In which I share my personal tips for dealing with stress and staying on top of assignments as we all approach finals.
One of my favorite things about CNU is our holding doors tradition. It’s pretty simple: if you’re entering a building or room on campus and someone is close behind you, you prop the door open for them before walking in yourself. It’s a small gesture, but it means a lot to me. On days like today, especially, when the rain is pouring down and your hands are full with a to-go salad from the Chick-fil-A Express and a bulky wallet, it’s fantastic to have a fellow Captain hold the door open for you. It saves you the trouble of shifting everything you’re carrying into one precarious tower balanced on your non-dominant hand as you fumble for that magical student ID that has somehow found its way into the deepest recesses of your raincoat’s pocket. And, it’s one of those little reminders that there is goodwill left in humanity.
It’s always odd for me on breaks from school to go out somewhere public and not have a door held open. Or, on the flip side, to hold a door open for someone out of CNU habit and receive a bewildered look. Holding a door is probably one of the easiest ways to make someone’s day a little brighter, and it’s unfortunate that it’s not more common. However, it’s refreshing to get back to school and fall back into a rhythm of being courteous.
I know this sounds like a pretty amazing tradition (and, it is!), but it has brought about its share of awkwardness for me. For example, if you’re not careful about your hand placement on the door and your timing of letting the door fall into their hands, there’s a great possibility your hands will touch. Whenever this happens to me, I feel obligated to apologize and introduce myself; I mean, our hands touched – we should obviously become best friends. However, my potential best friend is always headed somewhere in a rush, and so there’s no time to smooth out the awkwardness. Another example of door-holding woes would have to be the appropriate door-holding distance. Of course, you’ll hold the door for the kid right behind you, but what about the kid a few paces back? Or, the one 15 feet away? Or, the one still crossing the road? Can someone inform me on when to wait and hold the door and when to walk on in?
Believe me, I have been that girl who holds the door for you while you’re still halfway across the Trible Plaza. You start to jog in slow-motion towards the door I’m propping open, and every second I wait I think, “Gee, that one really was too far away. But, I can’t close the door now because they’re already slow-motion jogging towards me.” It’s awkward for both of us, but please, just accept my door-holding faux pas with a smile.
I’m still figuring this out.
Six schools, seven essays, countless revisions of a resume and personal statement, four breakdowns, and a switch between two schools later – I have officially decided what I am going to do for the next two years of my life. Ah, graduate school … the masters, the thesis, the continued addiction to coffee and the ability to read 300 pages a night … sounds … great. By the first few months of your senior year as an undergrad you begin to realize that the finish line is nearing and that you have multiple paths in front of you; unfortunately, you can only pick one (for now). I toyed with the idea of continuing my summer job full-time, of applying for multiple types of jobs, of moving to either DC, Chicago or NYC to audition for shows, or to really become one with my Netflix account until I finally decided on grad school. No one told me I had to go to grad school; rather I’ve heard the opposite because of the amount of loans I am taking out to make this goal possible. Yes, I’ll be in debt, but continuing my education just feels right.
I have always loved school – honestly. I like firm schedules and deadlines mixed with creative expression and flexible projects. I truly think teachers need to be paid the highest salaries and be given far more credit than they have yet to receive, and most importantly, I love learning. Due to my mentorship with Dr. Grace Godwin (whom I’ve previously mentioned), I have gained much more faith in my abilities as a writer, an academic and a theatrical individual. Because of the multitude of classes I have taken at CNU, ranging from exploring Buddhism in an honors seminar to examining the emerging genre of magic realism in an English class, my areas of interest and skill have become more defined while still maintaining an appreciation for a plethora of subjects. In the fall I will be attending Loyola University Chicago to earn my masters in English.
Despite theater being my first major, I felt that while I am still in the academic mind-frame and with the program’s flexibility to work with the stage, English was not only the most “responsible” program for me to enter into but also the best of both worlds. Of course, I’m asked the questions, “What do you want to do?” “What about acting?” “Are you just going to teach then?” to which I must first clarify that teaching is NEVER a fallback career and for those who use it as such are not truly called to the noble profession. Additionally, I will still be auditioning for productions in Chicago while working toward my masters. I have never been one to do just one thing, and CNU has given me the opportunity to understand that you don’t have to settle for a job but can create your own career. Call me idealistic or naïve, I am nonetheless excited to cultivate my passions both professionally and theatrically.
