Tag Archives: college

The *notion* of staying organized: how to effectively manage your time

If you had an existential crisis surrounded by piles of papers during midterm season, chances are you weren’t the only one. In light of the many projects and tests, students were forced to confront their pre-existing organizational habits. If your current strategies aren’t working for you, here are some tips for how to get organized for the second half of the semester. 

There’s no feeling quite like checking off a box on a to-do list, so I use multiple different organizational tools including a bullet journal, a calendar and notion. To standardize my organizational process I’ll start each semester by making a key so that each class has an assigned color. 

As soon as I receive my course syllabi, I write down all of my assignments on a wall calendar on the day they are due so I have a general sense of assignments. To avoid clutter, I write “exam” or “paper” in the prescribed subject color without adding other details. I keep the current month’s and next month’s calendar on my wall so that I can easily access them to see any upcoming assignments. 

When looking at my calendar, I typically start to put assignments on my radar about three weeks before they’re due. When I notice something coming up, I’ll review the instructions on canvas to see exactly what the project entails. Depending on the assignment, I’ll allocate more or less time to work on or prepare for it. For example, I started working on my French midterm well over three weeks in advance, whereas I can complete some of my communications assignments the day before they’re due. 

I’m the kind of person who likes to work on assignments a little bit per day and write multiple drafts of a paper before finally being satisfied, so I always find starting assignments earlier than necessary is helpful. With these upcoming assignments, I’ll start to put aside time to work on them. typically 15 to 30 minutes a day at first, and then larger chunks of time closer to the due date. That way, I won’t have an entire paper to do the day before the due date.

If you have a class in which you do multiple of the same type of assignment, as the semester progresses, you can use your previous experience to determine how much time you’ll realistically need to complete the assignment. For example, in my UGS class we have three research assignments, so for the second one I was able to better gauge how much time it’d take me to finish it. 

For repetitive events like weekly quizzes, I find it helps me to set up a specific time each week to study so that I don’t forget and can also set aside the optimal time to study. For my biology quizzes Thursday morning, I always study Wednesday nights so that the material is fresher in my mind. 

Every Sunday evening, I’ll transfer events from my calendar to my notion page, which I find is a helpful organizational tool. I’ll add any due dates or assignments with time stamps, as well as any other meetings or plans. 

Keeping all of my due dates in one place gives me a good sense of how my week is going to go. Under the events of each day I keep a to-do list. I generally add items onto the to-do list the day of or the night before, because writing things down helps set my intentions for the day.

I tend to do more concrete homework, such as readings, the night after class. Getting ahead on readings ends up confusing me, particularly for classes that have reading quizzes, which is why I do them right after they’re assigned. Most of my classes are on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I typically spend Monday and Wednesday nights doing homework for those classes. Because I have more free time on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I devote time to projects and essays. 

On days where I’m working on more projects, I’ll seperate my time into different chunks so that I don’t get too invested in one project. I’m the kind of person who’ll finish an assignment a month before it’s due to procrastinate studying for a quiz, so I found that these time chunks allow me to balance doing what I like and prioritizing work. When scheduling time, sometimes I have to readjust, which is okay! If I have reading that has to get done, I’ll finish it regardless of if it runs over time, but if I’m working on an essay due in a couple of weeks, I’ll stop after the allotted time. 

Although staying organized is helpful in the long run, being proactive can lead to overworking yourself or burn-out if you’re not careful. Make sure that you’re taking time for self-care, and giving yourself breaks and time to have fun! 

While these tips have helped me stay organized my first semester of college, certain strategies will work better for different people. Knowing your assignments and when they’re due is the most important thing — from there you can decide how you want to tackle working on them. Whether with a calendar, sticky-notes or other organizational tools, it’s never too late to get organized!

Featured image by Alyssa Lindblom 

To Sleep or not to sleep

We’re all guilty of scrolling mindlessly on TikTok at 2:00 a.m., and if you say you’re not, you’re lying.

We know it’s not good for us, we know we have class in the morning (some of you are unlucky and have 8:00 a.m. classes, ew) and yet we do nothing to stop it. Maybe you try to set your bedtime to 10:00 p.m., but how many times have you tried to do that? More than once, I bet. So, why do we do it?

 What is revenge bedtime procrastination?

Revenge bedtime procrastination is a response to feeling like you lacked leisure time throughout the day. That response leads to staying up late at night despite knowing the consequences you’ll encounter the next day, taking “revenge” on daytime hours. People enjoy immediately-gratifying activities, like watching TV, which makes it easy to choose that over proper rest. The concept originates from the Chinese expression, 報復性熬夜 (bàofù xìng áoyè), which roughly translates to revenge bedtime procrastination, and has resonated with many people worldwide. Students may find themselves experiencing revenge bedtime procrastination to the point where it’s not even a bad habit. Instead, it’s a part of their lifestyle.

