The Finals Week Guide to Productive TV-Watching 

Ondiek’s amazing post last week about how our lives start to resemble sit-coms really resonated with me, because as I’ve mentioned in past posts, I am a TV enthusiast.

My problem though, is that the binge watching tends to take over my life during finals because it is my brain’s number one method of procrastination. So, I’ve taken the liberty of putting together some my go-to tricks for TV-watching in a safe, productive and not-at-all harmful to your education kind of way.

If you’re one of the stronger few who are able to resist TV all together while studying, then kudos to you my friends! But if you’re like me and you’re weak, then enjoy some structured TV time. YOU DESERVE IT, U OF T.

1. Don’t start any new shows. – The age of online TV streaming from Netflix, Hulu, Shomi etc, means that I will have all ten seasons of Grey’s Anatomy at my disposal, waiting to be watched. My worst set of finals was the semester that I decided to start watching it while studying. Yes, I know all the reviews of Orange is the New Black are amazing, and I know that my friend has been recommending House of Cards for like a year now, but IT’S A TRAP.

No matter how great the teaser, be strong my friends: 

2. Use it as a pick-me-up or reward – For my last essay I used an episode of the Mindy Project (one of my favorite shows) as a reward for finishing each page of writing. The episodes are only 20 minutes long, so it doesn’t cut into my productivity, and Mindy is so funny that I go back to my essay writing in a better mood.

Don’t let your breaks be great. Let them be GRRRREAT.

3. Re-watch episodes you’ve seen before. – This is a where I feel the most guilty about my TV watching. Sometimes I’m so bored that I just feel like watching while studying. Or I like to have background noise. To slowly curb this terrible habit, I got into re-watching episodes or scenes that I’ve seen before. This way, I don’t feel the need to give all my attention to the episode, and I can actually get work done. But I don’t recommend this for anything other than note-taking/ transcribing, because otherwise you might start thinking about Troy’s fan-boy meltdown on Community, instead of the five principles of Medicare, and that is mildly problematic (I’ve been there).

So there you have it. Happy watching, and happy finals everyone! If you have any tips on how to curb this TV procrastination even more, then let me know down in the comments!

All Night Long (Not the Lionel Richie Song)

I don’t know if this has occurred to anyone yet, but today is the last day of March! AHHH! The break is so close — I can taste it!  I can’t believe this is my last post! Logically then, I’ve decided to write a post celebrating everything I got to do this year. First, let me take a moment to thank everyone who helped to make my year spectacular!

No guys, I’m just kidding. You guys are all stuck with me until the exam season ends! ***

Keeping in the spirit of March, I’m going to tackle a topic that we have all experienced. Lionel Richie calls it a fiesta, but I call it an all-nighter. 

TRIGGER WARNING: this post may hit too close to home, and bring back some awful memories about the coffee coma you experienced writing that PHL100 paper about Descartes. I think, therefore I cram.

All-nighters. To be perfectly honest, I have only done one proper (paper) all-nighter since my first year. I don’t have to do them because I’m always up-to-date with my assignments and tests. Not because I’m almost 21 years old, and can’t actually be functional after 10PM without the risk of breaking a hip. I pinky promise that it’s not the latter.

A picture of me balancing an orange highlighter between my nose and lips. I'm giving a thumbs up. I am evidently very tired - how did I think that hair was okay? Ugh.

Look at my awful 2012 hair.

Anyways, let’s get the pleasantries over before I give you some helpful ~*~*tips*~*~ All-nighters should be your absolute last choice. There are a considerable amount of negative consequences associated with it. So, before deciding to pull one, make sure you’ve attempted to at least ask for an extension. You will do objectively better if you’re not attempting academia around the same time they play re-runs of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

But sometimes that’s just unavoidable. So here are a few things I do to make the best out of this sad, sad situation. 

