Now that we are entering our mid-semester period here at the University of Pennsylvania, it is easy for us as students to start feeling busy and pressed for time. Sometimes the first thing we cut out in our schedules is the time we make for ourselves. In reality, as our schedules get busier and our workloads get heavier, it is more important than ever to keep time in your schedule for yourself!
It might sound ridiculous to schedule your ‘relaxation’ time, but if we don’t make it a priority and set aside time for self-care, on our busy days it won’t happen. Making self-care part of your everyday routine will make you a better, happier, and healthier student, friend, and person.
Self-care can be defined as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health” (Michael, 2016). For each of us, these activities can vary. However, because we spend so much time in front of computer and electronic screens as part of our workloads, I recommend taking a break from the screens when scheduling your self-care time (This means binge-watching a show on Netflix doesn’t really count as self-care). Here are some suggestions for ways you might want to self-care:
- Head outdoors! Some fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for yourself. Go for a walk around campus and appreciate the foliage on campus as we head from summer to fall. Or head down Spruce Street to the South Street Bridge and walk on the trail along the Susquehanna River.
- Participate in some physical activity. Whether you like to go for a run, head to the gym, or take an exercise class, getting your blood pumping and your body moving is good for your physical, mental, and emotional heath.
- Find some quiet time! Campus and college life can be busy. We can feel like we are constantly surrounded by people and that we always need to be ready to go, appearing like we have it all together. Find a quiet space to journal, meditate, do yoga, or reflect on your week. The peace can do wonders for your health, even if it is just for 15 minutes.
- Do something creative! Whether you enjoy crafts, music, or coloring, doing something creative helps us use our whole brain. Even if your definition of art is filling in an adult coloring book, make time during your week for it!
- Get enough sleep! Make sure you are getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Do this in addition to your 30 minutes of self-care during the day. All the studying in the world won’t help you reach your potential if you’re not getting enough sleep. Athletes know this. It is time students remember it too!
- How do you take care of yourself? Comment with your suggestions! We will discuss more about self-care topics as the semester goes on.
Remember to make time for yourself every day during this semester. Doing so will make you a better student in the long-run. Scheduling self-care isn’t being lazy or saying you’re not tough enough to handle your work load. What it shows is that you care about yourself and well-being. It will make you a better student and person in the long run!
Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor
Perhaps you are a new undergraduate, professional, or graduate student at PENN, and you want to make sure you are starting off strong at the beginning of the semester. Or, maybe you are a returning student who wants to make this year better than the last. Whatever your status or motivation is, the Weingarten Learning Resources Center is here to help!
One of the biggest ways that you can ensure success as a graduate or undergraduate student is to make sure that you are planning strategically for your long-term course requirements this semester. Some of our handy tools are our SEMESTER CALENDARS, which are available in BLUE for Undergraduate students and GREEN for Graduate students:
Even if you can’t stop in for a walk-in or full-hour appointment, make sure you stop by our offices to pick up one of our coveted semester long calendars!
Helpful strategies for using Weingarten’s Semester Calendars:
- During these first two weeks of school, take time to review your syllabi. Using your syllabi, write in all the dates for your papers, projects, and exams on your large semester calendar. This large overview calendar should be reserved for big projects, papers, and exams (not everyday homework and class times). Even if you already use a calendar system like iCalendar or have a paper planner, it is important and helpful for you to write everything for the semester in one place. Having a visual outline of the semester will help you plan and make sure you are keeping up to date with your assignments and obligations.
- Next, fill in any personal obligations, celebrations, or events for this semester. If you have friends visiting, mark it on the calendar. Planning any trips or getaways? Make sure to put it on your calendar!
- Add in events like extra-curricular obligations, long-term work assignment due dates, campus performances, and athletic events to your calendar. Now, you should have an outline of everything you have coming up this semester.
- Now you can go to your personal planner and schedule out your assignments and worktime week by week. The long-term semester calendar is important, because it can help you avoid potential conflicts. For example, “I see that I have a book critique and presentation due at the end of October, but I am also going to be out of town two weekends in a row for personal obligations. Now, I know that when I am scheduling out my time during the first two weeks of October, I need to make time to complete the book review. I can’t push it off until right before it’s due because I will be out of town (and that isn’t a great way to get work done anyway). If I hadn’t taken the time to layout my semester, I might have missed that.” Here’s an example:
We hope that this helps you start your semester off on the right foot!
