7 Ways to Set Yourself Up for the Academic Year with Less Stress


So what do you need to have in order before school starts? I work out what I think are the top tools & actions you can complete before school starts.


1. Get your Tech Tools Together

This is so important! We live in a world with lots of distractions, information overload, jam-packed schedules and hella tasks to complete in any given day. Tech tools like the ones I’ve listed help to streamline some of the overwhelm and others help keep the distractions at bay:

Pomodoros: MyTomatoes is my not-so-secret weapon to getting things done. It's a straightforward tracker for the Pomodoro technique--where you work in 25 minute spurts followed by a 5 min break. I've been using it since 2014 and have logged almost 3,000 pomodoro sessions. Even when I don't keep up with the pomodoros it helps get the ball rolling.

SimpleBlocker: This is a Google chrome extension for days when you can't pull your away from productivity busters. You know,

  • Hulu

  • Netflix

  • Facebook Think Pieces

  • Facebook

  • Friends’ funny memes on Facebook

  • Your personal e-mail

RescueTime: This is a phone and computer app that tracks the amount of time you spend working vs. not working. It breaks down the time on your computer and your phone into categories so you can see where you’re spending your time.

A screenshot of my RescueTime dashboard. I had to find a good week 😂

A screenshot of my RescueTime dashboard. I had to find a good week 😂

Routinist: I'll talk more about this later

Do Not Disturb: This is an option available on most smartphones. You can schedule DND times so you can focus distraction-free.

Google Scholar Alerts: Why spend time searching for articles everyday when Google can do it for you? Set up google alerts for your favorite researchers or relevant keywords and get a list of research articles to read everyday!

Citation Manager: I literally don’t know how one gets through graduate school without a citation manager. Zotero (my personal choice, Mendeley, RefWorks, EndNote, whatever. Pick one and use it. I know for a fact Zotero and Mendeley have Google Chrome Extensions that make for saving and storing articles literally a click of a button.

2. Get ahead of your reading

If you can ask for syllabi about 1-2 weeks before classes start s you can get a head start on reading. This is a great tip from Episode 12 with Cssie where she shared how she starts reading about a week or two before classes start to give herself some leeway for thing that will come up over the semester.

3. Set your goals for the academic year

…or at least the fall semester. Of course Scholar Circle members can schedule their goal setting and action planning session every semester they choose to remain in the community.

4. Set up an ideal schedule/routines.

The power of routines is discussed in all forms of media. Most of the time the focus is placed on morning, evening, skin, or self-care routines. These are all really important and if you struggle with keeping up with your routines, I strongly encourage you to download Routinist on your phone. It’s a sweet little app that helps you develop and set a routine.

Screen Shot 2019-08-16 at 11.33.30 AM.png

I want to encourage you to set another routine—a work routine. This comprises of your setup to get work done. As an example I’ll share my work routine:

(1) I write out what I want to accomplish in my work log.

(2) I open a new Chrome page and open MyTomatoes, Pandora or YouTube.

(3) and set a timer for 1.5-4 hours.

(4) optional If I’m having an especially distracted day I also turn on my SimpleBlock.

This routine triggers my mind (usually) to get to work.

5. Gather as much research literature as you can.


Things will likely get crazy as the semester progresses so if I strongly suggest this if you struggle with keeping up with reading articles. Half the battle is having something to even read, spend half a day finding a saving a bunch of articles that seem relevant to your work. This effort in conjunction with setting up Google Scholar alerts will ensure you always have something to read. Also remember the graphic on how to read articles to the right.

6. Deep clean your space

Because sometimes shit gets crazy during the school year. Start with a purge then donate or sell what you're getting rid of (cash flow is that you?) While this topic is incredibly important, it’s outside of my scope so let me send you to my favorite cleaning blog, Unf*ck Your Habitat. It has a pretty entertaining take on cleaning!

7. If this is your first year, practice your route and mode choice to school!

Story time: The summer before I started my PhD I had these lofty goals and dreams of biking to school everyday and being in the best shape of my life. I made a big fuss about getting a bike and my best friend Chelsea surpised me with one at my going away party. I was so excited! On the first day of classes I rode my bike to campus and it was not think hair blowing in the wind, sing song-y experience. It was more like heavy breathing, uncomfortable amounts of sweating and I didn’t even ride the bike home I just pushed it next to me up the two steep hills back to my apartment.

If I could do it all over I wouldn’t have even brought up a bike because I only rode it for exercise because the hills were just too steep. I should have checked the outlay of the land first. Don’t be like me, be smart.

That’s it for now, I’ll have a few more things you can look into once the semester is rolling.