Achieving Academic Wellness

Whew… my first month of university is over!  The first week was hectic, the second was miserable, but I’m glad I can say: it’s getting better! I’m starting to get the hang of what it takes to #ThriveatUBC!


  1. Get an agenda!  Think, plan, write it down!  Get or make yourself  an organizer with timeslots as it will most likely help nail you down to completing tasks.
  2. Find great study spaces! Some find it helpful to have one designated spot, I work better with variety.  Find what’s suitable for you!
  3. UBC offers many resources, so don’t hesitate to get help!
  4. And of course, don’t forget to take breaks and reward yourself!

I’m going to get my lab prep work done now!  What are your tips for achieving academic wellness?

Take a Brain Break

As a new semester takes off, I am once again presented with a question I struggle with each semester. How do you find a balance between school life and the rest of your life? Where is the line between slacking off and an anxiety attack?
This semester I have decided to allot time each day to spend doing something I like. I’ve created my own gym schedule that requires I disengage from studying for an hour per day. So far it is working famously. That hour is an hour that I spend focusing on something entirely unrelated to my studies. In that hour, I get to crank up my tunes and feel the endorphins flowing.
So far the benefits of my frequent gym trips are more than physical. Sure the semester has only just started, but by taking that brain break I have also completed all of my readings on time. In past semesters, I would have had to let something, an article or two, slide with the promise of reading them when I have some spare time in the future. I am up to date on all my classes (gasp!).
By taking a break, I am being more productive in the time that I spend devoted to school. An assignment that in the past would have taken 3 hours to finish is done in an hour. I am spending less time on school work, and getting more done. My theory that spending time on things other than school was an irresponsible choice has been thrown out. Taking small breaks is the most responsible thing I could do.

In my spare time in the future I will not need to catch up on readings, I am going to actually do something enjoyable instead.

Tips to Start Early and Keep Cool This Term

The beginning of the term is here and that’s great news, because used wisely, this time of year can significantly lower your stress levels for the entire term.  Indeed, the first two weeks of the semester represent a unique window of opportunity for you to get a head start in your schoolwork.  As most instructors will not assign assignments or heavy readings for the first week of class, every single page of a textbook you’re reading is giving you an edge for the rest of the term.  Since many first classes end early and are fairly relaxed, first week is generally filled with tons of free time, making combining partying with friends AND doing work UBER EASY.

Term 1 last year was the first time I made the firm commitment to starting to do work from the very first day of class instead of putting it off.  Here’s what I gained from it:  (i) I felt so much more positive about my work throughout the term since I could tell myself that everything’s under control: I’m ahead in my readings, (ii) when the weeks with an insane amount of assignments kicked in (as they always do), I could focus on them instead of my readings without accumulating a discouraging backlog, and (iii) I gathered momentum very quickly, which prevented me remaining in vacation mode for the first five weeks of the term. The strategy was helpful to me in taming anxiety and improving my general well-being.  I felt a lot more relaxed and in control of my workload.

Sounds hard to get yourself to do work during first week?  I recommend starting with a small objective, say two chapters a day (one after breakfast and one in the evening before you meet up with your friends at the pub).  At this time of the year, the library is dead quiet, which makes reading a lot easier and faster.  Starting with the most interesting book you have to read all term is also a very good incentive.

Get on it, and have a great term!

Staying on Track with Summer School

How do you get yourself to do school work during the summer?

As someone who works full time and is currently taking a couple of online classes, I have been finding it fairly challenging to muster up the same enthusiasm for assignments as I normally have during the school year. Sure I could do my usual readings and take notes, or I could be riding my bike, sitting on the beach, or hanging out with friends in my spare time. In fact I have a pile of non-school-related books that take precedence over my school readings. Summer and school mix about as well as water and oil in my opinion.

The key to staying on track is planning ahead. I have found that this is the best way to make sure I get what I need to get done, done. No, it doesn’t make it more enjoyable to be taking courses in the summer months. However, if I schedule school-time for times of the day when I wouldn’t be doing anything else more fun, it makes it a bit easier to concentrate. I’ve taken to getting up a little bit earlier before work – not skimping on sleep, just denying myself the excess hour I would have normally slept. This leaves the evenings to take part in all the activities I like to do during the summer.

When there are so many other things you would rather be doing this summer, how do you manage to get yourself to spend time on school?