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFOREHAND: Oh my god, I can’t stress this enough. It’s tiring enough having to write an entire paper in one night, but having to spend time looking for resources before actually starting the paper. You’ll be more stressed than Zayn (formerly of One Direction).
  2. SET YOUR ALARM(S): Every hour. On the hour. You never know when you’ll accidentally pass out. Who’s going to be there to wake you up? No one! This is the real word. Never let your guard down.
  3. BRING PROTEIN, FRUITS, AND GUM: Consistently snacking on natural sugars and nuts keeps you energized without the terrible crash of caffeine. Chew gum to keep your mind off sleeping, and to quell those nasty thoughts telling you that a B on this paper is not possible at this point. Chew on, soldier.
  4. CAFFEINE: Who am I kidding? Of course you’ll need coffee at some point. All-nighters and coffee go together like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Try your best not to drink caffeine unless you’re absolutely sure that you’ve reached your limit. Try to take it slow. SIPS. If you want to take a short 20-minute nap, have some coffee beforehand. It works WONDERS.
  5. BREATHE: Your number one priority should be self-care. If you mentally can’t finish this paper in one night – don’t. Nothing is worth risking your mental health. Take the penalty, and you’ll feel so much better for it. You’ll probably still get a higher mark working on a paper when there are other humans actually awake.

Remember that you’ll survive. This is only one night. Uno.

Stay gold, UofT. Stay gold.

– Ondiek

Planning to Procrastinate

I have never felt so emotionally attached to an e-card as the one you see below. 

procrastination

Not only do I feel like this victorian lady is my spirit animal, but I also feel as if I may have actually written this e-card subconsciously, and am now just re-discovering it for the first time. 

My name is Rachael, and I am a professional procrastinator. 

I’ve always been fully aware of my procrastination habits – even in high school I was a night-before essay writer. At university I’ve definitely met some procrastination pros who surpass even me, but I’ve also met hundreds of people who plan and perfect things weeks in advanced. 

I always use to compare myself to these people. They must be getting such better marks than me. Their lives are probably so stress-free. THEY MUST BE LITERALLY PERFECT AND I WANT TO BE THEM IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE. 

image2

My preferred form of procrastination is Netflix, coffee, and painting my nails

But over the last semester, I’ve learned that I’m not just a typical procrastinator. No, I actually plan to procrastinate. I know that may seem like an oxymoron, but it really is true. I am the most organized last-minute procrastinator you will probably ever meet. 

If I have an essay due on Monday, I will make sure I’ve done all my research by Friday, and I will spend all day Saturday and Sunday locked in ROBARTS creating in depth outlines and rough copies. By 8pm on Sunday night – I will have a perfect (at least to me at the time) essay ready to be handed in the next morning. 

image1

More important than this realization however, was the realization that maybe this is okay. 

Procrastination has such an awful stigma attached to it. The entire internet is filled with procrastination memes and 2am Facebook posts by stressed out students. They contribute to this idea that procrastination is an inadequate and unacceptable form of studying.

I know that there are hundreds of research projects out there that tell you all the reasons why procrastination is bad for your mental health and your grades, there are actually quite a few out there who say that procrastination isn’t as bad as we make it out to be

Sure, if you’re skipping deadlines and missing assignments, your procrastination is getting a bit out of control. But if you find that you’re actually able to produce your best work when you procrastinate, and it’t not affecting your physical or mental health, then who am I (or the Internet) to tell you that you’re doing it wrong? 

When I eliminated the stigma around my procrastination – I found I was actually able to produce better results, and be less stressed in the process. I didn’t feel like I was doing something wrong, or like I had “planned to fail, by failing to plan.” 

Instead, I would sit down and set out a timeline of my procrastination. I would re-schedule my time, knowing that I was going to spend the entire weekend in the library. Overall, I think this has actually made be a better – and certainly happier – student. 

What’s your option on procrastination? Do you embrace it, or does it embarrass you? Or do you not do it at all!? Let me know in the comments below! 

Are You Ready for the Test???

Being prepared for tests is a complicated art. Exams are the most individual task you will do in university. It’s just you and the test, so don’t let your mind go rushing onto all your other responsibilities. Your soul must be centered. Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual balance are key to preparing and working on all those areas in advance when you still have time and strength is the best failsafe.

Before and during tests, you have the opportunity to fight for every mark. One helpful trick I’ve found is to do practice tests, quizzes and review at the time of day when your exam will be. Exams can be held at strange times, so it’s good to get into the habit of working on the specific material on your test at those weird times.

