Proactive and Productive Back-to-School Tips

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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Fall may not mark the beginning of the calendar year, but it certainly presents an opportunity for growth and change with the beginning of the academic year. Think back to the end of the last semester, or the end of your last assignment – do you feel it went well? Is there something you wish you had done ahead of time to make things easier for yourself, or some project that you felt could have used more work if you had had the time? Work piles up fast, sometimes before you realize what’s happening; use these first few weeks of school to get yourself prepared for the busy season ahead of time.


Get Organized

      Spring cleaning isn’t the only time for clearing out space and reorganizing. Whether you’ve moved to a new living situation or work station or you’re returning to the same old office space, organizing now will make life much easier when there are stacks of papers and books to go through later in the semester. When you’re organizing, keep in mind that you should arrange your space in a way that is most efficient for you - your desk may look great cleared off, but if that doesn’t fit in with your working style, your work will probably be undone quickly. Need inspiration? The following image from CCN Money shows how you can organize your desk for maximum productivity.

286405_Desk Organized.jpeg

Dedicate a Study Space

      Whether you like to work at a desk, in your room, in a library, or another public setting, try to pick a spot and dedicate it just for your work. If possible, avoid bringing distractions like your cell phone and snacks to this space, so that your brain will get in the habit of treating these places as work-only spaces. Try to avoid working on your bed, as this can make it more difficult to concentrate on your work and make it more difficult for you to fall asleep later. In fact, it’s generally better to avoid doing work in your bedroom altogether, though that’s not always possible. Finding a spot, as small as that spot may be, to work consistently will help your brain concentrate when you’re in that space. I used to waste so much time procrastinating on my final papers by deliberating over work spaces, but three of my favorites were the desk carrels in the library, the table in the laundry room, and the floor of my bedroom, when it was too late to use a public space.


Plan Ahead

      The great thing about a college syllabus is that it provides a roadmap for how you can expect your semester to go. Most instructors will include the due dates for writing assignments, exams, and even your midterms and finals. Mark these due dates on a calendar, in a journal, or on your phone so that you can keep them in mind when making plans for travel, friends, or extracurricular activities. You can also compare the due dates for different classes, so you can try to get some of the lighter assignments done early when they conflict with larger priority assignments. Also look out for particularly lengthy reading assignments – bring some of the longer works with you when you know you’ll have some reading time, so that way you won’t be cramming it all in at the last minute. If you decide to record these assignments on paper, be sure to use a pencil, as the course syllabus is likely to change as the semester goes on!


Find a Study Buddy / Form a Study Group

      Nothing makes preparing for a final exam or writing a final paper easier than having friends in the class to help you brainstorm. During the first few weeks of class, talk to your peers about your ongoing assignments, and see who might be interested in joining you for future study sessions. By reaching out now, you’ll ensure that you have someone to get in contact with if you ever have a question on an assignment that your instructor might not be able to answer right away, and someone to keep you company in the library when writing papers or completing reading assignments.

Seven students sit around a study table in a library. The students portrayed are the main characters in the television show Community. 

Note: Unlike the study group in Community, you want to form a group that actually studies.

Think Back to Last Semester

      If this is your first semester in college, think back to the last time in your life when you were really stressed out with a lot of work piled up. Back then, what did you wish you had done earlier? What do you think could have helped you avoid that stress? Premeditating your future needs and taking proactive measures will help you make this semester as productive and stress-free as possible.


About the Author
Melanie McFadyen is a Development Editor for the Communication & College Success team at Macmillan Learning. Originally from the Boston area, Melanie recently moved to New York and is currently spending most of her free time wandering around the city.