Work Smarter, Not Harder

By: Cathrina Nauth

betta design / Foter / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: betta design / Foter / CC BY-NC

So it’s that time of the year again. A new semester has begun and we all return to our tightly packed schedules. As you rush from your biology lecture to your job, then back to your room to start all of that homework you have, while thinking of what you’re going to eat for dinner, you wonder whether you are exceeding the human work capacity. You begin to anticipate changing your work schedule, leaving organizations, or even dropping classes because it’s just all too overwhelming! However, there is an alternative – work smarter, not harder.

The phrase “work smarter, not harder,” is such an overstated adage that has probably lost its meaning, causing us to ignore it. If this sounds like you, maybe it is time to reexamine the phrase- look at it in a new light. We go through our lives, day by day, feeling as if we don’t have time to do everything we want to do. This can affect our grades, friendships, and stress levels. But sometimes, you just need to step back and reexamine everything. Think carefully choosing courses, while reexamining your time management skills with these tips.

1. Choose the right courses Don’t take unnecessary classes that will throw you off track for graduating on time. (Your parents might not be too happy about having to pay that 5th or 6th year tuition.) In order to make sure you are taking the right classes, talk to advisors or upperclassmen with your major or pre-professional program. Also, join related organizations through the Center for Student Organizations. It’s a great way to stay on track and meet people with advice about courses or professors.

2. Don’t look for the easy A classes GPA requirements on prerequisites and scholarships puts a lot of pressure on students to maintain high GPAs, but you want to make the most out of your time here at UGA. So, if you have credit from an AP course in high school, do not retake the class to make an “easy A.” Retaking classes you already have credit for, simply for a GPA boost only takes away from your time that you could use to join organizations, study abroad, or take a variety of classes.

3. Spread out your schedule Packing each semester with an overwhelming amount of difficult courses will only leave you wanting to give up. You know your strengths and weaknesses, so this should help you in your decision in scheduling classes. For instance, if you struggle with science courses, taking three science courses and their labs may not be a good idea for one semester, no matter how fast you want to get them over with.

4. Avoid procrastination “Time to study” should not be translated as “open tabs with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube while having an open book nearby.”  Take it as it literally is. Actually study. Shut off the world for a while and concentrate. Procrastination only causes your work to pile up, causing you to be working on homework until the sun goes down and comes up again. Avoid this by simply forcing yourself to ignore all distractions. This is easier said than done,  but practice makes perfect, and after a while, you’ll find hours magically added into your previously quick and hectic days.

5. Make a list of tasks Have an agenda, make a list on a sticky note, put it in your phone, anything. Just make a list of tasks that needs to be done. This will avoid that feeling of sudden anxiety when you finally lay down in your bed and you remember that you have that five page essay due tomorrow, and all you have on it is your name. Add tasks to your list as they come up. It even helps to cross out the ones you are done with. It gives you a slight feeling of accomplishment.

6. Don’t make it harder than it is Step back, breathe, take your day one step at a time. Don’t over think anything. After you organize your day, follow that schedule, and leave space for unexpected events that may come up. Follow your plan and don’t stress. Remember, slow progress is still progress.

7.  Cramming never works in the long run Studying a few sections each night will help you retain a lot more information that trying to cram everything in the night before. It may work for that one test, but think of all the studying you’ll have to do when final exams roll around. Remember, college isn’t all about grades; it’s about learning towards a career, so it’s important to actually know what you’re doing.

8. Actively read What’s the point of reading your textbook like a novel when it’s not one? There’s no storyline, no major characters, nothing. So read it like it should be read. Highlight, take notes, test yourself, do practice problems and make sure you understand everything!

9. Study in groups Sometimes, studying in groups can help you retain the information better because you are saying the information aloud. Also, everyone has different skills, so different people may be able to explain different ideas. But, be careful with group studying because it can lead to unrelated conversations, making your study time a lot longer than it should have been!

10.   Get involved, but not too much Graduate schools and potential employers do want to see that you are able to branch out, socialize, and do a variety of tasks.  But, don’t overwhelm yourself. Find a few organizations that you are really interested in- not the ones that you think will look good on an application- and dedicate yourself to it. Showing strong dedication to a few organizations is more important than trying to be a part of every organization on campus.

All of these tips are crucial, yet easier said than done. The best way to make sure you have a successful semester is to start building these habits now. It’s a new school year- a fresh start. So take the necessary courses, join all the organizations you want to be a part of, redefine yourself and make the most of the “new” you. There is no longer a reason to give off that “I’m busy all the time” vibe. Enjoy your college years. But, don’t wait until midterms roll around to start practicing these tips. Start building your habits early and success will ultimately follow.