Fellow blogger Laura Kate is an ace at cranking out witty, down-to-earth blog posts at a faster rate than it takes me to get ready in the morning, which is like 10 minutes tops. One of her recent posts about procrastination made me smile, mostly because I cannot physically or mentally procrastinate, but also because she made it sound so, so relaxing. Who knew not doing work could be fun? (Apparently, a lot of people but me.)
So here’s my own anti-fun list of productivity. You’d probably rather listen to what Laura Kate says but in case you actually want to focus, here’s a guide!
- You see your phone? Just look at it, begging you to pick it up and check Facebook or something. You want productivity? Turn your phone off, put it in a drawer, DO SOMETHING to it so that it won’t provide you with any more distractions. (Just don’t chuck it or whatever.)
- There’s an app called StayFocused you can download that limits the time you spend pointlessly surfing the Internet by temporarily blocking your access to certain sites or domains within a given time limit. I’ve never tried it, but it sounds diabolically productive.
- Some people look toward religious scriptures for guidance, I look toward my sacred to-do lists. Every week, I start by looking at my syllabi and writing down which assignments I want to do each day. If you plan enough, you might find yourself one or two weeks ahead of schedule!
- Also related to to-do lists: don’t try to finish an entire project in one sitting; split it up! On Monday, work on the introduction. On Tuesday, finish up finding sources … You get the drift.
- Not only are to-do lists sacred, but weekly schedules are as well. Before every semester started, I would print out a schedule of when all my classes and work shifts would take place. In every empty block, I’d fill in other things like getting lunch, going to the gym and studying in the library. Remember folks, good productivity starts with good habits.
- I’m a morning person, so waking up early is easy for me. But it’s also good for your productivity. If you wake up early and get the most important tasks done first, you can avoid the laziness slump later in the day.
- Here’s a neat-freak fact of life: mess equals stress. No, this isn’t avoiding productivity, but if you find yourself feeling cluttered, take a look around. Are there dirty clothes on the floor? Take-out boxes piled up beside the door? Maybe that dust is getting on your nerves? Take a few to tidy up—you’ll feel a lot better when you do.
- I said not to do a whole project in one sitting, don’t confuse that with the tendency to multi-task. Instead, try single-tasking; you’ll have a more productive time finishing small segments one at a time than juggling biology homework while also writing a sociology paper.
You’ll notice that my ninth tip is missing—I decided to take Laura Kate’s advice and spend some time in the warm sun, instead of finishing my ninth and final thought. I mean, productivity’s great and all, but as students we also have to remember to take a break and relax once in awhile. It’s not like that homework assignment or paper is going anywhere!
In which I discuss a deeper meaning to life, college and cereal, with the help of John Green
I’d like to think I’m not an easily distracted person.
It’s ironic, because as soon as I wrote that, I got distracted by the “Family Feud” episode playing in my common room.
So, anyway, back to my original point. Not all of us struggle with focusing, but it can definitely catch up to us every once in a while. And, sometimes, it’s beneficial to one’s mental health and well-being to put all that work on a shelf and find a distraction! Here are some ideas:
1. Walk across Warwick Boulevard and grab a sweet treat from Rita’s. Personally, I love anything with chocolate added.
2. If the weather’s nice and you have a hammock (or a friend with a hammock), spend some time in the sun and breeze.
3. Take a nap! This is one of my go-to strategies.
4. Watch a movie you’ve been meaning to see or catch up on your favorite TV show.
5. Hit the gym, walk the Noland Trail, jog the surrounding neighborhoods or organize an impromptu volleyball game with friends at the James River courts.
6. People watch in the Trible Plaza or Einstein’s (while you’re in Einstein’s, you can grab one of those bagel sandwiches everyone raves about!)
7. Chat up a professor. Stop by his or her office and ask questions that don’t have anything to do with classwork. Our professors are people, too!
8. Delete some of those awkward Facebook profile pictures from seventh grade.
9. Ask your roommate or suitemates an intentional, open-ended question; maybe, you’ll discover something new about them!
Hopefully, these few ideas spur you on your way to procrastination! Just remember, a little procrastination can be great, but it always needs to be done in a smart way. If you can afford to put something off for a little bit, then start trying out the above strategies! But, if not, get yourself back in that library – pronto!