Why is sleep so important anyway?

Dr. Patricia Carter, a University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing Associate Professor and healthcare professional, hosted a university lecture series in Spring of 2019 called “Sleeping Your Way to Academic Success,” in which she broke down the effects of a well-rested mind, the consequences of a sleep-deprived brain and the different types of sleep. Dr. Carter focuses on how sleeping habits affect academic performance, and memory.

But you can just pull an all-nighter tonight and sleep-in tomorrow, right? Wrong! Not sleeping decreases focus and attention and weakens our memory.

Dr. Carter pointed out “sleep deprivation… impaired learning as much as 40% even after two ‘recovery’ nights.” Recovery nights are the nights you try to ‘fix’ your sleep schedule after breaking away from it. Now you can blame your failed midterms on that all-nighter you pulled before the exam.

That means my naps are useless, right?

Wrong again, get it together! A good 20-minute power nap will give you 12 hours of increased functionality compared to not napping. One nap and one night of sleep are equal to the improvement seen after two nights of sleep.

However, make sure your naps aren’t too long or too short. A 45-minute nap is too long and makes waking up harder since you’re right in the middle of a deep sleep, but 60-90 minutes is a good amount of time because it’s closer to a full-sleep cycle.

Basically, the next time your alarm wakes you up 45 minutes into your nap, ignore it and go back to sleep for another 15-30 minutes. Send your professor this article if need be.

How do I stop?

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. If you previously said you’ve never scrolled mindlessly on TikTok at 2:00 a.m., now is the time to tell the truth.

All jokes aside, here’s what Dr. Carter suggested:

  • Turn your blue-light devices off
  • Find your optimal sleep time, which is the amount of sleep you get when you wake up naturally and feel refreshed. I literally cannot remember what that feels like, but I know it feels good.
  • No caffeine after 3:00 p.m. (I’m the exception though)
  • Get eight to ten hours of sleep, and nap if you don’t get enough sleep
  • Sleep in a cool, dark room with minimal noise
  • Stay consistent with your sleep schedule
  • Exercise in the morning

Revenge bedtime procrastination is counterproductive. While you’re gaining satisfaction from the activity you are performing, that satisfaction only lasts so long before you begin to feel the negative effects. Take some time to look at what things stress you out the most and address them. Learn to manage your time and prioritize sleep. Although it isn’t on purpose, revenge sleep procrastination is a structure we’ve individually created in our lives that’s preventing us from succeeding.

We’ve all wished we could’ve had those five extra minutes of sleep. Give yourself the time and grace you need to unlearn the behaviors associated with this phenomenon. Next time it comes to the question of whether to sleep or not to sleep, choose sleep.

Featured Image By Bettina Mateo

Hugs and Human Connection

Family therapist Virginia Satir says “We need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.” As a freshman on campus this year in the midst of a global pandemic, I have been struggling to navigate the new obstacles to physical and emotional human connection. I find that getting even one hug in on a normal day is difficult, especially because of the added barriers due to the pandemic. I mean, I can’t be the only one seeing all the signs that recommend elbow taps and the hook’em horns hand sign over hugs and handshakes.

After less than two months on the UT campus, I haven’t even known anyone long enough to consider them one of my close friends, let alone long enough to get 12 hugs a day out of them. Besides, in light of our current situation it’s a real struggle to figure out everyone’s physical boundaries.

Unfortunately, especially for those of us that are introverted homebodies, human connection is essential to our existence as people. Connecting with other people has proven benefits: improving mental and physical health. This includes lower rates of depression and anxiety, increased ability to regulate emotions and greater life expectancy. In addition, it helps foster a sense of support, community and purpose.

Even if we’re not all able to meet Virginia Satir’s recommended average of eight hugs a day, I believe there are other ways to fulfill our need for human connection. It is not measured by how many friends you have, how often you go out or the amount of organizations you’re in. 

You can find human connection by sharing a laugh with the person who made your morning coffee or smiling at a stranger on your daily walk to class. Human connection is all about finding meaningful moments with other people that make you feel good on the inside. 

Whether it’s giving yourself a hug every morning, buying your roommate a coffee to put a smile on their face or calling your family every once and a while, the benefits that come from real human connection will never diminish.

A Penny for My Thoughts

As a college student, the ultimate struggle that most of us face is budgeting. When to spend money, when not to spend money and how to save money are all common questions asked by students. Personally, I’m terrible at handling my money. But the one perk of being bad with money is that I’ve had to learn some tips and tricks in order to save more and spend less. I’m here to share some of those with you. 

