Holiday Wrap: Reflecting on the Past and Planning for the Winter Term

Tuesday, December 20, 2016
by Ryan Patrick Welch

Seeing as this will be my final posting, this is a perfect time to reflect on the fall term and project to the upcoming winter term. Fittingly, one of the big takeaways from my experience with a vastly diverse group of students is plan ahead. And I don’t mean that in a remedial or punitive way at all. It’s more of a general sentiment on developing a process, a process which you’re concurrently tweaking as it develops. Perhaps this is too meta (considering this post is prefaced on looking forward), but I’ve heard that being self-referential on the internet is the thing to do. I digress.

New Yorker cartoon captioned
                                       The New Yorker

This process-oriented sentiment applies to writing (which I think I’ve devoted an array of thoughts to), but also to your academic and professional development in general. This “plan ahead” mentality can manifest in a lot of ways. A really straight-forward example may help next semester; essentially, plan ahead and schedule your 50 minute appointments with the Writing Centre in advance. Like, on the first week of class, sit down with your syllabi and check out for potentially hectic weeks where you have multiple assignments due in a short span. It sounds a bit aggressive, but you’ll thank yourself around midterms when you frantically go to book an appointment last-minute and all the slots are full. And remember, it’s easy to cancel an appointment as you get closer; just make sure you cancel at least the day before so other students have the chance to slide in your place (especially if they’re on the waitlist).  

Another way to plan ahead is to self-evaluate how you’ll approach upcoming assignments. More specifically, evaluate which types of assignments you’re more familiar with versus ones that may be totally new to you. Civil engineering student taking ENGL 109 and you see a narrative essay on there? You may want to approach your writing differently and change how you allocate your time for that paper, purely because it may be uncharted territory. Process, process, process.

About to enter a co-op term and you know you’ll be going through 8658935 applications and cover letters? If you’ve done it before, you know that it can take up as much time and energy (maybe even more, ugh) as any other class. Plan ahead by looking at times for each round of postings and work in a visit to Tatham Centre and the Writing Centre to get some feedback on your documents. I met a lot of stressed students who would come in the day that final applications were due for each round, and they were not having a good time. Save yourself the pain by planning ahead and giving yourself enough time to make edits and actually respond to feedback. Future you will thank current you. Imagine the handshake scene from Interstellar, but without the pressure of all of humankind depending on you.

Interstellar meme captioned
                          Yup, that's space alright. Imgur

This type of planning usually benefits from some self-imposed deadlines. Set realistic goals for yourself—I want to have x, y, and z done by the end of week 4—and do your best to stick to them. That being said, don’t be too hard on yourself if some items don’t get checked off the list; instead, pay attention to where time slipped away and how it happened so you can be more prepared for it in the future. For example, the run the Jays went on in October definitely took up more of my time (and my soul) than I wanted. So, now that I know the Leafs will be in the midst of a triumphant playoff push in March (hahaha…why do I do this to myself), I may be easily distracted on game nights, or even ravenously consuming all the high-quality Toronto media coverage, like what Nazem Kadri’s favourite cloud-formation is. In that case, it’s helpful to 1) self-evaluate and recognize that this may interfere with classes and such, and 2) manage time to enjoy these things. Remember, you still need to make time for yourself to actually, you know, do things you really want to do.

Leafs meme captioned
                                 Me in real life. Tumblr

So yeah, plan ahead and save yourself from…yourself. I know this tip really gets hammered home a lot, so I get if you’re feeling a bit numb to it. That’s fair. Regardless, I hope this post gives you some sustainable ideas for how you can work a little bit of planning into the winter term. Much like this constant reflection/projection planning process, it’s really helpful to take a moment once a term is done and ask yourself “what went well? What didn’t? Where do I need to devote some extra energy?”. Each term is (usually) a fresh start, so treat it like that. Especially after the stress of exams and the subsequent burnout, it can be easy to just loaf around for a couple weeks, then throw yourself back into the grind. Obviously, it’s great to loaf for a bit; you’ve earned it. Just remember to take even an hour to reflect and project. Reflect and be good to yourself. Seriously.

Alright, I’m outta here. It’s been a blast working with the Writing Centre this term, and I’m grateful for all the unreal people I’ve been lucky enough to meet. I hope the holiday season gives you all a chance to relax and reflect on the same kind of thing, and take a moment to appreciate the small things. I wish all of you readers (and non-readers, they’re alright too) an enjoyable holiday season, and the best of luck next term and beyond. Take care.