For any student, the start of a new semester, or a start of a whole new study year nonetheless, can be genuinely stressful and terrifying. However, with some organisational setup and preparation, you can be launched to a great start! This article goes into hows, whens and whats of pre-semester practice can help you to be as successful as possible in your studies. I will also be linking some very informative videos along the sections for you to watch.

 

Organisational System

First of all, you need a sound organisational system. It stands at the core of any student's successful journey. Without a clear and concise management system that balances your academic and personal life, you might crash and burn in the middle of the semester, and we, of course, do not want that. Now you are indeed curious about HOW we can start building such a system and make it sustainable. Let's dive in.

First, you need to choose a management system fitting your own needs. I'm using Notion, which I will be extensively talking about in this article (it has a free tier, but can be upgraded to Student plan too, free for students).

In my setup, I have sections for different aspects of my life, ranging from academic to personal.

Here, my main page is divided into four sections:

  • Continuous (daily essential things)
  • Learn, Explore, and Reflect - the things on my mind, important information, side projects, etc.
  • Academic
  • ESN - ESN work and plans.

Seeing my responsibilities and work that needs to be done has helped me tremendously recently, (The discussed template is from UnJaded Jade on youtube: ) You can watch her video and decide if you want to use such template too. The point I want to make here is that dividing your life and separating different aspects from one another helps to see the bigger picture.

And now I will list the main points of having an organisational system:

  • Use Google Calendar, or any calendar app you prefer, because, for the past year or so, it helped me a lot to keep track of every event in my life, from very minor to quite major ones. I put deadlines for my work and check the calendar every day. If you can get the dates and times for your classes beforehand, then add them to your calendar with their room numbers and professors' info (f.e office hours) so that you won't need to check anywhere else for all that info. You can even put there the links of the courses, for any case.
  • Moreover, you need a working note-taking system to jot down notes during classes or just your ideas. You can use Notion or Evernote for this. The latter is also a great choice, as it has a great search engine powered by Google. Note-taking and storing systems are crucial. Our brains are wired to understand information, not keep it. So, you must have some other place where you can access it. This leads me to my next point, which is having a Daily Notes section on your note-taking app. It will allow you to have a place to input information throughout a day. And then at the end of it, you could transfer those notes to your base notes storage, where you can access them afterwards whenever you want. Making daily notes will help to keep track of your activity, ideas and learning journey. However, you can improve your system even further (I know I'm obsessed). How? By doing a weekly review of your notes. You can choose a day, many go for Sundays, and filter through your notes and clean up your organisational system. This will prevent the system from bloating and then making it overwhelming for you to keep track of everything and then eventually burn out.

 

  • Furthermore, colour code your subjects to motivate yourself. When I do colour coding, I choose my favourite colours for the most boring classes, and it actually helps me a lot. I open my notebooks not with disdain for the subject but with the pleasure of beautiful colour. That can seem minor, but a little dopamine boost can go a long way!
  • In conclusion, organisational systems exist because they help us to manage the chaotic nature of our lives. Life is unpredictable, but trying to build a system that fits your vibe and the one that will lay down a somewhat clear path for you will be very helpful in the long run.

 

Mental Prep

This is essential not only for your academic journey but life in general. Without a stable mental state, you won't be able to last long in stressful conditions during your studies, not even mentioning balancing your university and personal life.

I have self-reflected a lot this summer; hence, that was the reason I wanted to write this article. I understood that I had persisting bad habits and mental blocks in my mind. And the greatest of them was fear of failure. I know that many people struggle with this daily; thus, I want to focus on how we can get rid off it for once and all!

The first and most important thing is to ALLOW yourself to FAIL. Every time the fear of failing creeps on you and tries to stop you from doing something, just ask yourself:

"What do I even fear? What will happen if I fail? "

You will discover that you have been exaggerating the situation and it's nothing like you think it is. After, tell yourself:

"I allow myself".

Words have such power over everything we think, feel, and do. They can truly be silent killers in your mind. Don't let them! Just the fact of saying "I allow myself" out loud will send message to your brain that you are ALLOWED to do it and FAIL! The next time you have an idea and want to start doing something, don't let the fear get on your way! And you might ask, what if you really fail? And I will answer, you will fail upwards! We need to fail to develop as humans. We need to have failed ideas to recognise better ones. There's no success without failures.

To conclude, set up an organisational system, get comfortable with using a calendar and note-taking app, and always remember to fail. Good Luck!

I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work

Thomas A. Edison, who failed his attempts at making a light-bulb work over 10,000 times. Rather than getting frustrated or moving on to another project, he made this famous quote on failure & success