Keep a monthly budget 

I’ve learned that it’s a lot easier to keep track of your money if you write down exactly what you’re spending it on. At the beginning of each month, create a note or find an online budgeting template and write how much money you have ready to spend. Then, write out all of your planned expenses such as shopping, food and necessities, entertainment, school supplies or anything else you might need. Every time you make a purchase,  write that down too. Then, at the end of the month you can see how much money you spend in order to help gauge further spending habits. 

If you want to buy something— wait 

One of my worst habits is impulsively buying something or spending my money on something that seems worth it in the moment, but then I end up with buyer’s regret and a hole in my bank account. My best advice; if there’s something that you really want, but it seems like a purchase that could set you back a little bit, just wait. Give it a couple days or a week, however long it takes you to be fully confident in your decision. This has helped me realize that not everything we want we actually need right away. Save up for it and buy it later!

Keep your spare change— never doubt the piggy bank!

Spare change and loose bills are something I always lose track of because I don’t think they’re as important as my bank account. But, that’s just not true. Keep a jar of change and bills you find laying around and soon enough you’ll have some substantial savings! Many banks will take rolls of your coins and exchange them for cash, especially due to the coin shortage from COVID-19. You can also deposit cash into your bank account, so that cash-isn’t-real feeling goes away. 

Limit going out  

This one is probably the most difficult for me. Sometimes I get so caught up in my day that I let myself buy food or a fancy coffee when I always have something available for free. To combat this, I’ve set myself an allotted amount of days I can buy food for myself. Usually, I let myself buy coffee twice a week and eat out once during the week and once or twice on weekends. This has helped me so much to hold myself accountable and keep track of my spending.  See what works for you, and do your best to stick to it. 

For my 21+ people, if you go out, don’t bring your card

Lastly, an additional tip for people who like to go out on the weekends. Don’t bring your card to a bar, bring an amount of cash that you’re okay with spending on drinks or food. This can help those moments where you think, “oh it’s just one more it’s okay,” and you will save money without even realizing. You just have to remember to not promise to Venmo friends if they buy you something once you run out of cash- guilty as charged. 

Remember, saving money is difficult, especially for students who aren’t used to living on their own and providing for themselves. Don’t get yourself down if it takes a little bit to get into a pattern of saving. Take it easy on yourself and do what you can, when you can. Don’t forget— a little goes a long way. 

Featured image by Ren Breach

ATX: An Outside Perspective

I am not from Austin, Texas. In fact, I am from the opposite of Austin, Texas— a small, country town with only a school and a gas station to its name. During my first few days living in the city, I experienced mixed feelings about my new home. I despised waiting for 20 minutes just to cross the street and having to walk a mile to Target to get an overpriced toothbrush. But I loved the bustling energy of The Drag and the millions of lights that shone throughout the city at night. After my experience, I wanted to talk to some other first year students who aren’t originally from Austin to see how their first impression of Austin compared to mine. 

Leonel Castillo is an aerospace engineering major from San Antonio, Texas. He also participates in the engineering student organization Longhorn Racing.

Leonel Castillo

What is the biggest difference between Austin and your hometown?

San Antonio is significantly more sprawled, meaning less people packed together and better traffic, but you need a car to get everywhere. San Antonio also is rich in Mexican heritage, and as a Mexican, it makes me feel right at home. Austin doesn’t have any of that cultural spice, so I have yet to find that sense of being at home.

What was your first day living in Austin like?

It was overwhelming, because of the new city-scape and the whole not knowing anybody thing.

What do you like about Austin? 

The food, the people, urban planning, the emphasis on transit (busses, rails, bike lanes) and the capitol building.

What do you dislike about Austin?

The hills. It’s difficult to ride my bike. Campus is very hilly, and so is much of downtown. I also dislike how unsafe it feels after 8 p.m. off-campus.

If there was one thing you would change about the city to make it more accommodating for you as a student/resident, what would it be?

I’d increase the number of buses that go around campus and take students directly to shopping centers and such. Or maybe even open more supermarkets closer to campus.

Before you arrived at Austin, what initial expectations did you have for your new life here?

I expected to travel wherever I wanted without a car because of the great urban planning, but also was aware of the homeless people and tents creeping near campus that could offer some trouble.

In your first few weeks in Austin, if you have shared Leo’s concerns about safety, consider traveling with a friend or using transportation services such as UT Night Rides or SureWalk. If you’ve found yourself struggling to bike up a formidable hill or missing a hometown that is rich with your cultural heritage— you’re not alone. Austin is an extremely diverse city, so the various cultures tend to blur together— it can be overwhelming. Go out and explore the city. I promise that you will find the “cultural spice” you’re looking for.

Featured image by Tara Phipps