I always joke with my coworkers that they have to watch what they say around me because I believe everything that I hear. And, although I think it is important to draw on other people’s experiences to shape your own success, at the end of the day you are the only person who knows what is best for you. As a follow up to last week’s stress-free blog, I’d like to leave you with four more tips focused on how being YOU can lead to a productive and carefree school year.
1) Set realistic goals. Realistic is the key word here. Maybe some people you know can go to class and work full time and spend 3 hours at the gym and study for 8 hours and take 4 hours to cook a five course gourmet dinner and be the president of every club and volunteer to save sea turtles and keep their inbox empty and still get 8 hours of sleep every night. I, however, am not that girl! If you want all of these things to be goals for yourself in the future, set priorities of which ones you want to accomplish first. Once you have one going strong, see if it’s possible to add another, but don’t be too hard on yourself. We are only human.
2) Be honest with yourself. Last year, I wanted to work ahead on as many things as possible when I first got to school because it seemed like September was the calm before the storm. Focusing on THAT many things just overwhelmed me, and I found myself doing absolutely nothing unless I had an assignment due the following day. To remedy this problem, I developed the one-a-day rule: If I had nothing due the following day, I had to work for at least an hour or two on whatever was due next. This tactic worked for me but you might need to make a different rule for yourself.
3) Say no. Just because you have a time slot open in your calendar doesn’t mean you have to fill it if someone asks you to do something or something comes up that you think you “should” do. I find myself overcommitting and switching around other things in my calendar to accommodate obligations that I didn’t even want to do in the first place! This year, I’m going to say “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to make it” a lot more and “Absolutely, do you need me to get there early and stay after to clean up too?” a lot less! And, I won’t feel guilty about it.
4) Don’t listen to everyone. I made this mistake two-fold last year: I listened to the second-year grad students and to my first-year classmates. But none of them are me, so I have no idea why I inherited all of their stress instead of making decisions for myself that would keep me stress-free.
At the end of the day, you really just have to listen to your body and trust yourself. But, you don’t have to take my word for it – you are your own expert!