Two battered erasers with paperclip guns and bottle cap helmets

These are my study soldiers: veterans of seven semesters of duty (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Eat a healthy, large meal before your test so you don’t go hungry or have an upset stomach. Bring everything you need for the test and bring spares if you can. Pens, pencils, sharpener, eraser and your T-card are must-haves, and depending on your course, you may need a non-programmable calculator so bring one with batteries! Also, bring a watch! Most test rooms at U of T don’t have clocks. The worst feeling in the world is when your exam invigilator says you only have 20 minutes left and you’ve only done the first tenth of the test because you couldn’t keep track of time!

a pencil sharpener, two pencils, two pens, an eraser, and a non-graphing calculator

Test-taking kit (Photo by Zachary Biech)

a watch on my arm

Not sure of the time? Better watch it! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Be 100% sure of your test location because you don’t want to show up to the wrong room. If you’re not familiar with the location, check it out a few days in advance so you know where to go and what the room will be like. Exam rooms here can be very large, strange and intimidating at first so do yourself a favor and get used to it beforehand.

Leave early when you are going to the test because you never know what can happen along the way. Traffic, construction, and many emergencies can stop you from getting there on time and can cost many marks.

There’s also an art to the moments before tests begin. First, make sure you use the bathroom before you go into the test room!!! I’ve written too many tests where I couldn’t think straight because I had to go so badly!

Second, you have to keep centered when you’re waiting to get into test room with all your classmates. I’ve found that students can hugely destabilize each other outside test rooms. Some people are so stressed that they’re shaking, unclean and sleep-deprived and their behavior can rattle others.

The other thing you have to watch out for students who try to rattle you and your classmates. I’ve played plenty of games with such people. They may try to shake your confidence by asking you if you reviewed obscure topics just to make you worry, and suggesting that weird questions you’ve never heard of will be on the test. They also act overly confident and may try getting you to lend them pencils or erasers just to bother you and to eliminate your spares.

Avoid those people as best you can and remember that you only need to trust yourself and your instinct. I remind myself to expect that behavior so I can shrug off their nonsense. They are laughable so you might even be able to get a good chuckle from them if you need it!

When you finally begin the test, you’re near the finish line! Listen to your exam invigilators and follow their instructions carefully so you don’t break any rules. Monitor your use of time and leave yourself with enough time at the end to check your work. Stay for the whole duration of the test. You may wonder, “why am I the first one done?” or, “why am I the last one done? Why is everybody leaving already?” Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, only focus on your test. Use every minute, fight for every mark. If a question is about something you didn’t prepare for, you may feel a jolt of panic. Breathe, and keep centered if this happens. Skip to a different question if necessary and come back at the end.

Don’t give up on any questions! Finish all the questions you know the best and use the time you’ve left yourself at the end to squeeze as many marks from the difficult ones as possible! You will surprise yourself with how many marks you can earn yourself with this extra effort and you definitely deserve those marks! Leave all the energy you have in that test room, and your result will be the best reward you can give yourself.

Fighting for every mark is hard and takes lots of motivation. I attended a talk by Chantal Fiola–a Métis scholar of identity, politics, and spirituality–on March 16th. I was even given the honor of conducting the smudge for all attendees at the beginning of the presentation! Chantal shared many invaluable lessons and insights from her life’s journey and also shared key Anishinaabe teachings, including the Seven Fires prophecy.

Her new book: http://uofmpress.ca/books/detail/rekindling-the-sacred-fire

Her explanation was an immensely helpful reminder for me of those teachings and of what our role is at U of T. We are the seventh generation. We are a new type of people with many precious gifts as well as an immensely difficult task. The path we must navigate is very hard but the hope and potential we can nourish by fighting for every single mark is worth every moment. What we do here every day at U of T, in every classroom and with every test, will cause change more positive and productive than anything that has yet been seen in the world.

I wish I could’ve thanked Chantal for reminding me to fight for every mark. The tests and assignments and endless workloads may drive us nuts, but we can always remember that we’re lucky to have the opportunity to be driven nuts by such important material and invaluable experience for the journey ahead.

Having fun with learning

It sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but I think it’s really important to have fun with your studies. There are a few reasons for this. On the one hand, you’ll have an easier time studying and learning if you like studying and learning. You may also be able to remember things better through fun and humour, than you would with other brute memorization and learning techniques. It might also make that content you learn more accessible for the non-academic community (we’re all about the social transmission of knowledge these days). For me, it helps to understand content if I can learn it in a fun way.

