Often times, college provides an enabling environment to explore, to test, to fail, to rise up again, and to ultimately use this process to refine goals, and to define a strategy towards their achievement. The real world has an enabling environment too if you seek it, but the real world accepts experts more than it does explorers, and it is much less forgiving of failures. Here’s an example. If you begin a startup in college, there are two possible outcomes. Your startup could thrive in which case we will applaud the college startup genius. Or it could fail, in which case you will have learnt important lessons just as a student should. In the real world though, a failing startup is much more scary especially if you have quit a job, committed to a mortgage, or started a family.
Do attend to your classes and assignments, the basics of your college demands, but also use your chance at college to create lasting relationships and to explore new exciting opportunities. This seems like a daunting task. Maybe you work part time to pay your tuition or part of it. Maybe you have demanding classes. True! If you set your mind to it, though, it is absolutely doable. How? How do you handle your numerous tasks in a meager 24 hours and still have time to explore? Below are 4 steps you can take to better manage your college career.
Actively manage your goals and resources, rather than conceding to a flow based on what other students are doing. Define semester-long, yearlong and even after-college goals, and selectively invest your time to match these goals. Ensure that your goals are all rounded, implying that they should cover your wholeness including your academic, physical, spiritual and emotional progress and wellbeing. Often times, people make goals that sound impersonal, almost like slogans. Compare the goal to “Maintain healthy relationships” against “Fuel healthy relationships: schedule monthly dinners with Amy, Arya and Patel, they are go-getters.”
Goal setting doesn’t have to be the same thing for everyone. Be you in your goals. Include strategy and schedules. Retain the extracurriculars, relationships, and hobbies that work for your goals, eliminate those that do not, and especially those that distract you from hitting your targets.
Set Daily Priorities
You are aware of your goals and what you need to be doing but nothing seems to be getting done? Set priorities. Distinguish between high priorities and low priorities based on deadlines and routines. Some people use productivity apps on smartphones, others write or type down lists. Do what works for you. An extremely outrageous outcome is when you spend time writing lists, and then end up not doing your listed tasks.
Manage your Productivity
Procrastination is real. Work on mitigating it. It helps to understand what triggers your productivity, and what distracts it. Make your environment conducive for work by removing distractions, employing productivity techniques that work, and devoting enough time for substantial progress in your task. For instance, maybe to get down 8 pages of your paper you need to silence your phone, organize your desk, play Mozart softly in the background, and sit down for 5 hours. Do just that. Start at a time when you can sit for 5 hours without having to take a lunch break, and when you have removed all clutter from your desk. Sit in a room where you can play Mozart in the background.
Fatigue can hinder productivity, and so can health problems. Eat and sleep well. Avoid skipping meals in order to do work, but strategize on spending less time at lunch and tea breaks. Work on maintaining a regular and adequate sleep schedule. Inadequate sleep is reported to increase stress, to reduce innovation and to hinder productivity.
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About the Author
Nkatha Gitonga is a rising senior at Harvard studying Sociology and Health Policy. She is interested in health and education policy, entrepreneurship, and strategy consulting, and would love to talk about these topics and more with other interested students here. She currently works for a Legal Department Management firm in Boston.
Thank you very much Nkatha for your time and this valuable post–an important contribution to this blog for parents, professors and students. Dr. de Roulet and I wish you all the best as you continue your studies at Harvard! Prof. David C. Pecoraro
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