Take Some Student Shortcuts
To me, taking shortcuts has always sounded like cheating. But during my career as a student I have come to realize that taking smart shortcuts can help you save time and be more effective. Here are some suggestions that will help you make your life as a student easier and less stressful.
Write things down.
It may sound obvious but writing things down really does help you remember. So buy a planner or use the calendar on your phone/tablet/laptop and write down everything you have to do. Write the dates for tests and quizzes and the deadline for every assignment, essay or project ahead of time. It will help you have a long-term overview of your obligations as a student.
Don’t write down only school-related commitments. Include those extracurricular activities you want to attend. Those could be the next basketball game, the release date of a movie, a free lunch on campus or any interesting event you want to attend. This will help you balance your school life with your social life so you will be able to get all your homework done without sacrificing your social life.
After staying up until 2 a.m. to finish your homework, you really don’t want to lose it just because your room looks like somebody just trashed the place. So I suggest buying those nice binders with a folder on the inside of the cover and keeping all the loose sheets there.
My favorite brand for binders is Five Star because they are heavy-duty and come in different colors. I know it can sound a little bit childish but I suggest buying one for every class you are taking and of a color that reminds you of that subject. I don’t know why, but to me English is blue, math is red and Spanish is orange. This simple idea will save you time in the sleepy mornings when you prepare your backpack. Those binders will be easier to find among the tons of things piled up on a messy desk. And they will make your life more colorful.
At the beginning of the semester, print your weekly schedule or, even better, write it out yourself and hang it above your desk in your room. This way, you will know at a glance how busy your week will be. Even better, buy a calendar-style white board and write down all the “fixed” commitments ahead of time and update the board every week with all the other “one-time” tasks with an erasable marker.
Knowing that you have to read a 60-page chapter by the next class period is every student’s nightmare. Just thinking about it makes you feel like hiding under a warm blanket and forgetting about the world.
To make the reading less stressful, I usually divide the number of pages for the number of days that are left until the due date. This way, the task for the day will probably be reading only 10-15 pages and it won’t sound that dreadful.
I have a friend who really loves this method and has become so obsessed with it that she divides the pages to read in half-hour increments. That’s too much organization, even for me. But this method has proven useful, especially at the end of the semester when students are inclined to desperately cram their work in the last days before finals.
Save time (or at least don’t waste it).
Nobody wants to waste time doing things they don’t really like rather than spending it doing the things they love. So try to use your time wisely. Track how many minutes you need to walk from the cafeteria to the Academic Building so you will know exactly at what time you need to leave to go to class. That way, you will be able to sit and talk with your friends without worrying about being late.
Another useful trick that I strongly recommend is to prepare a template document with all the formatting requirements specified by a particular professor. That way, if that professor wants every homework assignment typed in Garamond, font size 12 with a heading to include your name, course and section number and date, every time you need to start a new paper you’ll be ready to go.
One last golden rule: When you are reading, writing essays, doing homework or studying, hide your phone. Set it in mute, put it in your backpack and forget about it. The feeling of not being connected with the world may give you a panic attack at the beginning, but I promise it will help you focus only on what you are doing. In just one hour, you’ll be able to accomplish things that usually take you double that time.