Starting the new semester on the right foot can set the tone for the rest of the academic year. Some students are amped up to crush their goals, buoyed by the hopeful energy of the new year. However, as many students and non-students know, the vast majority of new year’s resolutions languish by February. Far too many students follow a cyclical rise and fall during the school year – rotating between high intensity, high motivation days then lapsing into old routines of procrastination and mediocre performance. So, it’s not simply the start of the semester that matters; it’s also the sustainability of that initial push toward one’s year end goals.
The Sanskrit language has a fantastic word for this phenomenon: arambushura. It means one who is good at the beginning. The ancient Greeks had a similar idea when they coined the word mediocrity, which means one stuck between two rugged mountains. Isn’t that a wonderful image? A hiker takes off on a long journey, conquers the first test, but can’t muster the courage or the skill needed to conquer the next climb.
I imagine most students aren’t climbing mountains or thinking about sanskrit and greek on an average school day, but they are experiencing the same phenomenon as the ancients and the alpinists. Each day, a student had to recommit to the climb. They have to act daily on whatever goal they set out to accomplish. That sustained action is trickier in practice than in theory. So, how do we as parents and educators encourage students to stick with their new year’s resolutions and hit the ground running in January?
Here are some tips for getting off to a good start and sustaining this new baseline:
- Get organized: Take some time to organize your schedule, materials, and workspace. Prime the environment for good decision making. Add visual cues for habits you want to instill this semester. Committing to preparation daily can make you feel more in control and make it easier to keep track of your responsibilities.
- Keep Goals at the Forefront: Sometimes we forget what we committed to accomplishing. Capture your ambitions for the new year on paper (or in a digital format) and review it often. This will force you to clarify your intentions and act on them daily. Don’t ignore the obstacles, either. Think about what can prevent you from accomplishing your goals and have a plan to overcome those obstacles.
- Get to know your professors: Social capital makes all the difference in the end. The more accountable and comfortable we feel about those around us, the better our baseline performance. Introduce yourself to your professors (if you haven’t done so already) and ask about their expectations for the course. Try to establish a rapport so you feel more comfortable asking for help as the semester becomes more difficult.
- Manage your time effectively: Time management is key to success in college, high school, middle school, the working world, and pretty much anywhere else. Establish high quality habits and routines… and don’t miss twice. If you fail one day, work harder to get back on track tomorrow. Clarify the objective for the day, prioritize them accordingly, and have clear results in mind. We want to make sure we’re being productive, not just busy.
- Take care of yourself: Make sure to get enough sleep, eat well, and stay active. Taking care of your physical and mental health can help you perform your best academically. So much of success in school is about what happens outside of the classroom.
The tips above with repetition will help any student not only have a better start to the semester but also sustain this new baseline when things get difficult. At Staying Ahead of the Game, we firmly believe that habits and systems driven by executive functioning skill research can help any student thrive in the modern day classroom. As the new semester begins, remind your child that organization, time management, study skills, and impression management form the foundation for every stellar school year.
Beyond the core four EF skills listed above, there is one more way you can help your student succeed this semester: academic coaching. Our flagship academic coaching program provides students with a one-on-one EF mentor who can provide accountability and guidance throughout the academic year. To learn more about this service, please view our free resources or reach out to us today.