Yanez: Getting better grades through micromanagement

(Mary Cullen/Flickr)

Spring term is upon us at the University of Oregon! For many students, spring can be distracting. The weather is warming up and some are starting to burn out. Luckily, there’s a way to keep ourselves focused and maintain, if not improve, our grades. Before getting too far ahead of ourselves, it’s important to understand two things: 1. This schedule doesn’t cost anything extra. 2. It takes real effort. This method is a way of micromanaging your personal schedule to give it structure.

This way of scheduling is modeled after the schedule Mormon missionaries follow for two years. The beauty of it is that it can be tailored to anyone’s schedule, but I have found that it works especially well for college students. In a nutshell, it acts like a budget for the time you spend while you’re awake. For simplicity, it can be made into a generalized list of how your day should go.

1) Wake up, exercise and get ready for the day

Typically, you want to wake up three and a half hours before you have to leave for work or your first class. Do some easy, but meaningful exercise for 30 minutes. You could do cardio, strength training or a combination of the two on different days. The reason why missionaries exercise in the morning is two-fold: not only does it get you energized, but it makes sure you get at least a little exercise if you don’t workout at all. If I lived in the residence halls, I would take full advantage of the Rec center, if it’s available during your exercise time.

Getting ready for the day should take no longer than an hour. This includes breakfast. If you live off campus and you have roommates, it’s worth noting that missionaries often have one person making breakfast while the other one hops in the shower. Of course, whoever doesn’t cook does the dishes.

2) Personal study and academic study

This is where waking up three and a half hours before class starts to come together. Once you’ve had breakfast and are ready for the day, you should take two hours to study. The first hour of study is personal study, which should be a book that you want to read and isn’t related to any classes you’re currently enrolled in. This hour of study will invigorate your mind and get you ready to think a little clearer.

The second hour of study could be called “academic study,” where you could do your assigned reading that you usually don’t. If you do the readings and get caught up, you could use this time for homework. Of course, you could always give yourself a couple hours here and there in your weekly schedule to do homework.

3) Lunch

Take a full hour for lunch, even if you aren’t eating the entire time. Use the entire time to clear your head and just relax. Silly as it may sound, doing something this simple may help you feel less stress throughout your day. The afternoon may be taken up by classes. If not, consider scheduling some time for homework. This will help you later in the evening.

4) Afternoon dead space, dinner and bedtime

Some days will have this dead space in our schedules in the afternoon. Most of us justify doing nothing during this time by telling ourselves that we’ve earned some time to rest. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of having that rest time throughout entire days, if possible. If you have several hours between your classes, consider scheduling time for homework for the next class. This gives you more time to yourself in the evenings to relax. The same rules for lunch apply to dinner –– one hour of personal time to relax.

Generally, you should go to bed 16 hours after you wake up. So if you wake up at 6:30 a.m., lights out should be at 10:30 p.m. An hour and a half before your bedtime, you should take 30 minutes to plan the next day. This might sound a little basic, but 30 minutes can feel like a short amount of time when you start thinking about what’s due tomorrow, what you’re going to study and what you’re going to do to be productive in case of dead space.

The last hour of your day should be spent getting ready for bed. It’s important to follow this closely; don’t go to bed early or late. Take the hour to brush your teeth, change into nightwear and to give yourself some you time. Think about your personal life and maybe even think about home a little if you’re from out of town. It’s important to do this for several reasons, but perhaps one of the most important reasons is so you don’t get homesick. Trust me –– it can happen to anyone.

Preparation Day

You need to plan time to tidy your living space, do your laundry and maybe go grocery shopping. The easiest way to do this is to take an entire day where you have nothing going on aside from the morning and nighttime routines and just get it all done, like the weekend. It may seem daunting at first, but you can get to the point where you’re having a hard time finding things to clean.

Once everything is done, just relax and do whatever you’d like until dinner. You should schedule some extra study time or attend a club starting after dinner until it’s time to plan for tomorrow. This is very important because it helps build a mindset of continuous productivity. If you take the time to just relax and never get anything else done, then you will subconsciously slip into thinking it’s okay to flounder on other parts of your schedule.

Bottom Line

In the long run, this is nothing more than a time budget with a morning and evening routine. Can this seriously help your grades? Well, yes and no. It can help your grades if you’re being sincere and putting in an honest effort to study and give yourself that time to destress. It can hinder your grades if you’re not giving an honest effort and just whine about it to yourself the whole time. I would know; I did this for two years in Japan. The whole idea is to give yourself some structure and consistency to help you always have a plan for your own edification no matter what.

The format of “early to rise, early to bed” may sound horrible at first — and it probably is, to be honest — but there is the promise that you will eventually wake up energized and ready to go, as well as tired when bedtime rolls around. Giving yourself that time to relax, sleep and recharge mentally is crucial to your success in college. Don’t let yourself flail during this last term of the school year!


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