Like clockwork, New Year’s resolutions seem to dominate our conversations each December, as the year comes to a close. And while we can all agree that it’s a nice tradition and that the coming year provides a clear starting date for your goal, why don’t we treat the start of the school year the same way? Despite school being a massive part of my life growing up, I almost never made academically oriented resolutions simply because it was in the middle of my calendar year -- which is the marker of time that matters most to students. Over the past few years, I have begun making academic resolutions at the start of each school year with positive results. I encourage you to do the same and if you don’t have any ideas, try starting with this resolution:
Do 15 minutes of work each Saturday morning.
This was the resolution I gave myself as I entered my freshman year of college. Here I am several years later, and now it’s just a part of my weekly routine. As someone who struggles with procrastination, it has absolutely lessened the amount of work I leave for Sunday nights. For me, there are three main ways in which just 15 minutes of work on a Saturday morning changes the structure of the weekend.
Firstly, it gets me out of bed on those lazy mornings. Some days I just want to lay in bed until lunchtime, and on Saturdays I have the ability to do so. However, this frequently results in a lethargic, unproductive day and isn’t a strong start to the weekend. So instead, I start my day off with a super manageable amount of work! 15 minutes of work is just enough that I feel like I have accomplished something, yet it doesn't dominate my day and allows me to enjoy my Saturday.
Secondly, it helps to boost my creativity on projects and essays. For example, if I find myself struggling to generate ideas for an essay, I like to use the 15 minutes as a brainstorming session. Most of the time, I don’t end up using the ideas I come up with during that time; but that is not the goal. The goal is to get my brain thinking about the essay and to allow it to percolate in my mind throughout the day. I often find myself returning to the essay later that same day to jot down some fresh ideas that seemingly popped into my head because even when I wasn’t actively working on it; my brain continued to subconsciously think, analyze, and question. I’ve developed some of my best thesis statements and project proposals this way.
Thirdly, as I alluded to earlier, it alleviates my procrastination. People procrastinate for different reasons and in different ways; personally, my biggest hurdle for overcoming procrastination is just starting. The 15 minutes on a Saturday morning helps to alleviate the stress I have over starting because I’m only committing to 15 minutes of work. I’m not tackling a massive, daunting task, I’m simply working for 15 minutes. I don’t have to worry about how long this project will take, or if I can’t get the math problem done perfectly, because I’m not trying to finish everything I need to get done. All I’m doing is working for 15 minutes. I should mention that quite often I’ll work beyond 15 minutes! After all, if I’m already halfway done, why not finish this assignment? But to start, just focus on those first 15 minutes.
There are plenty of tips and tricks out there to help students get the most out of their school year, but there is no magic formula. Honestly, it can be overwhelming to know which ones to try and which might work for you. My advice is to start small. Try doing 15 minutes of work every Saturday morning and stick with it for the entire school year. You will be surprised with the results.
Jacob Connell is a junior at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University.