So the new semester is now underway, and I – like many others I am sure – am determined to break the negative habits that I have picked up and start the semester with a clean slate. Although I begin every semester with the best of intentions, both study and life nearly always get the best of me and result in the perpetuation of certain behaviours that are ultimately detrimental to my achievement at university, as well as to my mental well being. Therefore I present to all Explore readers my ten commandments for the new semester; a public reflection concerning what I personally will undoubtedly struggle with as the new semester progresses and a means to achieve a greater work/life balance.
1) Thou shall do thy readings
I have to come clean: in past semesters, I have rarely done my weekly readings. I know, I know, assigned readings are the foundations of much of what you actually learn in your courses. But when essay-writing season rolls around, you are crunched for time and you have three major assessment pieces due on the same day, readings are usually the first thing to be sacrificed on the academic altar. But not this semester! I will keep on top of my readings and not allow myself to get lost in vast amounts of content.
2) Thou shall attend all classes
This is something else that is often the victim of prolonged procrastination and the subsequent frantic essay writing sessions. I strongly believe that full time study should be treated as a full time job, because academic success is all about personal effort. Therefore, attending classes is incredibly important to remaining engaged with courses as the semester progresses, even if life gets a little busy sometimes. The benefits of this commandment are particularly obvious, but we all need a little reminder every now and again to stay motivated.
3) Thou shall minimize stress
Sometimes I think I run on stress instead of food and over the years pressure has produced much of the work I have been most pleased with. Although this stress – which is more often than not derived from looming deadlines and packed schedules – can sometimes be a fantastic motivator, I know that using it to keep me up all night to finish an assignment is not a healthy habit. So this semester, I am going to do absolutely everything in my power to minimize its influence (and prevent a few late night ice cream binges in the meantime) by keeping on top of all my work.
4) Thou shall not forget to sleep
I wish it was possible to hibernate through exam blocks; even though I am aware it is not possible, I still hold out hope every time they roll around. Having become a firm friend of the all night essay writing sessions, fulfilling sleep is often a foreign concept to my stress-addled brain. Catching up on all the sleep I missed during last semester over the winter break has reaffirmed my love affair with my pillows, hence my parting ways with Mr. All Nighter. It was fun while it lasted, but I won’t miss him.
5) Thou shall not isolate thyself
When I feel stressed (which is unfortunately quite a common occurrence for me), I have a tendency to stubbornly isolate myself from others. My relationships with friends and family fall by the wayside while I try not to have a minor breakdown, a self-inflicted isolation that ultimately only makes me feel worse about everything. This semester I will remember to not forget how important my friends and loved ones are in keeping me sane while I am stressed.
6) Thou shall not be overly proud
This is related to the previous commandment, in that by isolating myself when all I really need is support, I only make the situation worse. I know why I do this: I am a particularly proud person, and often to my detriment. More often than not, if I am struggling it is unlikely that I will ask others for help, instead believing that I can do everything myself. I know this is foolish and illogical thinking, which is why I am pledging to ask for help and seek support when I need it rather than always relying upon myself and letting the situation and my sense of mental well being gradually worsen.
7) Thou shall try thy best
In addition to being stubborn and proud, I am also a perfectionist. I do not have a scale of effort; I can only complete tasks to the best of my ability and if I feel I can not do this, I do not undertake the task at all. This tendency often results in unnecessary stress for myself and the setting of goals which are often extremely difficult to reach. Consequently I am particularly hard on myself when I do not reach my lofty aims, and therefore this commandment seeks to remind me that all I can do is to try my best, and that that should be enough.
8) Thou shall be brave
The university environment is full of opportunities for personal growth and fulfilment. From extra-curricular activities to volunteering schemes and social sports to special-interest clubs, there is a plethora of activities on offer on campus. There is no other place where thousands of like-minded people gather to pursue similar goals of self-betterment and the acquisition of knowledge. My aim therefore is to become more involved and take advantage of all that is on offer; to be brave and step out of my comfort zone.
9) Thou shall not forget thy goals
It is extremely easy to become lost in the seemingly hundreds of pieces of assessment and never-ending list of readings that we undertake every semester. It is subsequently just as easy to forget why we are at university in the first place, to forget the goals we have set for ourselves. Ultimately it is our personal goals that make the best motivators, and every once in a while it is a good idea to remind ourselves of them!
10) Thou shall enjoy thyself
I think this one is fairly self-explanatory. I am at university to learn, but I am also here to grow as a person and to enrich my life with unique experiences. I all too often become engrossed in the former, whilst forgetting the later. This semester I will make a concerted effort to enjoy myself and to enjoy life generally because really, I have no reason not to.
These commandments will not be applicable to everybody, as we all have our own demons which result in our respective negative habits. However in posting them here, I am hoping to be held accountable to this list and potentially break the cycle which has plagued me over my year and half of tertiary education, that of good intentions led astray. Hopefully I do not regret this in a few weeks time!