If you have more questions about how to structure your time to ensure success, be sure to call the Weingarten Learning Resources Center to set up an appointment to meet with a Learning Instructor to help you develop a personalized plan. You can come in for a first-come, first-serve Walk-In Session or make an Individual 1-Hour Appointment with one of our Learning Consultants by calling (215) 573-9235. We’re conveniently located at Stouffer Commons, behind the Wawa on 38th and Spruce. Click here for Location and Hours.
Good luck this semester! Happy Studying!
By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. “I just began my first year as a doctoral student in the Reading/Writing/Literacy program in the Graduate School of Education. Prior to returning to school here, I was a high school English teacher and instructional coach in Detroit, Michigan.“
As you begin or return to your journey as a PENN student in the Fall of the academic year 2017-18, you are asked to embrace the call of innovation. The Office of the Provost of the University of Pennsylvania has announced the Provost’s Academic Theme for the Year 2017-18 as the Year of Innovation:
Innovation is key to advancing knowledge; innovators build on historic foundations as they move forward with new discoveries. We often associate innovation with technology and scientific advancements, yet it exists in every aspect of our intellectual culture.
At WLRC, we invite you to join us in reflecting upon the following guiding questions:
- Who am I as a learner?
- How do I learn optimally?
- How do I learn differently?
- What are my assets as learner?
- What are my goals as learner?
- What are my learning supports and resources?
- What will I try anew in 2017-18?
- What will I do differently?
- How can I innovate my learning?
- How will I kick off my learning trajectory this Fall?
To get you started, we have some ideas and resources to help you optimize and innovate your learning and sustain academic wellness:
- Sign-up for some of our Fall Workshops for all students, including time management, reading and writing strategies and exam preparation. Other tailored workshops, include:
- Above all, innovation is a central aspect of Penn’s history and identity: founded by Benjamin Franklin, one of history’s great innovators, Penn was designed from the outset to be different from other schools of its day and now includes innovation as a core principle of the Penn Compact 2020.
The 2017-18 Year of Innovation presents the opportunity for renewal. At WLRC, we welcome all new and returning students. We look forward to partnering with you at any juncture of your learning trajectory at PENN. Throughout, we uphold a spirit of innovation, renewal and learning wellness.
Staff Writer: Min Kim Derry
We’re deep into summer now. Last semester feels like a distant memory and we’re still a month out from the new school year. I’m sure the last thing you want to be thinking about right now is getting back into coursework, but here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin preparing for your return to campus.
1. Check out Canvas. Some professors already have their Canvas pages live for the Fall semester. You may be able to see the syllabus or get a head start on some of the early readings. It’s always good to know when the big assignments are due ahead of time so you can start planning around them. Plus, if you’ve registered for more classes than you plan on taking, you might be able to decide ahead of time based on the available syllabi.
2. Spend some time reflecting. What went well in previous semesters? What didn’t go well? Think back to your last round of finals and how you prepared for them. What would you want to do again in the upcoming semester? Accruing exam preparation techniques over the summer will put you in a better place when the first round of exams happens.
3. Have fun! Now is the time to catch up on sleep and activities that you enjoy but might not get a chance to partake in during the school year. Go for a hike or catch up on that science fiction book you’ve been wanting to read. Binge on a new Netflix series. Spend time with friends and loved ones. This way, you’ll come back to campus refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of a new school year.
Remember, if you are in the area this summer or want to do an online appointment, we are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and we’d love to work with you! We are also already accepting appointments for the Fall, so give us a call once you know your class schedule!
Staff Writer: Cassie Lo
Congratulations! You made it through the Spring semester. For some, Summer classes will be starting up in a few weeks. For others, class is a distant memory until the Fall semester begins in August. Regardless of your course situation, we wanted to let you know that we are open for the summer! The Weingarten Learning Resources Center is staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday all summer long and we’re able to meet in person or over the Bluejeans online platform if you are not on campus. While your next set of courses may seem far away, we are always here for you to get a head start on planning or to help tie up any loose ends from the semester. Here are some ways we can support you this summer:
- Resolve incompletes:
Work with a learning instructor to create a plan to finish any incompletes you may have. We can make a schedule with realistic, manageable goals that you can accomplish during your summer vacation. We can also discuss how to communicate your action plan with professors.
- Time management/exam preparation strategies for summer courses:
Summer courses are unique because they meet several times a week for many hours at a time. Midterms and finals are also closer together due to the short timeframe of the summer session. Because of the time demands for each summer course, it is helpful to set up a study/work schedule in order to get everything accomplished. We have summer planning calendars available at the office!
