West Windsor, N.J. – Vividly colored calendars and time-conscious apps were just the beginning of the conversation at Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) “Time and Stress Management Workshop.” On Oct. 15, MCCC success coaches led a discussion about the strategies students have at their disposal to create order in their collegiate lives that can too easily trend toward chaos.
“If you’re like me, you’ll use a planner faithfully for a week, miss a few days and then start feeling overwhelmed,” said Health Professions Success Coach Nichol Killian. “Then, you try to start planning again, only to get caught in the same cycle.”
Despite the difficulty of sticking to a schedule, Killian stressed that with the right tools and support system, students can find time for everything in their busy lives.
“Believe it or not, there are enough hours to accomplish your goals each day,” she said.
For starters, Killian suggested establishing S.M.A.R.T. - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based – goals. “Rather than approaching each project or assignment as a massive endeavor, you should dissect them into smaller, achievable tasks.
Business and STEM Success Coach Jehan Mohamed added that this strategy not only helps students track their progress, but also creates a sense of positivity that encourages continued goal setting and achieving.
“There is an entire field devoted to positive psychology,” Mohamed said. "Science supports the power of positive thinking.”
In addition to highlighting smart goals, Killian and her colleagues noted five keys to staving off stress:
- You don’t have to do your laundry "Now, that’s not an invitation to come to our offices all smelly,” Killian said. “But the truth is that when we have things to do, we often divert our attention to less prevalent tasks: we procrastinate.” Killian suggested asking, “Do I really have to do my laundry right now?” Accomplishing at least some time sensitive goals will leave time for less pressing things, like laundry or spring cleaning.
- Remove yourself from the situation. “Sites like Netflix and YouTube make it easy to watch hours and hours of content,” said Liberal Arts Success Coach Victoria Bowman. “They recommend video after video, so you don’t have to do anything but sit and watch.” To combat this, Bowman advised physically removing yourself from the situation. “Set a timer in another room,” she said. “That way you’ll break the cycle of what you are doing, which can help you change tasks and reset your focus.”
- Stop Studying. “Studying is a bad word in my office,” Online Student Success Coach Lorna Wiltshire said. “We’re taught all through school to study, but what does that mean? There’s no measurable end to studying.” Instead, Wiltshire prefers “practice” or “training.” “Think of tests and papers like an athlete thinks of games and tournaments,” she said. “There is only so much you can practice until the big day. And if you’re smart about your time, you can sit down to take an exam with confidence.”
- Make the most of your time. “Multitasking is hard, and can lead to doing two (or more) things poorly instead of doing one thing well,” said Mercer Honors Success Coach Eugene Mok. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t double up certain activities to make more time for others.” He suggested making use of time at the gym to listen to podcasts, or doing housework while watching TV. “If you know what you need to do and know how long it takes, then it’s just a matter of playing Tetris with your schedule,” he said.
- Incorporate your friends and family. “Many of us have a built-in support system that we can use to our advantage,” said Enrollment Services Success Coach Emanuel Medina. “Why not have your best friend quiz you before a test? Or explain your research project your little sister? Medina added that explaining difficult concepts to people who otherwise wouldn’t understand them is a great way to test your own comprehension of the subject matter.
“The important thing is this: you’ve already made it this far. You’re in college,” Killian said. “Now it’s time to take advantage of all of the skills in your arsenal.”
MCCC offers free success coaching to all students. For more information, or to make an appointment, click here.
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