So, that said, here are the top five ways I have fun with my learning.

1. Weird associations. Sometimes you remember things through associations. We used to be taught the order of the planets by thinking “my very excellent mother just served us nine pizzas” (though these days, she probably just serves us noodles). When I try to remember which ancient Greek philosopher came first, Plato, Aristotle, or Socrates, I just picture them all hanging out in a spa together, talking about the [im]plausibility of each other’s theories: S-P-A, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. These are simple ones, but they get continually more bizarre as time proceeds.

2. Bad puns. This Valentine’s Day, I wrote and tweeted 288 philosophy-related pickup lines; and, in general, I’m always making bad puns. Like weird associations, bad puns help me to make more connections with the things I’ve learned, while having a lot of terrible fun doing so. Now, whenever I learn a new concept, I try to keep in mind how I might be able to turn it into a pun. Trying to recall some geneaology of Ancient Greece? Try the line: “Is your father Charmantides? Because you’re Gorgias.” And then, when trying to remember the father’s name, just run by (1) and make an association: I think of Charmander the pokemon, because the pick up line is supposed to imply that the other is also hot.

3. Songs. I’ll leave this one to Sarah’s latest post. But while I never sing outside of the shower, I constantly have songs stuck in my head. Why not make them educational?

4. Conversation Challenges. Every now and then, I like to make sure I’m able to apply what I learn. Especially since what I tend to learn are things in philosophy, and those things are rarely presented in a way that seems important or valuable to a wider community. So, every now and then, I challenge myself to bring up a particular concept or theory in at least one conversation per day. It’s not always easy, but I’ve been surprised in what connections can be drawn. You try bringing the principle of unrestricted mereological composition into a conversation about where to eat tonight: not that easy!

5. Jokes. Just like the other challenges, the trick is to try and turn what I learn into the punchline of a bad joke. What’s a better way to break the ice at a party than a subject-specific knock-knock joke? Plus, if you’re brave enough to share your joke, you’ll also have to be able to explain the punchline, which helps motivate you to know your theories. If you tell someone that Socrates walks into the club like “Hey y’all what’s Good?”, you’ll have to have a good grasp on the Platonic Forms and the socratic method, as well as a good appreciation for the fact that this joke will never be as funny as I want it to be. But that’s the point.

Have any other tips on how to make learning
fun or enjoyable? Leave them in the comments!

A Beginners Guide to (almost, kind of) Surviving Statistics

Throughout all the trials and tribulations of university, whether it be cramming for 5 midterms in one week, or starting a 3000 word essay the night before, there is only one thing that actually, genuinely terrifies me:

Statistics. 

picture of Api with a face palm

Stats = eternal face palm :(

Unfortunately, the introductory statistics courses are required for my major. Of all my courses, it’s the one lecture that I don’t find interesting and engaging. To me, it’s like statistics has become the lone MySpace page in a sea of artfully crafted Facebook profiles.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always found understanding statistics difficult. Maybe it all the “analysis” or whatever that’s involved, but my brain does not work that way. In the summer, I managed to get through the first introductory statistics course here at U of T (STA220, PSY201 or their equivalents) but I had a very specific system that made getting through the course a little bit easier.

I thought I would be done with statistics, but my best friend the Course Calendar kindly informed me that I still needed another half credit.

Api looking disconcerted

Statistics. Honestly.

There I was, once again terrified of numbers, so I knew it was time to refer back to my statistics game plan. I’ve also met many classmates who share the same anxious feelings towards to statistics, so hopefully this helps not just me, but everyone who’s tackling the course this semester (and in semesters to come)!

API’S POSSIBLY FOOLPROOF STATS GAME PLAN

1. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE

I remember on the first day of my first statistics my professor telling the class that we had to constantly do practice questions to keep up, and I’m not going to lie: I scoffed. DO THEY UNDERESTIMATE MY ABILITY TO SUCCESSFULLY CRAM INFORMATION INTO MY HEAD THE NIGHT BEFORE? No. No they did not. It took me a full three-day library session at Robart’s to actually catch up with the small amount of material I nonchalantly didn’t do.

