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Back to School: Getting Organized in a New Semester

A new semester is just around the corner, and that means new classes, new teachers, and a pile of new work to finish. The first weeks of a new semester can be overwhelming, but there are a few easy things you can do to make the transition back to school easier and more productive. With a little bit of preparation, you can be ready to conquer the semester the second you step foot on campus! These strategies will also help you to establish good habits when school is over, and you're in charge of your career.

 

Start a planner

Get in the habit of writing down your schedule and your to-do list in one centralized notebook, and make sure that notebook is readily available to you throughout your day. The moment a new task or appointment pops up, you will be ready to pencil it in. Make sure you also note deadlines in a way that stands out so that you don't miss anything!

There are many different types of planners that you can keep. If your life is full of appointments and meetings that need to be scheduled around each other, you can use your planner primarily as a calendar. If you find that you tend to have a million microtasks filling up your day, you can use your planner primarily as a daily to-do list. Make sure you have room to make notes every day so you can write down any immediate action items that you need to remember.

There are millions of pre-made planners that are organized in a million different ways, so go to a bookstore or browse online to find which layout works for you. Alternatively, you can create your own layout in a bullet journal, the latest organizational trend. A bullet journal is a cross between a scheduler, a to-do list, and a journal, and you can read more about it here.

For those who are more tech-savvy, digital planners and planning apps can be very useful. Many students get by quite well by using their smartphones, with a combination of calendar apps, reminder apps, and note-taking apps. Another option is to simply use a planning app, either online or on a smartphone. These apps and websites combine the calendar, reminder, and to-do functions, giving the user a completely digital version of the classic written planner.

 

Set vocal goals and focus on them

Before you start your lessons this semester, take some time to think about what it is you want to accomplish vocally. Are you trying to develop a certain part of your range? Increase vocal flexibility? Sing with less tension? Look back on your previous performances, come up with a list of things you'd like to do better, and use those goals to find this semester's repertoire. If you want to develop your lower range, find music that sits lower on the staff. If you want to increase flexibility, find a piece that requires lots of movement from the voice. Conquer your vocal weaknesses by working on them directly, and soon those weaknesses will become strengths.

Make sure to discuss these goals with your teachers and coaches right at the start of the semester. With your goals in mind, they can steer you towards the most beneficial techniques and repertoire for your desired outcome. They can also keep a close eye on your vocal health and let you know when you are pushing your voice too far in pursuit of your goals. 

Of course, you can set goals in other aspects of your life as well. In setting your goals, try and find ways to break down large tasks into smaller steps, then set deadlines or parameters for completing those steps. It is much easier to complete a microtask than it is to attempt to conquer a giant, overarching goal.

 

Schedule practice time

It can be difficult to find a time to practice on a daily basis between classes, work, and rehearsals. The best way to make time to practice is to schedule it way in advance. Sit down with your calendar before the semester starts and find a regular block of time each day that can be designated as practice time. Put it in your schedule and treat it as a daily appointment - do your best not to schedule over it or skip it.

Additionally, you can make your practice time more efficient by setting daily practice goals. Take some time each night to determine what it is you need to accomplish in the next day's practice session. This can help you prepare, both mentally and physically, for whatever it is you need to sing. Leave room to be flexible in your planning; if you are sick or vocally fatigued, it is better to adjust your practice plans than to push through and potentially worsen your vocal health.

 

Establish a regular sleep schedule

Set a bedtime and a wake-up time for yourself from the start of the semester and do your best to stick to it. Make sure you allow for 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Of course, things may have to shift occasionally when work piles up or rehearsals run late, but by establishing a consistent sleep schedule, you are setting up your body to get the amount of sleep it needs to function at its best every day.

Keep your work habits in mind when you set your sleep schedule. If you can't get work done at night, go to bed early and wake up early to work. If you have classes that start late, push back your wake-up time. Try to avoid using the snooze button to get your body in the habit of waking up right when it's supposed to, ready to start the day.

 

Find colleagues to work with

One of the best ways to keep yourself accountable for your work is to find others to work with. Get to know the people in your classes and start study groups. Having multiple minds in the room when you're trying to learn new material can be extremely helpful, and scheduling work sessions will ensure that work isn't put off until the last minute. 

Reviewing music with fellow cast members on your productions is also a great way to make sure everyone is prepared for rehearsal. Having other singers in the room makes it much easier to practice ensemble numbers, and you also have the opportunity to double check blocking, character, and musical notes with others who have been at rehearsals.

 

Plan something for yourself every day

It can be easy to focus solely on work and school, but without time for relaxation, your body and mind start to burn out. Do at least one thing for yourself every day, unrelated to work or school, that makes you happy. Read a chapter of a book, stretch for fifteen minutes, or take a walk. It doesn't have to be anything big; it just has to be something you find relaxing. Make this a part of your schedule, then come back to your work feeling refreshed and ready to focus.

 

This semester, set yourself up to be your most productive and efficient. With a little bit of planning and self-care, you'll be able to escape from the stress of a new semester and focus instead on all of the opportunities a new year provides.

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