Courtesy of UCR Today
Courtesy of UCR Today

Whether you’ve been sleeping and Netflix-ing away to your heart’s content, enjoying delicious homemade meals, working or even keeping busy with other classes and obligations, the moment you’ve been dreading or anticipating is finally here: the start of a new school year.

If you’re like the handful of us who haven’t been waking up earlier than say, maybe noon or even 1 in the afternoon, then you already know that your 8 a.m. class might as well be the death of you. With a little bit of preparation, however, you can successfully say goodbye (temporarily, don’t worry) to your Netflix account and have a good start to the 2015 fall quarter.

Managing Your Schedule

The easiest way to keep track of your schedule is by purchasing or making your own planner for the year. Write your classroom numbers down in your planner or on a post-it, and highlight the times that you’ll be in class; that way you won’t accidentally plan something during class and eventually you’ll memorize your schedule.

Having classes and plans every day might be an awkward and frustrating jump from an empty summer schedule, but when you plan it all out on paper or on your phone, it’ll seem easier to tackle. Through prioritizing class and work, you’ll get a better idea of how much free time you really have so you can give yourself a break once in awhile; thankfully, the first week of classes shouldn’t be too harsh, so you have some time to properly adjust.

Although it may be convenient to plan work, hanging out with friends and gym time after class, try lessening your workload for at least the first week until you get a better grip on just how draining each activity can be. Spreading out your plans will help in the long run and if you must, plan activities on days that you have the least class time.

Fixing Your Sleeping Pattern

For some, reacquiring a fixed sleeping pattern is the hardest part of a new school year. Whether it’s an 8 a.m. discussion or a workload that negates the ability to sleep 12 hours per night, the ease of summer is over for most of us.

The easiest, and most natural way to reacquire your sleeping schedule is to choose a time in the morning (e.g., 9:30 a.m.) and set alarms on and around that time. Then, make sure to force yourself to get out of bed, and start doing something: either jogging, preparing food or any activity that keeps you up and alert. Those first crucial moments, when it seems like our own brains are trying to talk us into falling asleep again, can be avoided if you start an activity as soon as you wake up. Keep in mind that waking up is the hardest part of the day, and once that’s accomplished, you should feel more at ease.

You may also consider setting a reminder an hour before you have to leave for class or before meetings for one of your clubs start, so you’ll give yourself ample time to prepare and get most of your affairs in order before you leave, which I find preferable to rushing out the door five minutes late, or shirking responsibility.

It can also be helpful to set aside a few small rewards for yourself, conditional upon waking up on time. Managing to maintain a nominal sleeping schedule for one’s own benefit is rewarding and all, but having the extra time in the morning to go get myself some Starbucks and a donut is better than any peace of mind.

If the above methods aren’t working, you can always fall back onto the use of sleeping pills. In the past, I’ve had good luck with “Zzzquil,” Vicks’ over-the-counter sleep aid. This can be particularly helpful when I find myself on a 6 a.m. – 2 p.m. sleep schedule that can’t be rectified by simply setting alarms for earlier. With any drug, always make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions, and make sure you’re in good health before using any medication, even over-the-counter. While it typically means losing a few hours of productivity in the day, I find it preferable to missing classes in the first key days of a new quarter.

Achieving Your Personal Goals

For many students, the prospect of an entirely new school year bursting with possibilities fades into obscurity, and they find themselves following the same patterns that left them feeling dissatisfied in previous quarters. A new school year can also seem like the best opportunity to fix old habits and start with a clean new slate, whether it’s to go to the gym more often, achieve a better GPA or anything else you would like to improve on.

If your goal is to get better grades or further excel in school work, make sure you plan in advance and keep yourself motivated as the year drags on. Get to know your professors and TAs from the start so if you feel yourself needing assistance, you might be more comfortable asking for help. If taking notes on your computer is too distracting, try taking notes by hand; sometimes writing things down helps you memorize content easier.

You see, time is a tricksy mistress, unforgiving and wily. Hours seem to melt away when you’re sitting in front of the TV or wasting time on Facebook or Pinterest, while minutes seem to drag on and on when you’re trying to be productive. It can be helpful to create a list of things you need to accomplish, and things you would like to do.

While there’s no golden ticket to success, finding time to finish your work in bite-size chunks rather than tackling everything at once can turn seemingly insurmountable workloads into a series of smaller, gentler hills if your goal is to get your work done more efficiently.