2. There’s a Statistics Aid Center!!! 

It didn’t know about the Statistics Aid Centre until after I took statistics, dropped the course and then finally buckled down and took it the second time. They have people on hand to help you and it’s an amazing resource to make use of!

3. Finding statistics software 

My stats course included assignments and homework that were done on statistical software, and I found out that Robart’s Library has computers with statistical software installed on them! There’s also a computer lab at Sidney Smith with computers as well! I designated a weekly time to use the computer labs, so not only was I saving money on purchasing the software, I was also making myself have at least a few hours of stats practice each week.

Api giving a thumbs up

GOD SPEED, MY FRIENDS

So there you have it folks. That was my statistics game plan, and I’m hoping it’s going to work again this semester. Good luck everyone!

If you have any other tips, let me know down in the comments or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

Studying: Gluttony 101

We’ve all been there before. You know the feeling right? You’ve been sitting on your laptop for hours and hour on end (and by that, I mean an hour and a half), and you begin to feel like your life is a never-ending buffet of bad choices and carbs. I call it studying.

Like many other students, I stress eat during finals season. During the months of November and December I can only really describe myself as an anthropomorphic chipmunk preparing for hibernation by eating as many Timbits as I can possibly muster my body to consume. That’s okay though, I’m burning the calories by exercising my brain and learning about the paradox of Black masculinity in the Western world. It’s kind of like high-paced Zumba for your neurons.

A top view picture of a box of Timbits. There is only one Timbit left!

I promise it wasn’t me this time!

And I am kidding. I think we can objectively agree that it’s a tragic situation.

Luckily, this year I have been trying to eat and drink more healthy options during my study sessions!

As I said before, I’ve tried to limit every student’s vice – caffeine. That doesn’t mean that I’ve completely stopped having caffeine – I’m still a student! No, I have just limited my intake. When I do drink coffee instead of tea, I make sure to do it in moderation. I don’t mean to sound like a mom, but when you drink coffee make sure you don’t overdue it, and make sure to drink water along with it to stay hydrated. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve become too jittery or headachy to comprehend even the most basic of understanding of globalization.

A picture of a cup of tea and a small box of tuna and crackers.

Fish ‘n tea!

And who can talk about caffeine without bringing up sugar? My friends, it may seem like a fantastic idea to buy a box of Ferrero Rocher to bring some holiday cheer into your study session, but it’s not worth it. The like 3 seconds of high that you get will not be worth the amount of time it takes to recover from a devastating sugar crash. It wasn’t worth the fatigue, loss of concentration, and impending sense of doom I felt. Instead, be like me, and save the Ferrero Rocher for after you are done your exams, and are in the warm embrace of Netflix (they now have every episode of the Gilmore Girls!). It’s natural sugars that come from fruits give me the boost I need to conquer my empty Word documents.

A picture of a bottle of Coke Zero in front of a book. The label of the bottle says "Jessica."

Coke Zero (or Jessica) sometimes counts as a fruit.

Still, it’s okay to get wild every so often. When I near the end of my study session, that’s when I allow myself to get maybe… not… the… healthiest food. Sushi is my kryptonite, and tempura is its partner in crime. I’m human! It’s okay to splurge once in a while, and you know what it makes me study way more efficiently when I know sushi will be at the end of the grey-coloured rainbow.

A selfie of me giving a peace sign to the camera in my awesome cartoon farmer cow sweater. Also, there's huge plate of sashimi in front of me!

Treat yo’ self!

Just remember to try and stay healthy through the intense (it’s now a sport) times of studying, UofT, and you’ll be just fine. I know I am!

hold up, wait a minute

When I nervously sit down for an interview, and the interviewer asks me the inevitable question of how I manage my time, I smile, sit up really straight, and confidently state: “I’m great at prioritizing my work!”

Selfie of Api.

My very rehearsed “I’m great at interviews” face.

It all started back in high school, when I faced the challenge of being in an internationally recognized advanced high school diploma program. I wasn’t doing amazingly well, so I had the option of dragging through the program and learning advanced material at a faster pace while risking the marks that universities would see, or, I could switch out into the regular academic program and get good grades for university (which is all that mattered to me in high school apparently).

It was one of the first big decisions I had to make about my education, and my parents left it completely up to me! I decided to prioritize my university career and I dropped the program, eventually letting my marks bring me to U of T. This experience made me realize that there’s a fine line between quitting when the going gets tough, or making the right decision for myself at the right time. (I choose the latter.)

