Everyone knows that every semester brings its own special version of chaos. So, in anticipation of whatever may come, I would like to submit the following half-dozen ideas as a certain defense against entropy. I'm certainly not a lifestyle coach, but I've seen more than three smart people in less-than-smart circumstances. So, I though this might help.
But, like all advice, take it with a grain of salt. You've got to establish your own systems.
1. You have to play 60 minutes of football...This is NFL speak for "everything counts." It's true. Everything counts. That class you might want to sleep through? That material will be on the exam. That first exam you don't want to study too hard for because it's still early in the semester and there will definitely be time to fix things later? That's 25% of your grade. Those five minutes that you're late? That's going to count against you. Everything you do (or don't do) contributes to your final grade. Don't forget that.
2. Here's another good one from the NFL...While you're sleeping, someone else is watching film. School isn't a competition against anyone but yourself, but preparation is everything. The extra ten minutes of studying you do while waiting for the pasta to cook? That might show up on the exam. That study group you get together with instead of going out on Saturday night? Those other three people will certainly know something you don't. They may have a new perspective for you to consider. There are 24 hours in every day. Use them wisely. Every additional minute of review, study, thinking, discussion, or whatever you do to make the information dance in your mind is helpful. New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees has been known to be in the team facility at 5 am to do extra work. All he's done in the past four years is set the all-time passing yards record. 1+1 generally equals 2. The military has a similar notion called the 7 Ps: Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents P--- Poor Performance.
3. Anima sana in corpore sano...Ever hear of ASICS athletic shoes? Think about it. A.S.I.C.S. It's Latin for "Sound mind in sound body." And that's true as well. You've got to keep both in good order. Let me suggest a few methods here.
- Get a good night's sleep. They always recommend 8 hours, especially if you're still growing. I like to get about 6, I know people who need 8, 10, 4. Whatever works best, but get those ZZZZs. I've never once been exhausted and intelligent at the same time.
- Don't eat garbage. Yeah, you're a broke student with crazy demands on your time. But this doesn't mean you have to eat like a possum. Rethink it. Fruit and vegetables are cheap. Beans and lentils are cheap. Pasta is cheap. These are all healthy and can be flipped a million different ways. Ever hear that old adage about an apple a day? That too is true. Apples are great for you. They provide a sugar rush. They actually clean your teeth when you chew them. They're filled with vitamins and fiber. They go with damn near anything and are good at any time of day. Breakfast, snack, dessert, whatever. Go buy a whole chicken. Rub it with whatever flavors you like. Roast it at 350 for 45 minutes. Flip it and roast it for another 45 minutes. There you go. Food for a few days. A big pot of beans and rice will also keep you fed for a while. A lasagna will do the same. Get a cookbook and read it. Improvise and reconfigure.
- Watch your chemistry. Don't overcaffeinate. Try tea instead of coffee. Try anything instead of energy drinks.
- Drink tons of water. Ask your doctor...water is the body's lubricant. You wouldn't let the oil run dry in a Maserati, would you? Imagine how silly it would be to do the same to your own body. They say you need at least 64 ounces a day. My method is to always have water on hand. When it's gone, refill.
- Don't be a fool. Taking someone else's medication so that you can stay up all night and study? Foolish. Red Bull and Pop Tarts for breakfast? Foolish. I'm not saying that you have to be a macrobiotic yogi, but don't be an idiot.
- Hygiene is key. Firstly, it prevents illness, the mortal enemy of smarts. Secondly, college is the time during which the transition into professional adulthood begins. Nobody wants to work with or near someone who lacks basic hygiene. I'm not arguing for a quarantined sterility, but, as we are all members of a social collective, we should do our part to maintain the collective wellness. Raccoons wash their hands and food before they eat. Why don't we all take a hint?
4. Come ready to play. Learning is an active process, entirely different from watching tv or theatre or films. You need to be focused and motivated. I don't know what it takes for anyone but myself, but you have to come to the classroom switched completely on, hungry for learning, and ready. Some people listen to speed metal, some do jumping jacks, some do sun salutations. Find your method. Use it.
5. Everything is everything. I stole this one from Lauryn Hill, because she's right. In case we, as a culture, have forgotten who Lauryn Hill is, let me call this the Avatar theory. Everything is interconnected. That tv show you watched last night might be based on the story from Ovid you've just read for a Mythologies class. 3-D design principles might help you organize your furniture better. Did you know that Metallica's Creeping Death is based on the Book of Exodus? Keep your brain on record at all times and don't differentiate important information from whatever else there may be. There's nothing else. All information can be made useful.
6. The love of the game...Education is its own reward, one that rewards work and dedication. Yes, grades are a measurable, tangible markers that people will respond to. I'm not naive. I know that grades are the primary focus. But learning should be. Becoming a more well-rounded, better-informed, more open-minded individual is a goal that need not come with expectations of rewards. Being in school is beautiful. Your only responsibility is to learn and to learn well. I cannot imagine a greater luxury. Do it for its own pleasures and it will provide greater pleasures.
Good luck. See you there.
n.b.: Remember, we're here to help. There's no such thing as a stupid question, only the stupidity of being too ashamed to ask.