Homework Tips for College First-Years and Other Smart People Who Want to Get Stuff Done

If you are a college First Year, right about now you might be feeling a little bit overwhelmed. It’s getting real. But before the excrement hits the air-conditioning (h/t to Kurt Vonnegut), you can take some fairly simple steps to gain control over your homework, your schedule, and your life.

Here are some straight-froward homework tips for college freshmen and other smart people who want to get stuff done:

Get a planner. Many schools give them out for free at the beginning of each semester. The physical act of writing something down helps lodge it into your memory. Start with the big picture, then narrow things down to the present moment (we’ll get back to the present moment in a minute). Outline your month, outline your week, then outline your day.

Go to class. You (or your parents) are paying for it. Go to class! Being active and present in class is one of the very best study tools you will find. By making comments and asking questions, you’ll start to internalize the lessons made available in class. Take full advantage of your time there.

Find a quiet place. Find a sweet study carrel in the library and set up shop. Without the easy distractions of Frisbee and food and the hook-up scene and FOMO, you’ll find the space to actually start to enjoy your studies.

Establish a routine. Find a time to study and stick with it. Make it a habit. Even if you don’t have a specific assignment, use your study time to go over your notes or make a plan.

Stay positive. Staying positive is easier said than done. But there are some techniques that can help you strengthen your positivity muscles. Take time to notice your thought patterns. (Journaling about your thoughts can bring you some insights here.) Notice when your thoughts start to take a nose-dive toward negativity. With some practice, you’ll start to notice when and how your thoughts plummet. With more practice, you can start to divert your thoughts before they even start to head downhill.

Stay hydrated. Your brain is 75% water. Proper hydration improves cognition, mood, memory. It’s a no-brainer. Stay hydrated. (We’ve got some great suggestions.)

Breathe. I know, right? It sounds so new-agey, but simply focusing on your breath can be an excellent meditation that helps you do anything from regaining your composure to sharpening your memory to lowering your heart rate. You’ll gain present moment awareness. Try it.

Have fun. Don’t forget to make time in your busy life for fun. Find some balance among your activities, both scholastic and personal. Your college years will be over much too soon, enjoy them while you’re there.