Fast forward to about a month ago when all my responsibilities got the best of me. I got overwhelmed with school, student groups and two jobs. So, I knew it was time for a little bit of prioritization. So here’s my handy guide on how to make lemonade, when life starts whipping fastball lemons right at your face:

I wrote down all of my responsibilities and listed:

  • Why I’m involved with each?
  • How much time they take up?
  • What kind of commitment have I given them? (Did I sign a contract? Is a team relying on me?)
  • What were the consequences of taking said responsibility out of my life?

This series of questions, give or take a few, really helped me put things into perspective. I ended up quitting my second job, which, yes, is literally quitting, but it really helped me get back up on that horse! I had more time to devote to studying and extracurricular activities. I finally had some breathing space, and it made a huge difference!

Screen shot of Api on giant screen at Convocation Hall with text cap on the photo reading "who dat"

Rule 1: Always prioritize Community Crew. Or things like might stop happening.

So tell me U of T, how do you prioritize your work? Let me know down in the comments, or on Twitter at @Api_UofT

Total Test Result Turmoil – or how the Academic Success Center can save your neck

It’s that blessed time of year again – mid-terms. Or, for our friends in engineering or music, the time of year when students in every other Faculty get a small and terrifying glimpse into every week of their term, mid or otherwise.

In the whirl of essays, labs and tests, it is inevitable that one – or several – will not go as planned and you’ll get a mark back that is much lower than you ever thought you’d receive.

Take heart, young grasshopper, life will go on!

Take heart, young grasshopper, life will go on! Source: Aleksey Gnilenkov (CC BY 2.0).

It is important to ask yourself though, and answer honestly, “what happened?”

Obsessing over every question on a test, or inwardly ranting about how you “should have known that, dammit!” is not a good use of your time or brain power, but asking yourself “In future, how could I handle that better?” is certainly not.

This is not meant to shame you if you didn’t do well, but there are ways to handle the fallout which will better ensure success next time round.

Consider the following questions:

  1. What is your mark, actually? If you failed a test, that’s different; but if you got a “bad” mark in your terms, where does that leave you? I came out of high school with the impression that an 84 was a disappointment. If you got a 75 and you’ve never seen marks that low, recognize that standards in university are different. Some may compare themselves to the class average, but I prefer rather to discuss my concerns directly with an instructor or teaching assistant. Perhaps they’re just tough markers. Maybe I didn’t understand the type of answer they were looking for. Maybe (and this is unlikely but possible) they misgraded it and speaking to them would get that rectified.
  2. How did you study? Consider making a trip to the Academic Success Center (ASC) if information isn’t sinking in, or you’re having trouble with motivation, memory or concentration. You can make One-on-one appointments with a learning strategist, but they have fantastic handouts and articles to help you with everything from motivation to time management while you wait for your appointment.
  3. If you didn’t understand the material at all, where can you fill in the gaps? Your Teaching Assistant and instructor are the first resources to try, but there is always University of Toronto Peer Tutoring, your College’s or faculty’s writing center (a directory is here), or YouTube.
  4. What stopped you from “getting it” in the first place? No one will be perfect in every subject, but if you can pinpoint the fact you find lectures hard to follow or don’t understand the problem sets or readings you’ve been given, that will help to isolate your particular challenges. Again, the academic Success Center is a great resource here.
  5. Was it an issue of running out of time during the test? Were you incredibly anxious and forgot things? Consider talking to someone at the ASC for support in managing your test-taking challenges.

At the end of the day though, the important thing to remember is that this is but one evaluation of several. It’s as much about your self-awareness as it is your ability to recall information. It feels bad when you get a bad mark, but it does not mean that you won’t pass the course, and it certainly doesn’t mean that your grades won’t improve ever or that you’ll be unceremoniously chucked from the University of Toronto with no friends or future prospects to speak of. It is but one bump in the academic road, and the only thing to do now is to keep on truckin’.

Stay strong, U of T, we will get through this.

Holistic Living for a Busy Schedule

My head can really get spinning. With so much going on, including schoolwork, tests, classes, extracurriculars and events, things can get crazy. Stress is a part of university life especially during flip-out times like midterms. But stress is natural and if you aren’t a little stressed about your university activities, you aren’t doing it right.

