When you are a full-time student, juggling classes, part-time work, time with family and friends, and all the things that come with work, your life can feel very difficult. At least this was the way for me for most semesters. Every day there always seemed to be work and copious amounts of studying to be done. Most weeknights and weekends were filled with readings and assignments, and there was a continuously growing to-do list in the back of my mind slowly bringing about stress and frustration.
Procrastination became a close friend of mine and by the end of the semester, I was burnt out but relieved that it was all over. Then the cycle would repeat itself for another four months. It took a physical and mental toll on me and I’m sure I am not the only one that has experienced this.
So why did this unhealthy cycle reoccur every semester? Why did I let myself continue to live this lifestyle, while being aware of the consequences? The main problem contributing to the harmful cycle was that every week, even every day, felt different. I had no consistency in my life. Every semester, I was taking classes with different schedules, and my part-time work schedule was all over the place. I was lacking routine and discipline in order to be productive. I felt I had no time to study and whenever I did, I ended up procrastinating and pushing everything back.
However, experiencing eight months of full-time work as a co-op student in Paragon Testing Enterprises helped me to build a routine to ensure that in every moment of my life, I am being as productive as I can be. The key was to make most of the time that I had and make time for things that are important.
Building New Habits and Routines:
One main habit I developed to build my productivity was getting up early to get a head start for the day. Early for me was anywhere from 4:00 am - 5:00 am in the morning. Every day, I would wake up and do the same thing: I drank some water, a cup of coffee and a small bite of food to start my day. During this time, I sat and read for about ten to fifteen minutes. On days I went to the gym, I woke up at 4:00 am. On rest days, I woke up at 5:00 am. Having the intention and discipline to wake up early to read or get a workout in gave me a head start for the day. It helped increase my mental focus during the day, up to the point where if I didn’t do either of those things, I felt more tired than usual.
There were various factors that helped me to build my routine. The first and biggest factor was to start preparing the next day the night before. Knowing that I had everything ready to go allowed me to take my time in my routine, instead of rushing every morning to run out the door.
This was also the same for me with work. The day before, around the last five to ten minutes before I finished for the day, I would create a daily task list for me to complete the next day. I would also have a list of tasks that I could always work on or needed to be done whenever I was finished with the tasks that needed to be done for the day. Having this list and doing the motions of creating a daily task list was one routine that really helped me to not only increase my productivity, but also ensured that nothing was forgotten or missed. I know that this will also be something I want to implement in my personal and school life moving forward.
Having the opportunity to work as a co-op student helped me experience the Monday to Friday work-life and gave me a consistent eight months to find what works well for me and what I enjoy, to stay productive and keep a healthy work-life balance.
What matters most is finding what works for you. You don’t have to wake up as early as I do, and you don’t have to copy what other successful people do. They are successful because they found what works best for them! In my second semester, I decided to take one course while working during my last semester. The class took place two hours after work, so I decided to make the most of the spare time I had by getting off one Skytrain station early to take a longer walk to class. Although it was an activity that occurred once a week, I looked forward to taking that walk, and I looked forward to waking up early and starting each day.
In the end, every day is bound to be different. There are only so many things we can control in our lives and unexpected things are bound to happen. But by building routines and learning to control and make the most of the things we can control, we can ensure that we are being productive and intentional with our actions.