What to do when the dream of syllabus week is over

‘Put away those beer funnels’

Syllabus week is over, and the true school year has begun. Put away your beer funnels and wipe last night’s mascara off your face, because now it’s time to be serious.

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That said, the fun of college does not need to be lost in a sea of reading, classes, and exams that are required of us. Simple habits and methodologies can be tailored to keep any of us on track. The key is figuring out what works for you and what does not – disregarding the myths around productive behavior, and utilizing tools and tricks that can be easily implemented.

The Myth

Productivity is not to be looked at as a chore, but rather a habit triggered by your environment. The key to being productive is to shape or build an environment best suited to enticing productivity out of you with little to no required thought.

Many students complain that lack of willpower is why they cannot accomplish all they desire or set out to do. This is completely incorrect. Willpower is possessed by all humans, and it is not a muscle to be exercised, but rather a reservoir to be preserved and utilized sparingly. What I mean is, if you need to force yourself to pick out clothes, scramble your books together, take a shower, and stumble through your messy room/hall way in order to get out the door in time for your 8am class, you probably won’t do it.

But if your clothes are laid out, books packed the night before, room tidy, and two alarm clocks set, there is very little excuse to be found to not go to class. All you need to do is grab your bag and go. You could even sleep in your clothes for tomorrow’s class if you are particularly bad at waking up in the morning. And the best part? This structured routine is far less taxing on your finite amount of willpower than the typical scenario most students find themselves in before class. Thus leaving you more willpower to put towards other more engaging activities in your day. All it takes is some planning and a few weeks to make it a habit.

Habits

Honestly, habits have been a favorite topic of mine for many years. I have read a great deal into habits (some books and links are provided below) and the science behind habits is truly fascinating. Habits determine what you do in a day. What you do in a day determines the success of your week. Your weeks add up to your year. Your years add up to your life. What you do every day is more directly related to who you are and who you become than any other factor in your life.

But What About The Party

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This is not to say that if you love to socialize and party, you have a “bad” habit and are going to fail in life. College is all about the party and socializing! And surprise – so is life! Any business cocktail party, mixer, or bar (even 5 points) is filled with people looking to chat and enjoy a few drinks. It is important to know how to socialize and drink without making a fool of yourself, and also while having some interesting things to say. Again, habits can help you accomplish this ideal. You can be that charming girl or guy that everyone wants to be next to, as long as you dictate your days rather than your days dictating you.

Liquor+Limits

One of the best tips or habits I could recommend for college students to work on while out on the town is the habit of drinking enough. Have that beer or cocktail, but avoid three shots in a row on top of that. Or have three shots in a row, but only if you have food in your stomach, and then cut off alcohol for an hour or two afterwards. Nobody wants a sloppy drunk, but in college it is easier to blend in with the other sloppy drunks. Have you ever seen a sloppy 30 year old at a business mixer? I have, and it is not a good look. College is the time to learn how to drink responsibly. Have enough to have a good time, once and a while you can get a little more of a buzz going on. But for the most part, try to find your “sweet spot.”

A habit to achieve this? The good old dash marks on your arm is a go-to. You will look a little stupid for a few weeks while you figure out what is a good amount of alcohol for you, but its far superior to looking stupid in front of your boss and all your coworkers in the future. If you mess up one night and get too drunk, it is no matter, start again the next night. If you fail at a habit you are trying to implement, DO NOT get discouraged. Decide if it is working for you, and if it is and you just made an honest mistake, pick it up the next day.

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If marking your arm does not work for you, record it on your phone as you are drinking. Or text a close friend of each drink you have had that night. Or take a selfie with each drink you have.  Anything that works for you to accomplish this specific goal is the way you should do it. There is no right or wrong way – habits should be molded to your life, not the other way around.

Further Inspiration

So now that I have introduced how to build a habit, I challenge you to take this template and put it towards any specific thing you wish to accomplish following these simple rules.

Pick one goal (example: build a stronger core)
Find a way to implement this goal into a habit (example: 3 minutes of core exercises)
Be specific (every day at 9 am before class)
Use tools to remind yourself (write reminders on post-it notes, on your bathroom mirror, and on your phone; set an alarm; lay out a matt and weights)
Track your results (a check mark for each day you accomplish this habit)
Do not be discouraged if you miss one day or fail one time, but alter habit if it is not working for you (move core work from 9 am to 4 pm)
Stick with it until it becomes routine (typically 2 to 4 weeks)

I hope you feel motivated to get out there and kill this semester. Just remember, whatever goals you have, you can accomplish them, and have a good time while doing so. You can drink vodka out the handle on a Tuesday night. Just make sure to do it while folding laundry before the night’s pregame. Oh, and avoid the khalua in your morning coffee. That is solely a Sunday brunch activity, to be used with caution and egg benedict.

More on Habits

Books:
Two Awesome Hours by Josh Davis; Ph.D
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Talks
Chalres Duhigg

Apps:
Productive (Habit Tracker)

More
University of South Carolina