Study Tips

Well, it’s that time of year again- its exam time. The chances are that you probably have 4-5 exams and I can bet that you aren’t happy with how fast they are coming up. The goal is to be as productive as possible in whatever available time you have. Here are some things to consider:

1. Be location-smart. If studying at the library with a friend or two really amounts to reading one paragraph and several hours of Youtube videos- the chances are that it’s not the best choice. Consider where it is that you focus the best- study first, socialize later.

2. Don’t be food-lazy. As busy as it is when you’re in high-intensity study mode, don’t skimp on healthy eating. If you don’t have time to cook, don’t instantly grab a Double Big-Mac meal with a milkshake for dessert. Bring healthy snacks or pack a lunch so you won’t be tempted by junk food. If that isn’t an option, be smart when eating out.

3. Prioritize. Which exam comes first? What needs the most review? Determine how much time each exam needs devoted to it- there is no point spending three days reviewing for an exam you’re already bound to ace.

4. Be creative. Don’t just re-read your notes. Try to engage as many different senses as possible. Read out-loud, make flashcards, use highlighters, make your own mock exam.

5. Put the effort in. Nothing feels worse than walking into an exam totally unprepared.

Happy Studying!

Minimizing Internet Intake

I used to experience difficulties logging off Facebook, Youtube, etc., and this truly interfered with my academic studies. However, these following strategies have helped me to manage my Internet usage significantly:

1.Time yourself

Time goes by quickly when you are having fun on the Internet. One could spend a few hours straight without knowing. I came up with this idea of timing myself when spending time on Internet. Every time I log on my Facebook account, I set an alarm on my laptop that rings in 30 mins, and I stop to work after my time’s up. The point of timing is to be aware of how much time you’ve already spent, and to realize how much time you have left to do your work.

2. Study with computer off, or study without Internet connection.

This strategy is to block off the temptation of  social networking. I usually reach efficient studying after applying the timing method mentioned above, but this strategy definitely helps. If you still have problem focusing, try going to the library to study ALONE with books and notes ONLY. This way, you cannot possibly do anything else besides studying.

Combating Procrastination

Procrastination: it’s one of those things that we know is bad for us, but that we just can’t avoid. It may relieve you to know that you are not alone. In his new book, The Procrastination Equation, Piers Steel notes that the number of procrastinators has actually quadrupled over the past few decades. And nowhere is this habit more rampant than at university campuses across North America – a whopping 80 to 95% of students identify themselves as habitual procrastinators! While this may work for a small number of us who work well under time pressure, the majority would likely agree that time-management is a skill we sorely need to master!

Where should you start? First try to identify where you are wasting your time by tracking your daily activities for a week. The next step is to change your behaviour by cutting back on those time-wasters. The best way to do this is by creating specific time-management goals that you can use to track your progress and re-evaluate your plan further down the road.

Other useful tips include making to-do lists organized by importance or priority, learning to delegate and say no (an effort to achieve that ever elusive work-life balance), making a commitment to stop procrastinating, and getting enough sleep.

If you feel like you need more guidance, why not check out one of the free Student Success workshops offered on campus? Take the first step, and you’ll be that much closer to a balanced, healthier, and stress-free version of yourself!

Virtual Time-Drain

iStockphoto,male,laptop,working,sitting,legs crossed,typing,smiling,stuble,casuals,excited,busy,people,technology,concepts,leisure,communicationsReading Break is almost over, and despite being just as busy as usual this week, I certainly managed to spend an incredible amount of time online. Now that school is starting up again, I need to cut back to make sure I have time to actually do all the readings I didn’t get done. Despite my best intentions, I did not get everything done that I wanted to this reading break, and I know that many of you are in the same position. So how can I stop wasting my time online and actually get down to work?

The first thing I need to do is to figure out what my top time-wasters are. Facebook comes in at number one, with e-mail and YouTube coming a close second. Not to mention watching all those previews on Apple Trailers.

Secondly, I need to find ways to cut down how much time I spend online. Setting an egg timer will be helpful, as will going offline when I don’t need the internet for my work. Most of all, I need to stop multitasking; chatting with my friend in Australia while watching a movie and working on a paper outline is definitely not the best use of my time.

Take the Internet Addiction Test to find out if your online activities are helpful or harmful. If you are having trouble controlling your internet usage, UBC Counselling Services can help.

Putting the "Read" in "Reading Break"

It’s the first official day of Reading Break and I woke up with a start. Did I oversleep and miss my first class? Did I finish my readings? Is that term paper due today? Then, of course, I realized that this week I don’t have classes to report to and I fell back on my pillow with a wave of relief. This got me thinking, though, that I don’t want to wake up next Monday morning with the same anxiety; I need a plan to map out what I need to accomplish to face the week back to school with a sense of accomplishment, not a pang of fear.

