“What you are will show in what you do.” - Thomas A. Edison
Many students may be wondering, what can I do to stay the course toward earning my degree when I am not sure where my path is now leading? Is it even worth starting my college career now or “keep keeping at it,” when the future seems so uncertain? Some students may be thinking, should I go ahead and register for the next term or should I take some time off until things settle down?
In my 20-plus years of experience within higher education, I firmly believe that the answer is an unequivocal “YES!” There are numerous personal and professional benefits that you, your family and your community will receive from the investment in earning your degree. You should always keep moving forward, even if you slow down your pace.
Here are six simple steps you can implement today that may help you move forward:
1. Keep a schedule.
Skilled at Life notes “There will always be things in our lives that are beyond our control, and we need to accept that. However, there is so much that we can control, especially if we follow a routine.” So, do your best to follow the weekly class schedule, complete your assignments, post your discussion board comments, set up the date for your midterm exam and submit your final project. Every successful task accomplished is another step toward your ultimate goal. And keep at it by registering for the next upcoming term.
2. Write down your goals and post them somewhere that you can easily see them.
Dr. Gail Matthews, professor of Psychology at the Dominican University of California, completed a research study that found “Those who wrote their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write their goals.” Goals, whether they are daily, weekly, yearly or a bucket list are all included here. If your daily goal list includes: buy milk, eggs, bread; finish your discussion board post; and make sure the kids get bathed at least once this week….hey - it’s a list! No shame here ☺.
3. Find pockets of time and use them wisely.
Dr. Pamela L. Mickelson, professor and chair of the Department of Business Administration at Morningside College, shares “Make time to write. Don’t wait until you have a moment; seize a moment. Get up an hour earlier.” I find my pockets of time and capitalize on them with the use of technology. My phone comes in quite handy when I “talk to text” and compose messages to send to students, clients and colleagues. You can use your technology to compose your class work, discussion board posts, outline some assignments or reach out to your mentors. Take advantage of the tools at your disposal until better ones come along.
4. Do what you want to least, first.
Brian Tracy, author of Eat that Frog!, states, “Successful, effective people are those who launch directly into their major tasks and then discipline themselves to work steadily and single-mindedly until those tasks are complete.” Following this philosophy in my work and life allows me to jump over the biggest obstacles of the day early on and allows the rest of my day to hop by a bit easier (all puns intended).”
5. Chunk up your goals.
When I was in graduate school, we learned the importance of teaching our students the strategy of “chunking.” Connie Malamed from the Learning Coach shares, “Chunking refers to the strategy of breaking down information into bite-sized pieces so the brain can more easily digest new information.” So, when life is overwhelming, remember to break the obstacles down into smaller pieces that are easier to swallow. If you are taking online courses this term and are now also helping your kids with their virtual learning, realize that although it is going to be a challenge, you have a skill set that will be very useful to help them “chunk” their process of becoming first-time online learners. Parents are always their children’s first teachers.
6. Prioritize taking care of yourself and your loved ones.
Exercise, naps, healthy foods and lots of hydration are simple ways that make a big impact. President John F. Kennedy said, “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” If you are working on a class assignment and start to feel stuck, head out for a quick walk, play ball with the kids, settle in for a yoga class or log on for a cycling session.
Picture this: It’s late afternoon, and you’ve been working remotely all day, with the kids, dog, cat and spouse all within arm’s reach. Might I suggest a nap may be in order? Thomas Edison himself was an avid napper. “Edison used napping to counterbalance the intensity of his work. Most days, he took one or two brief naps — on his famous cots, outdoors in the grass and even on a chair or stool if no better option was available.” Give yourself the luxury of some down time. You deserve it and need it so you will be prepared to tackle and enjoy the rest of your day.
Now if you are like me with kids at home, you might find yourself saying, “I have to feed these kids again!” Enter the importance of having healthy foods and drinks at home, easy to prepare and hopefully easy for them to make as well. Dr. Uma Naidoo, blogger for Harvard Medical School, says, “A diet rich in whole grains, vegetables and fruits is a healthier option than eating a lot of simple carbohydrates found in processed foods.” So, if you can have fruits, berries, nuts, beans and veggies available, clean and ready to grab and snack on, along with fresh water, you and your family will be on the right track.
I hope that these six simple steps will help you realize that though your daily routine may be much different than it was a few weeks ago, it is still important to keep on track with your lifelong goals. In fact, in times when life seems ambiguous, it may be even more important to recommit to your overall life goals and then decide to move forward. If there is one thing we can always be assured of, it is that life will always change. The best thing we can do for ourselves and our family is to be prepared for whatever comes our way.
Written by Juliette Punchello