Spring semester is just around the corner (if it hasn’t started already), and it’s another three to four months of hy-flex “fun.” I’m still so grateful to be able to continue my education, and I’m extra thankful to be taking classes I love this semester, but the virtual environment can feel so draining and detached. Especially when you’re a quick learned and you love to learn from hands-on activities and from others like me, it can really feel like you’re not getting everything you want from your education, which can also make it easier to feel like you’re falling behind. Luckily, there are tons of great tools out there to help stay focused, organized, and engaged so you can master this spring semester.
Since everything has a virtual focus, make the use of digital tools! You probably already use the Google Suite but if you don’t, it’s a total lifesaver. I love being able to access all of my documents, slideshows, and forms from any device and any location. Plus, it’s so easy to be able to share things with friends for group projects. I made a separate Google Account just for all of my college work, and my Google Drive has a folder for each semester, with subfolders for each class.
When I find myself needing extra help in a class, there are two main places I’ll go: YouTube and Socratic. YouTube is great for visual and audio-based learning, as well as finding short and long review videos. I practically lived off Crash Course when I was still taking general education classes. Now that I’m in Communications & Media based courses, there are so many great tutorials online for reviewing difficult concepts or just learning something above what was covered in class. For a more comprehensive answer in just about any subject, I use Socratic. It’s a super easy app to use since you can just take a picture of whatever your question is (or at least copy and paste if you’re online) and you’ll get a huge variety of resources, articles, and help posts. I’ve been using the Socratic app since high school and it’s been a massive help on more assignments than I can count.
Instead of using regular textbooks, I’ll usually get digital textbooks from Amazon, which load directly to the Kindle app. Just like my Google Drive, my books with notes and highlights, as well as progress, sync between devices which makes it perfect for never forgetting a book or losing your place. My favorite function is definitely the search function since I can go back and look for a topic without wasting time flipping through pages. I know not everyone can use digital books, but if you can, they’re often significantly cheaper than traditional textbooks.
When everything is digital, it’s so easy to lose track of things. Add that on top of all the days blending together and you have the perfect recipe for a mess. Right now, keeping organized is more important than ever.
I’ve been using digital calendars, like the calendar app on my phone and laptop, for a while now since it’s so easy to keep track of my schedule. I love that I can copy and paste events and code repeats so easily, and even use different colors for layouts to make my schedule easy to understand. On my laptop, using the “weekly” layout is my favorite way to see what’s coming up, and I’ve started to use the calendar widget after I upgraded to iOS14. If I want to remember something that’s not as timed as an event, like an assignment due or something to look at, I’ll use to reminders app and sometimes set a timer on the reminder. Both of these apps sync with all of my devices, so I never have to worry about missing a notice.
I recently started using Notion and it’s the perfect version of “plussing” your typical calendar and to-do list functions. Your interface is totally customizable, leaving the possibilities entirely up to you. I currently have pages for my independent content creation like my blog and YouTube channel, my school work, my jobs, and my other activities. I’ve also added subpages, boards, galleries, and all kinds of other functions to those main pages, and designed each one to be aesthetically pleasing and uniquely me. There’s more to Notion than I could possibly describe in a paragraph, so be sure to let me know if you’d be interested in learning more about how I use my Notion through a blog post or video!
While I love using all the digital apps to keep everything together, I still love to have a paper planner that I can touch, decorate, and have as a sidecar to my tech. I recently got a Happy Planner with a bunch of add-on accessories to make it magical, fun, and uplifting. You can check out my post on my Happy Planner here.
If you’re working and studying from home, it’s essential to make your space as cozy and productive as possible. I typically work from my room, so I spent some time redecorating and reorganizing all of my stuff. I also made sure to have extra blankets and pillows near my bed so I can always have what I need to be comfortable during long screen days. I also set up my space so my chargers and water are within arms reach, and I can put snacks close by too. I wanted to make sure that everything I needed was convenient to eliminate as many distractions as possible.
When I’m studying or doing work that doesn’t require a call or audio (like if I’m editing a video), I love to put on music. There are a ton of great playlists on Spotify to fit all kinds of different moods. I’ve really liked the Urban Outfitters Cozy Sunday playlist, as well as the Aerie/American Eagle playlists lately. When I’m in the mood for something more magical, I’m constantly finding myself putting on Disney background music. Sounds of Disneyland is a website that has almost all of the Disneyland background loops, organized by area and sorted into playlists. I’ll usually put on the Main Street loops or the Esplanade loop when I want calm music, or the Guardians Mission: Breakout! soundtrack when I want something more upbeat. I’ve found that YouTube has a lot of The Walt Disney World area loops that are also perfect for working (I’m looking at you, Epcot and Innoventions).
If you ask any of my friends, they’ll tell you I’m a workaholic. Now that there’s so few physical boundaries between work and play, you can forget to relax and take time for yourself without even batting an eye. To find success this spring semester, you have to make sure there’s balance in your life.
With everything that’s going on, I’ve found myself being more anxious than usual and I stress a lot easier. I bought a guided mindfulness journal to help keep myself on track and calm. It’s from the same collection as my planner, and it lasts for my entire semester. Additionally, I have a huge list of YouTube videos, Spotify playlists, and Disney+ shows to enjoy when I need some time away from working, on top of just going through Instagram, Pinterest, or TikTok.
It’s always great to have activities to help yourself stay happy, but it’s also important to socialize. Even if you can’t see people in-person, make some time to talk to friends on FaceTime. I try to text my closest friends at least once a day. Even if it’s not a big conversation because we’re so busy, saying at least good morning and goodnight gives a little smile and the start and end of each day.
This spring semester, you can accomplish great things. Will it be tough? Of course, but at least we have a little experience after learning from the last ten months. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, stay organized, and don’t commit every last second to working and you’ll have all the keys for success.
If you have any tools or resources you love for college, be sure to share them in the comments below!
See ya real soon,