Whether you’re on or off campus during this week’s reprieve from classes, here are some tips to tackle your work instead of letting it pile up for Sunday night. Continue reading “Putting the "Read" in "Reading Break"”

Study Effectively, No Matter the Medium

A few of my professors this term have banned computers and phones in their classrooms. They’ve cited the usual culprits: distraction with people typing comments on Facebook, not notes on the lecture and attention paid to defeating Level 23 of BrickBreaker, not to the instructor. At the sound of this technology prohibition, I observed a shift in the classroom: what will we spend the next 47 minutes doing if we can’t switch between texting, Facebooking, and online shopping? It seems the hope is that we’ll do what we’re (primarily) at university to do: learn.

I know some (rare and elusive) people have the ability to use their computers in class with restraint. I am not one of those people. Acknowledging this weakness, I have switched to paper and pen. This style, doodling aside, keeps me on track during class, but the most important part about note taking is the follow-up. Whether I’m taking notes on a spiral or an iPad, if I don’t reread my notes soon after taking them, connect them to other concepts in the course, and ask questions about parts I don’t understand, the notes do me little good. Continue reading “Study Effectively, No Matter the Medium”

Procrastination Nation

It’s two days until your final paper is due. How are you feeling?

a. Totally stressed! I’ll start the paper tonight.

b. Calm. I started two weeks ago and I just have to look it over one last time.

Is procrastination a problem for you? If you selected “a,” check out these tips to get back on track:

  1. Quickly outline what you need to do and what you need in order to accomplish this.
  2. Chunk your assignment into manageable tasks so it doesn’t seem so daunting.
  3. Find a place to study that works for you. Ask yourself: where and under what circumstances do I work most efficiently?
  4. Disconnect. Turn your phone on silent and leave it in your backpack. If you absolutely need your computer, sign out of your email, Facebook, and Twitter.
  5. Give yourself a break once you’ve completed a task – say a quick chat with a friend – for completing one of the chunks.

For more studying help, go to the Chapman Learning Commons in IKBLC or check out the resources on their website.

For more about procrastination and other study tips, Check out Student Health 101

Preparing for Exam Season

Exams officially start today. As odd as it is, sometimes I’m almost relieved that it’s exam time. The pace is different from the hustle and bustle of assignments, papers, and presentations and I like being able to sit at home, lull around and study at my own pace.

If you haven’t started your studying or are just about to start, here are a few of the things I’ve done throughout my undergrad student life to prepare for exams:

  1. 1. Make a studying schedule. I usually write out the remaining days until my exams and schedule in my study time.
  2. 2. Study in 2-4 hour blocks. Realistically, I’m not going to study straight from 8am until 12am, and neither should you. Study in chunks of time that will give you enough time to absorb the information, but not too long so that you lose focus on what you’re (re)learning.
  3. Schedule breaks. Pencil in breaks for meals, resting, exercising, spending time with family and friends, and even some time for fun. If you don’t take study breaks, your mind can start wandering and then it wouldn’t matter that you spent the whole day reading your notes (or rather, the same line in your notes).
  4. Remember to eat, sleep and exercise right during this time. All these factors affect how well we do on our exams. Remember to make time for these activities and hopefully you’ll be re-energized and refueled to do the very best that you can.

As I’m studying for the last couple of exams of my undergraduate degree, I’m wishing you all success! Aim high and always try your best.

Want to see what others are saying about exams? Check out this month’s edition of Student Health 101.

Your Procrastination Go-to


Procrastination… It was never so bad until I discovered the world of Facebook.  I’m constantly looking out for friend requests & checking everyone’s status updates. I know I’m not alone,  since Internet use for nonacademic purposes (including online gaming) was touted one of the top 3 reasons for academic difficulty among UBC students (2008 National College Health Assessment Survey – let me know if you want to know more).

Procrastination is not an easy thing to overcome, but LEAP has a really good Procrastination Toolkit. You might as well make good use of the time you’re procrastinating, so you can BETTER use your time when the temptation of procrastination calls again.

In an effort to maximize MY time before and during exams, I’m putting myself on a low-Facebook diet. I’m challenging myself to only log on to my Facebook account once a day for the next three weeks (for a maximum of 30 minutess). Maybe I’ll eventually build up the courage to inactivate my account. Maybe…

I’ll keep you posted with any of my Facebook withdrawal symptoms, and in the meantime, I want to know what your procrastination go-to is, and what’ll you do about it?