Have you ever asked yourself what it means to “manage yourself”? Managing ourselves during Covid is really challenging. However, that’s not to say that we cannot learn how to find our strengths as students in order to leverage them to the best of our abilities.
A few years ago, prior to our current modus operandi of styluses instead of pencils, our classrooms at New Trier promoted an easier environment for us to manage ourselves by getting organized, finding easy study habits, and practicing time management.
Now with Covid’s wrath, we are forced to endure long hours on Zoom. But not only this, Covid has tested our focus by provoking various household distractions and easy cheat hacks as our days prolong into 24 hours. In order to manage ourselves, we must first find our inner grit to help seek out our strengths in our academics, as well as our extracurricular activities. But how can we properly manage ourselves if we can’t help scrolling through Netflix’s latest shows instead of paying attention in our classes?
To start off, it is important to understand what it means to properly manage ourselves through organization. The word “organization” is intimidating to many students– now more than ever– because we already have to carry the burden of studies, so adding time-consuming organizational methods on top of that burden just seems unbearable.
An anonymous sophomore reflected, “At the beginning of quarantine, I noticed myself falling deeper and deeper into a room filled with clothes everywhere, papers scattered across the floor, and dishes piled on my desk. I knew this had to change because I could feel my mood shifting to a bad place… [so] I cleaned up my room…[and] went from depression to determination.”
Although organization can require a lot of effort, and at times it can seem pretty inefficient, having a more structured method of operation actually ends up making things far easier in multiple ways. The most common way happens to be that writing down notes in complete sentences versus short, inarticulate fragments will prove to be more useful in the future when returning to them for midterms/finals exams.
Not only that, but studies have shown that recording handwritten notes with colors, drawings, as well as neatly recorded definitions and terms allow for a stronger retention of content. Yes, the thought of having to spend an extra half hour solely drawing pictures on your notes may seem mentally excruciating– but over time, developing strong habits will serve to be inexorably useful. Believe it or not, strengthening organizational skills will be necessary at some point in life, so it might be easier to strengthen them now.
Finding easy study habits is never easy for any student, and for some, remote learning has made it even more difficult. Our motivation for studying has diminished immensely, because we rely so heavily on the fact that we are allowed to use our school notes during our tests.
What many tend to realize, however, is that spending time searching for answers through their notes inevitably leads to students running out of time. Sophomore Sidney Lewenson admitted, “Last year, we were given a surprise test and it was open note, and I feel that I performed far worse than I would’ve had I studied–and I also did get a far worse grade than I did for the ones that I studied for… [Because] especially when I am in a time constraint, I am unable to find the quotes that I want in time.”
Maintaining study habits will only serve to benefit us. Once we all go back to in-person learning, the chances of us being allowed to rely on our notes for tests and quizzes are very slim. Making sure that we find tips and tricks that allow us to study quickly and efficiently with the time we have right now will certainly help us when we are no longer able to rely on our notes for answers.
Not only that, but studying before an exam will save time. Some possible tricks that may work for some students include making flashcards– or if that seems like a tedious task, using apps like Quizlet is another easy way to study terms relatively quickly. Some students also prefer studying content in parts. This means that instead of cramming at the last minute, students spend at least 10 minutes per night a week or so before a test redoing homework, test, and/ or quiz problems from a certain topic that they struggled with. Although this may seem like an excruciating task, studying– more specifically during these times– helps provide a burst of confidence prior to the test itself. Taking a test with confidence will definitely ensure a better test grade compared to taking a test with uncertainty.
One of the most important, but unfortunately difficult, skills that we students must master in order to achieve success in life is to practice time-management. Even without Covid, time-management is never easy.
For one thing, it is extremely easy to succumb to the lure of procrastination. Before we know it, the creeping deadline of the assignments we have postponed will spook us when we least expect it.
There have been a few studies, however, that have shown that sometimes procrastination results in a better finished product. However, the reason why time-management is important isn’t necessarily all about the finished product— it is more about the ability to do things with efficacy. For example, if student A were to procrastinate studying for a math test and in the end would end up getting a better grade than student B (who did not procrastinate, and studied the material in parts), just because student A might have scored higher, doesn’t mean that the student got the most out of the testing experience. The outcome of a better grade initially will be much more appealing. But when it comes time for us to find our career and manage our lifestyle, it is no longer about the better grade.
Now, in respect to procrastinating on our exams, since exams happen to be the most important test in our current lives as students, cramming, believe it or not, makes it harder to retain the information. Sure, to some extent the information might be more fresh than, say, the material studied a week ago. But the brain needs time and rest in order to fully process learning.
An anonymous sophomore reported, “The outcome for me in general with [time-management] was positive. Once I get stuff done, it is off my shoulders.” She added that improving time management allowed her to gain more motivation and family time.
Motivation is a skill that is hard to learn, and time-management can help find that motivation (especially in these dire times).
At the end of the day, none of this is easy. Simply reading about ways you can organize, study, and manage your time, is based on theory. Putting these ideas into practice is the hard part. Our lack of a proper classroom environment makes it easier to get distracted. The best we can do is attempt to mimic our own “classroom environments” in our homes.
Sophomore Sam Schmidt said, “the more organized your space is, the more it will feel like a school… [you should] have scratch paper on hand, a comfortable chair, and also have good lighting so that you don’t feel sleepy… you’re [also] not [going to] want to do work if it’s dark or uncomfortable.”