly satisfies my desire to tackle everything on the list in one day. I try to pay attention to what task is making me the most concerned, and devote some time to work on it each day, even if it’s just reviewing the assignment or class notes. This way I can calm down, accomplish a little somethin’ in regards to that particular item, and go on to focus on (and complete!) the other tasks I need to complete.

Sometimes I just have to write down all of the things that I have accomplished in that day to remind myself that although the ‘Inbox’ might be casting a shadow over my proverbial desk top, I have visual proof that I got something accomplished that day.

2. Fit Body, Fit Mind

In undergrad, exercise was always the first thing to get dropped from above-mentioned ‘To Do’ List when times were tough. After experiencing the wonders of an exercise-induced productivity and mood uplift during my application process last year, I will definitely be bumping exercise up in the priority numbering system during my graduate school years. Once a schedule is established for class, insert blocks of 30-45 min of activity as if it were a study session. Having a pattern will make it easier to adhere to this Resolution.

3. Make Friends

You may be thinking, shouldn’t this say “make notecards” or something? Not quite. Most programs encourage co-mingling of different levels of students to help retain the newbies (ie you & me) and ease their transition and you should take advantage of these semi-required outings.

Getting to know people in your year and program will give you contacts that you can approach with novice questions or serious ones like how they developed their thesis or passed that demanding year one class. So instead of getting carpal tunnel from making stacks of study guides your first week, take advantage of those orientation sessions and start shaking some hands! You might just find an invaluable resource and friend for your professional career.

So there you have it: the  School Year Resolutions  for the graduate school 2011-2012. Have any tips for a better prioritizing system or an addendum to the Resolution list? Please post your comments below!

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