Everyone has that one test — the test they prepared for but whose mark came back demoralizingly low. The one that leaves you shaken and reconsidering your own sense of worth. But you can bounce back from this experience and rebalance the three goals of every student: improving your grades, maintaining your health, and enjoying your life.
I present to you the “nine-to-five” mindset, a strategy that has proven useful to me and some of my most successful friends over the course of our education. The core philosophy of the “nine-to-five” mindset” is to treat school like a full-time job.
What would you be doing if you were not in university? Perhaps you have never considered this; many people pursue university as a matter of course or have considerable parental pressure for their studies. Recognize that there are alternatives to your current path and that most of these alternatives include working full time.
I got to experience one of these alternatives when I dropped out of university in my first year. I worked full-time bagging groceries, and part-time on my hobbies. It was the best decision I ever made. I learned that university isn’t a prerequisite to living a good, happy life, but I realized that university was something I truly wanted. I also learned that while university is hard, working full-time is too.
University is one choice among many, so remind yourself why you chose it. To make it through university you have to embrace that choice, and steel yourself for the work you must do. The way you would for a difficult job, you go through it, then you go home.
Treat school like a job
What does this entail in practice? First, pick the hours you intend to devote to school. Aim for 40 hours a week, though many students may need to do more. I choose the “nine to five” mindset every day except Saturday, with a lunch break in the middle. The important thing is consistency. Classes, schoolwork, and studying should all fall within your chosen hours. Work hard, and avoid distractions during the hours you choose to devote to your education.
The flip side to such dedication during working hours is deliberately not taking your work home. This means during your time off, relax guilt-free and spend time on things that you enjoy. Especially things that are beneficial to your personal health.
Consider working in a consistent place, like your favorite library. Treat this area as your office, arrive there on time, and do nothing but work when you’re there.
Guard your health
Use your personal time in a healthy way. Even in the busiest periods of your life, you need exercise, food, and sleep. \ For those who have never been to the gym, try starting with The New York Times’ 7 Minute Workout. It is tiring for all fitness levels, and only takes seven minutes, which is short enough for even the busiest human beings.
Getting good sleep is vital. Listen to your body when you feel tired. Use red light filters on your devices to keep your circadian rhythm in check. Often, an hour spent sleeping is better studying than an hour cramming late at night.
Consider reading books or getting back into reading. Pick stuff that’s easy and escapist, and read it before you fall asleep. Studies have shown reading to be a healthy stress-coping activity. It also helps keep your own world in perspective.
Finally, practice gratitude. This helped me through a period of deep depression. Take a few minutes and tell yourself “I’m grateful for .” Start by filling in the blank with something basic and physical that you would immediately miss should it be gone, like the air you breathe. In the dark depths of winter, be thankful for your snow boots and coat. Appreciate the roof over your head. Slowly build up toward bigger and less tangible things, educational opportunities, family and friends, and the great gift of life.
Keeping your cool while at university requires a mix of discipline, relaxation, and perspective. Students around you will panic, but you must realize that this is a microcosm; most people on Earth never attend university, and a less-than-perfect grade will feel less consequential when you consider this. Do not fear failure, but pursue excellence. Students retake classes all the time; students drop out and then return or switch programs constantly. Things will work out for you.