How To Be An Oliner (Tips From ARCs!)

Based on similar articles from November 2020 and February 2021

Happy February! As we settle into spring semester, it’s the perfect time to evaluate how your academic year has been going and if there’s anything you want to change. College is hard, especially now, and we know that it can be challenging to figure out how to improve your work habits or organize your life. That’s where ARCs come in! ARCs are Academic Resource Co-designers – fellow students who’re here to help you out with any organization, time management, or general productivity skills you want to work on. You can think of us like executive function tutors, not tied to a specific class, happy to chat about anything from sending scary emails to prioritizing your to-do list for the day.

We don’t need to list all of the reasons everyone has to be stressed and anxious right now – there are a lot and everyone has their own struggles to get through. Amidst all of it, though, we are still students, with classes, homework, and projects to juggle (not to mention clubs, activities, and socializing… the list goes on). So, at the start of this semester, we ARCs would like to offer some tips and tricks we’ve collected from fellow Oliners on what has helped them navigate being an Oliner.

Task Management

  • Post-it notes
    • Write out tasks by hand on a post-it and stick it to anything you see often (next to your trackpad or on the wall near your desk are great options). You’ll have a convenient place to keep track of what you need to do and you’ll get to cross things out as you do them which is super satisfying.
  • Electronic to do lists
    • If you prefer an electronic to do list, consider creating or finding a simple version that works for you! Google Sheets can be a great starting point, with checkboxes, sorting, and date formats built in. If you’re the kind of person who remembers That Thing You Should Do while walking around away from your desk, look for options that you can access from both your phone and your laptop, such as Asana or Trello. There are even game-ified to-do lists, like Habitica!
  • Schedule it!
    • In addition to adding classes and meetings to your personal calendar, try scheduling “do not disturb” work time. You can use your main calendar so others can’t schedule meetings with you during this time, or create another calendar that only you can see.
  • Track Canvas assignments
    • Did you know you can subscribe to your Canvas in Outlook and Google Calendar? Events appear for submission due dates for all of your classes and are updated automatically.

Getting Into the Flow

  • Create a commute
    • Now that we’re back in person, we have built in commutes before and after class to walk around campus. Before sitting down to do a bunch of work, try taking a walk or just moving a bit to create your own separation between school life and personal life. Working outside of your dorm can also help – the library and MAC both have great options for working at tables, on couches, or even on funky chairs.
  • Find where work is happening
    • Working with other students around is a great way to build momentum towards getting things done while adding a little friendly accountability. You don’t have to all work on the same assignment to work together!
  • Focused work
    • Many Oliners use the Pomodoro Method to get into focused work. The base version uses 25 minute blocks of focused work, broken up by 5 minute breaks.There are tons of apps and extensions with variations, but you can also use your calendar or a simple timer for the same effect.
  • Hide your phone
    • Notifications are designed to be distracting! Moving your phone away from your work area and quitting apps that send non-work-related notifications on your laptop can help limit distractions. There are many apps that offer various rewards for staying off of your phone for a set amount of time – we recommend Flora and Tide (both free) – and Windows has a Focus Assist feature that can also come in handy here.

If you want help implementing any of these strategies, want to see more options, or just want to chat about organization and productivity, feel free to fill out the ARC request form to get connected with an ARC! Getting work done can be challenging for many reasons, but ARCs are here to help you figure out how to get through those barriers as much as possible!

We hope that your spring semester is as engaging, well-focused, organized, and restful as possible. You are not alone!


The ARCs

Riya Aggarwal, Reid Bowen, Jocelyn Jimenez, Evelyn Kessler, Vedaant Kuchhal, Manu Patil, Charlotte Ramiro de Huelbes, Laurel Rodriguez Mitton, Prisha Sadhwani, and Arwen Sadler

ARC request form:

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