October has just started, marking the middle of the semester. Fewer people are showing up for class, you can’t tell if the Starbucks lines are getting shorter or longer, your class reading list is increasing in pages and midterms are rolling around the corner. Don’t fret!
It might sound cliché, but first, just take a moment to breathe and recollect your thoughts. Sometimes all you need is to slow down really quick to take a breather and find out where your head really is. If you’ve got clutter scattered around your brain, you’re going to have a hard time figuring out what to do next. Take some time to decide what is taking up space in your mind and what should really be there.
Should you go get some ice cream after classes, or should you go check to see if your library has the book you need to read for a lecture next week? Should you take a nap because your last lecture made you want to crash, or should you push through and do work to music that will hype you up? Once you’ve gathered your thoughts, make a list of those things that need to be done quickly and efficiently.
For many people, since the fall semester feels strangely long, this is the point in the year where time begins to slow down as midterms begin to pick up. Classes feel like they drag on as if they are never going to end, your head starts bobbing during lectures, and you are feeling more tired than usual. People find it increasingly difficult to find the willpower to keep up with their courses, but you shouldn’t be one of those people. If you are struggling to keep up with mid-semester hauntings, here are some productivity tips to help keep you from slugging down.
One beneficial method to successful productivity that most people don’t know about is “The Eisenhower Matrix.” Named after the 34th president of the United States, Eisenhower was a man of many achievements, from being a general in the U.S. Army and serving as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe for World War II, to simply enjoying hobbies like painting and golf. He was a man of his time, but he also knew how to manage his own, which is why some might expect a simple-to-follow productivity strategy from Eisenhower that genuinely works.
The Eisenhower Matrix is broken up into two parts, which are then broken into four. The four parts to this Matrix are: Not Important, Important, Urgent and Not Urgent. As shown in the box, tasks can be sorted further into four actions: Do, Decide, Delegate and Delete.
— If something is urgent and important, you will “do” that task immediately.
— If something is not urgent but important, you will “schedule” when to complete that task.
— If something is urgent but not important, you will “delegate” someone else for that task.
— If something is neither urgent or important, you will “get rid” of that task.
Most of these actions and examples are simple and relatively self-explanatory. For most students, homework that is due this week would be categorized to be “done now.” Work that can have some time to simmer would be “delegated” to the end of the week or to next week, if possible. Running low on food but don’t have time to go to the grocery store because you are “doing” homework? Delegate and use online grocery shopping such as Walmart Pickup, Target Drive Up, or HEB Curbside if you’re in Texas. Did your phone buzz while you were reading for your English class and now it’s been 20 minutes of scrolling through your Twitter feed? Stop that when you’re working!
This is the kind of thing that easily slows most people down while working since our phones and social media are readily (and literally) in our hands. As soon as you have sorted these thoughts, you can now get your days figured out with the tasks you need to do then, tasks you can do later and keeping other, unnecessary tasks out (or at least lessened) throughout your day.
Be sure to time yourself out efficiently, though. Make sure you don’t spend too much time on something that should only take about 30 minutes to complete, especially if you are mid-semester. If you misuse your time, that is when your to-do list really starts stacking up, which is what leads to slowing down in courses. No one wants to stress about when they turned in something, worrying about the possibility of not finishing an assignment on time or just disregarding your mental stability and function throughout the week.
By following the Eisenhower Matrix, all of these busy tasks in your week will be out of the way and done so you can have the time to do things for yourself. Since you’ll be more free, that means you will be a lot less stressed about classes and you can focus on yourself. You’ll also be able to review quicker rather than “studying” by cramming in one go.
While the Eisenhower Matrix is super helpful for time management and productivity, it honestly does not leave room for a vital human need: happiness. The next unofficial step to minimizing the mid-semester slug is to genuinely focus on yourself. So many articles will tell you the same thing, but everything really does come down to you. Falling asleep in class because you were working too hard the night before? Calm down and relax; try getting to bed earlier the next night. Starting to break out because you’re stressing over midterms? You’ll be okay! Treat yourself to a night for YOU. Face masks and acne scrubs aren’t just for the ladies, my guys. If you want to feel good in your own skin, go for it. Take time to dig down into yourself and destress, even if that means a rewarding night of your favorite bag of chips, ice cream, and a movie.
These things are not listed in the matrix because when it comes to successful productivity, people don’t tend to set time away for events or tasks that bring them joy. For example, if you are someone who really loves football, go ahead and watch football – just don’t let that be the only thing you do with your time because then you’ll fall out. If you are not happily functioning, then you won’t get to successfully go on about your week using the Eisenhower Matrix, which is a great tool to use come the mid-semester slow-down.