• Ali Jones

5 Ways to Show Up As Your Best Self This School Year


Over my past three years at Queen’s, from in-person to virtual school, I’ve learned a lot about what does and doesn’t help when it comes to showing up as the best version of myself. The chaos that comes from university makes it a tricky place to navigate and find your routine. As someone who is always trying to balance my academic, extra-curricular, and social life, I can offer a few tips. I hope to spark some thoughts about what you can do to make sure you’re reaching your full potential, while also feeling great about yourself by the end of the week.


1. Be proactive


One of the best tips that I can offer is to be proactive, rather than reactive. It’s always easier to stop a spill from happening than to clean it up after. While we have all had our fair share of scrambling to finish an assignment last minute, being proactive applies to so much more than school work. When I’m feeling unmotivated, I try to ask myself how doing just one thing will help me later. Even though I’m too tired to go grocery shopping, it’s important I do because otherwise I’ll be hungry tomorrow and have no energy to study. The thought of me living on stale crackers in the library usually gives me just the right amount of incentive to roll out of bed.


2. Do the one thing you need to do in order to do everything else


This phrase was a piece of advice I was given in second year, and it has continued to stick with me–but let me explain it more thoroughly. While it may sometimes seem like the one thing you NEED to do is the next assignment on your list of school deliverables, I’m referring to the one thing you need to do to make everything else in your life fall into place. For me, I need to make sure I’m spending time everyday doing something I enjoy; this usually means I’m either journaling or going to the gym. These activities reset and recharge me everyday, so that I’m able to show up in all other areas of my life. If you can find out what your “one thing” is and stick to that habit, you’ll prevent yourself from the dreaded burn out we all have felt.


3. Check in with yourself


University moves fast. It’s really easy to go through the motions without stopping to take a breath every once in a while. As students, we often think to ourselves “I just need to make it through this week.” I find it helps me to ask myself what I can do to make things a little easier and support myself, instead of focusing on what I need to get through. Sometimes I have to admit that I’m too tired to make social plans or I’m unable to work out as much as I wanted to that week. Being aware of where I’m at by checking in with myself helps set my personal expectations of what I’m going to be able to commit to and/or accomplish that week. My weeks tend to fluctuate, sometimes I fit more than intended into my week and sometimes I don’t quite get there. Either way, I want to set myself up for success by acknowledging my capacity.


4. Plan mood boosters


There are points in the semester where I get so focused on school that everything else seems to blur into the background. While this is inevitable, I find there are small ways to keep my morale up and stay focused on the end goal. The first way is to plan a reward that will happen after I reach my goal; for example, I might plan to order dinner and watch movies with my housemates after my last assignment is done. This is an event for me to look forward to, which helps motivate me to work hard. The second way is to actively engage in small activities that make a difference. This may include buying a new study snack, making a new playlist to listen to when you wake up, or trying a fun coffee flavour for the first time. Even though these are all very cheesy/simple things, they can actually make a difference to my mood and give me a boost when I have to study for my least favorite class.


5. Buddy up


We’ve all had those days when we go to the library with our friends, plan on getting work done, and end up talking the whole time. While this can be one of my most favorite unproductive activities, there are times when I know I need to focus on school. This being said, there’s usually that one person who I can rely on to have a legitimate study session. Basically, my tip is to find this person who is so focused on their school-related goals, that they inspire you to get focused when you go through those waves of low motivation. Sometimes we don’t realize that consistently working alone can get tiring, and we just need some comfort in studying for a pick-me-up.


With all that being said, these are the things that have helped me the most throughout my university experience; they may or may not work well for you! At the end of the day, I think it’s most important to try new things and see what resonates with you the most. I still feel like I’m testing out best ways to study, while also balancing school stress and demands. We’re all out here doing our best and learning, so our best habits will only come with time. Good luck on the year, I know you’ll figure it all out!