Let’s say that you’re in college and the semester has started. You are really caught up in all of the craziness that is your college experience. Maybe you’ve moved into a new place and taken a little time to settle in. Perhaps there’s been some romance, some parties, some social events, new friends to be made. Perhaps it takes you just a bit to settle into a routine. Fast forward a month, then two months, then you’re suddenly facing finals. You have huge papers / projects / exams looming and you’re nowhere near prepared. How did this happen? Sometimes the semester deadlines sneak up like little ninjas with silent steps. They attack you when it is too late to react. A throwing star takes out the time you had to study. Nunchucks beat out any hope for getting help in time. And finally the ninja’s swift sword jabs you in the self esteem. You feel yourself crumple under the weight of your own anxiety or depression. It is too late to be as awesome as you truly want to be. Ugh. Gah. Sob.

Ahem, let’s set those ninja images aside and talk about how to *avoid* this scenario.

Here’s a simple suggestion that gives you the chance to make a course correction early enough in your semester to dodge the big YIKES and steer towards success.

Ready? Here it is:
Set a phone reminder to prompt you to:

  1. Pause
  2. Assess where you are in the semester
  3. Think about how you’re doing
  4. Implement a change that will save you later.

My recommendation is that you have the reminder pop up every 2ish weeks at a point in your schedule when you have a few minutes to think and implement change.

What should the reminder actually say?
It should have some title like “Course correction” or “Plan to be awesome” and it should contain these questions:

How am I feeling?
Consider whether or not you’re rested, eating well, in a good mental space, socially adjusting, feeling safe and confident.

Where am I in my schedule and workload?
Consider project due dates and progress. Are you on track? Assume that everything will take you longer than you expect.

If I continue on this path where will I end up?
Compare this to your goals. Notice that I said *your* goals. You don’t need to compare this to some ideal super student. You should set your own goals. Maybe it is important to you to establish friendships and you are ok with B’s and C’s. in this case you would consider if you’ve been socializing enough and if your grades are adequate. You’re in charge. You get to set your goals.

Do I need to change anything?
This answer needs to be concrete and actionable. Be clear on what action you will do that is different than what you’ve been doing. Add this change to your todo list or schedule time to implement whatever change you deem necessary.

Do I need help?
Remember that it takes some time and effort to get help. If your answer to this question is yes or even maybe then you should start getting help lined up right now.

Finally, you know yourself pretty well by now. You probably have some individual problem areas that you want to avoid or track. Maybe you have a few red flag behaviors that you want to look out for. It is worth taking a minute to think about any other questions or prompts that you need to ask yourself on a biweekly basis to ensure success at the end of the semester. If you want help thinking about what those problem areas might be, read my blog “Aim to fail” for guidance.

Please, take a minute right now to enter your phone reminder: it could save your academic career.


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