- Prepare for the upcoming Fall semester:
Spend some time reflecting on what went well during this past semester while setting goals for the upcoming semester. You can also discuss new study strategies that you hope to try, or new time management tools that may work for you.
Once you’re back on campus in the Fall, be sure to reach out to us for an appointment ASAP. We are excited to help you prepare for the new academic year. Have a great summer!
Staff Writer: Cassie Lo
With finals just around the corner, it is important to set up “brain breaks” in order to increase productivity. Studying is most effective when done in relatively short chunks of time to ensure focus. Once you’re feeling distracted or have been studying for a decent amount of time, consider taking a brain break. Since the weather is finally warming up (hello, Spring!), now is a great time to get outside during your study breaks and enjoy the weather. Here are three ideas that will get your body moving and give your brain a break.
Meditation is a perfect study break because it can be done anywhere for any duration of time. For guided meditation, check out three weekly offerings from Campus Health. On Mondays, meditation is offered at the Office of the Chaplain from 12-1 p.m. and on Thursdays meditation is held at the Graduate Student Center from 12-1 p.m. and in the Mayer Seminar Room at Stouffer College House from 6-7 p.m. These free meditation sessions end on May 8, so be sure to stop by a session before they’re gone!
- Walk/Run the Schuylkill River Trail
The Schuylkill River Trail is a beautiful path that spans over 60 miles. You can pick up the trail right on Spruce Street and stroll north to see some beautiful Philadelphia sights. Additionally, Campus Health has developed 1, 2 and 3 mile walking/jogging loops around campus. Check it, and other valuable information, out here.
- Visit the Morris Arboretum
Visit this beautiful garden for a quick break from city living! It is free for Penn students and you can hop on a shuttle at the Penn Bookstore to get there. Some highlights include the rose garden (pictured here) and an amazing rock wall garden. The Morris Arboretum is open year round and offers seasonal specials, including a Cherry Blossom festival in the Spring and Fall foliage events.
Staff Writer: Cassie Lo
With readings days fast approaching and finals week close behind, we are all struggling at the end of the semester to find motivation for this last push before the summer break. Ugh, why can’t it be here already? If you’re like me right now, who is so close to feeling burned out, finding the patience and determination to stay focused on small or large tasks seem daunting and unrealistic. One method that I have heard and used as a great strategy for those with short attention spans or low drive would include The Pomodoro Technique, also more simply and commonly known as The Tomato Method.
This time management technique was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. It’s super easy to implement and can increase productivity when doing tasks. Look at it this way: it’s like you have to run miles and miles to get to your destination, but with the Tomato Method, you accomplish this by doing many sprints with short breaks in between. That way you don’t just procrastinate and give up at the beginning of the line. There are tasks when we can just fly through them, but others times, its just such a drag. In a way, this technique is a lot like chunking your time and task. Check out this short 2 minute video that explains how to get started. Here is a quick summary on how to it all works:
If you want to use some other websites or other apps on your tech besides a simple time keeper, here’s a list from LifeHacker.com that might be useful as well:
- Marinara Timer (Web) is a webapp we’ve highlighted before that you can keep open in a pinned tab. You can select your timer alerts so you know when to take a break, or reconfigure the work times and break times to suit you. It’s remarkably flexible, and you don’t have to install anything.
- Tomighty (Win/Mac/Linux) is a cross-platform desktop Pomodoro timer that you can fire and forget, following the traditional Pomodoro rules, or use to customize your own work and break periods.
- Pomodorable (OS X) is a combination Pomodoro timer and to-do app. It offers more visual cues when your tasks are complete and what you have coming up next, and it integrates nicely with OS X’s Reminders app. Plus, you can estimate how many pomodoros you’ll need to complete a task, and then track your progress.
- Simple Pomodoro (Android) is a free, open-source timer with a minimal aesthetic. Tap to start the timer and get to work, and take your breaks when your phone’s alarm goes off. You can’t do a lot of tweaking to the work and break periods, but you get notifications when to take your breaks and when to go back to work, and you can go back over your day to see how many Pomodoros you’ve accomplished over the day. It even integrates with Google Tasks.
- Focus Timer (iOS) used to be calledPomodoroPro , and is a pretty feature-rich timer for iPhone and iPad. You can customize work and break durations, review your work history to see how your focus is improving, easily see how much time is left in your work session, and the app even offers a star-based rating system to keep you motivated. You can even customize the sounds, and hear the clock ticking when you lock your phone so you stay on task.
Say “bye bye procrastination!” with this technique. Try it out! Or come into Weingarten to try it out with a Learning Instructor.
Staff Writer: Victoria Singh Gill