Let me explain; stress in controlled, healthy amounts is actually a good thing. Going into a mental tailspin, however, is not. If you have a balanced schedule full of activities you enjoy, the stress won’t feel like stress. It will feel like energy. This energy is good and there are many strategies to access it.

Two erasers standing vertically, with pop bottle caps for helmets and paper clips for rifles

Meed Bob and Ted, some veteran study soldiers from my first year. When you are overloaded with work, you can always count on your ability to distract yourself. (photo by Zachary Biech)

I’ll give you an example. Early October has been crazy for me. I’ve never spent so much time doing so many things all at once. In my opinion, it’s a little early in the year to have two midterms and a heavily weighted essay all in October’s first week. But here’s the strange thing. I’ve been working fifteen hours a day for a month straight and yet, my brain never went into code-red meltdown mode.

First reason: My schedule is full of things I love. There. Boom. Easy.

If you fill your day with your passions, it won’t feel like such a battle.

Second: My schedule is balanced.

Your schedule can’t be too heavy on the work and too light on fun and health-oriented activities and vice versa. All work and no play blahblahblah. But how much of each part of your life is necessary and what should actually be included in your day?

First Nations House has an Elder-in-Residence whom I’ve visited a number of times. His name is Andrew Wesley and he is Omushkego Cree from Fort Albany. Elders have invaluable, immense knowledge to share. The teachings I’ve received include protocol for ceremonies which have greatly helped me. At FNH as well as the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto there is plenty of help finding whatever medicines you may need. Also, you can talk with FNH’s Learning Strategist, Bonnie Jane Maracle.

http://www.ncct.on.ca/giftshop.php

Four small medicine bags, made of yellow, red, blue, and white cloth all pointing outwards in the four directions.

These are medicines of the four directions placed in my apartment to ensure it is a safe place to be. The entire atmosphere changed instantly when I put these up. (photo by Zachary Biech)

A small dream-catcher with dark red, white, and teal beads and a multicolour cloth from a Métis sash

My special dream-catcher. The cloth is a small piece of a Métis sash, given to me by Bruce Dumont, President of the Métis Nation of British Columbia. (photo by Zachary Biech)

Elders in Toronto have also really helped me grasp the value of the medicine wheel in balancing life to maintain healthy relationships with the four parts of our beings. You can definitely explore teachings like these at university. There’s more to learn than I could ever teach.

http://www.fourdirectionsteachings.com/main.html

A small living room with tall white bookshelf cubes and TV stand, with a red coffee table and red doors in the white furniture, and with a white with blue ripples in the fabric

The original colour scheme of my apartment: balanced but needed one more colour of the four directions. Can you tell which one? (photo by Zachary Biech)

Here’s a beginner’s guide: life is a continual four-part cycle of our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves. Only you know what fills these areas in your life, but rest assured, they all should be respected.  Every Saturday, I spend four hours or so scheduling my week. Though massive, these schedules are balanced in the four areas and allow me to maintain physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. They’re even colour-coded. Thus, I get more done, I’m healthier in the four areas, and the stress isn’t all that stressful.

A large agenda book with one page of colour-coded daily schedules and the other filled with notes for action items

A relatively light week (photo by Zachary Biech)

A close-up view of daily schedules with colour-coded action items and symbols that only I can understand

When in doubt, colour-code EVERYTHING. My system has become so elaborate, I have a whole new symbol language in there too. (photo by Zachary Biech)

A small memo booklet open to a page with meal plans for each day of the week

An example of my personal management system: The meal plan for this week from the meals section of my memo ledger. (photo by Zachary Biech)

My strategy for balance may not be a perfect match for you, but I think the idea of balance definitely is. If you approach university life holistically, and you fill your days with projects that you love, it’ll go way smoother.

A list of personal action items (music, exercise, ceremonies, reading) and a medicine wheel drawn in my large agenda book

Balance is a big part of my schedule. (Photo by Zachary Biech)

What do you do to maintain your wellness?

pictures of home, cloths for medicines, and a mezmorizing blue lava lamp

Some tools for balance: pictures of home, cloths for medicines, and a mesmerizing lava lamp. (photo by Zachary Biech)