At the start of every semester, ambitions are high as students look over their new schedules and read their professors’ syllabi and, feeling determined for the new semester’s resolutions.
“This semester, I won’t leave my papers for the night before they’re due”or “I will actually do all of the assigned readings” or “I will go to all of my 8 a.m. classes.”
We invest in new planners, dig up old highlighters and empty out binders, telling ourselves that we will use them this semester. We vow to be better students, to make our lives easier so we don’t have to pull as many all-nighters and use up our entire food budget on coffee and energy drinks.
But before long, we begin to slip, justifying our lapses and wondering why we ever made these resolutions in the first place. That paper is due tomorrow morning and you haven’t started but you’ve been busy. It’s late and you’re tired, but the professor will talk about the readings in class, anyway. Your alarm goes off at 7 a.m., and you decide you can get the notes from one of your classmates.
Once the freshman-like inspiration from the new semester wears off and we remember that we did just fine last year, our resolutions dissolve, and we forget all about them. We break them almost as quickly as the ones we make at the end of every December. But we should still make resolutions anyway.
Part of why we have trouble sticking to these promises is that as soon as we “break” a resolution once, we feel like the game is over. After we miss one 8 a.m. class, our motivation not to miss another one significantly decreases because we have already messed it up.
So if you want to increase your odds of keeping your resolutions, don’t think of them as rigid and binding. Allow yourself some wiggle room — aim to go to all of your 8 a.m. classes, but if you sleep through your alarm and miss one class, readjust your goal to try not to miss any more.
If you have a resolution that you find yourself continuously breaking, reassess the goal and consider why it hasn’t been working.
Maybe you haven’t been able to finish your papers ahead of time, because you have a really busy schedule and a lot of the due dates are clustered close together. You can start by trying to make sure that you have a brief outline of your thoughts and any research you need by the night before it is due.
Once you’ve been able to meet that goal, you can try to leave the last night for only edits and finishing touches.
New semester’s resolutions should be about more than just trying to earn better grades; they’re a way to reduce the stress you feel about your classes and workload.
Regardless of your GPA, you’ll be less stressed the day before an exam or due date for a paper if you’ve been active about taking notes during lectures, keeping a planner or to-do list so due dates don’t sneak up on you or you can go to your professor’s office hours when you don’t understand the homework.
So as the weeks progress and you feel yourself becoming busier and busier, don’t let yourself get caught up in the stress.
Reward yourself for even the smallest accomplishments, and don’t let that motivation slip away. Because here at Wake Forest, we’re all doing great things, and you should be proud of that.