We all know the feeling. One minute you’re lying on the beach with your friends, and the next, your teacher is droning on about upcoming internals, and you’re wondering how the heck you got here. It’s a weird time of the year. 

Whether you feel super motivated and ready to tackle 2022, or the whole thing is just overwhelming – we’ve got you. 

Here are our top tips for getting back into the school year.

Finding your new (school) normal again

We’ve heard the saying “find your new normal” far too often in the last few years… and you’re probably rolling your eyes at us already, but bear with us. 

It can be really hard to change your routine, especially when you’ve gone from waking up at lunchtime, to getting up at the crack of dawn so that you don’t miss first-period maths. 

Yeah, no one likes that. 

There are so many changes that happen around this time of year, and the first step to conquering the year is to start with your everyday routine. Creating a routine is a great way to stay organised, be a functioning human, and it will prevent burnout later in the year because you’ll start off with healthy habits to look after yourself while you study. 

You don’t have to be “that girl” and have a whole skincare routine in the morning, but there are a few changes you might be able to make:

  • Start going to bed earlier and earlier, and make it a habit.

Decreasing your bedtime by 15-30 minutes a night will make it easier to function during the day, and you’ll feel ready to tackle all of your other responsibilities. The first step to achieving your goals is always to look after yourself.

  • If you’re super tired in the morning, try getting 10 minutes of sunlight when you wake up!

You can literally go outside and play with your dog, have breakfast, or sit on your phone – it doesn’t matter. This pretty much has the same effect as a coffee in the morning, because the sunlight reduces melatonin, helping you to feel more alert for the rest of the day.

  • Set alerts on your phone for any assignments or deadlines that you have.

This will help manage short-term commitments while you get used to your busy schedule. Soccer practice on a Tuesday? Pop it in your calendar, or set an alarm to remind you to get ready. You have an internal due in a few weeks? Break it up into smaller tasks, and set yourself little goals to achieve throughout the weeks leading up to it. Reminders help reduce your mental load, because you can stop thinking about all the work you have to do, and start doing it! 

  • Keep it realistic!

Planning out some time to hang out with friends, watch YouTube, or have that afternoon nap will give you incentive to stick to your new routine. This is great because you’ll be less likely to freak out and give up on day 2 (we’ve all done it before).

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit”

– Aristotle

If this all seems too much, we get that. The best way to start your new routine is to start small, and make it easy to succeed. Small changes over time will lead to a greater improvement than sticking to a strict routine for a week. 

Feel free to start with one or two things, and see what helps you the most.

Setting up a good mindset from the start

You know that teacher who drones on about having a ‘growth mindset’? Yep, that’s basically us at this point. 

Here are a couple of things you can do to get that mindset sorted for the year.

Create systems, not just goals

One of the first steps to cultivating a great mindset around learning is to check the expectations you set for yourself. The best place to start is with your goals!

Setting goals at the start of the school year is a great way to get motivated about the year ahead, but it’s really important to make sure you’re digging deeper into your learning and thinking about more than getting those E’s. Remember, your mindset is one of the greatest things you can control. 

You’ve probably heard about SMART goals, but we’re going to take it one step further. Instead of focusing on the goal itself, focus on the process to get there. The way we do this is to set systems, not goals. 

For example, “I want to get Merit in Biology this year” is a great goal, but how the heck do you get there? Set systems to make it easy to achieve your goals, even when life gets hard. 

Think about it. You’ve decided you’re going to hike up Mount Everest. Awesome! But how? Will you need to do practice hikes? Join a walking club? You might need to get some new shoes, or hiking gear. All of these things need to be considered, before you even attempt to hike up Mount Everest. You might even think about what you’re going to do when it’s the middle of winter, it’s raining, and you can’t be bothered training. If you set a system, you might already have the habit of putting on your shoes and going outside (regardless of the weather). 

This system will make it easier to consistently work towards your goals, because you have a plan for when things go wrong

It’s the same with studying! If your goal is to get a specific grade, or attend all your classes, start by telling yourself to do one problem question every day, or go to sleep by 11pm so that you don’t oversleep and miss school. It’s about creating a system for your everyday life that makes it easier to work on your goals.

2022 is for setting systems, people, not goals! 

Compete against yourself, no one else

This one explains itself, but unfortunately the NCEA system and school structure can create unhealthy competition around grades. To be completely honest, your NCEA results won’t follow you for the rest of your life – but hopefully your friends will be around for a lot longer! 

Instead of competing against your friends, focus on your own learning

Competition can be a great motivator, because let’s be honest, we all like winning. But instead of focusing on competition against your classmates, turn that inwards, and aim to beat a personal best, or prove to yourself that you are capable of passing Level 2 Physics. 

Whatever it is, push yourself in ways that are going to challenge you, not the person sitting next to you in class. 

Start recognising the effort you put into something, not just the result. This will ultimately be more rewarding, and it means you won’t be comparing yourself to others in order to be happy with your own progress! 

Comparing yourself to others can be really demotivating, because it usually means we’re focusing on our pitfalls instead of our achievements and strengths. You also have no idea what is going on behind the scenes in someone else’s life.

So, how do you deal with comparison? 

It sounds cringey, but becoming your own hype man and boosting your own self-confidence is a good way to change your mindset. A great way to do this is to stop and say one good thing about yourself everytime you catch yourself comparing yourself to others.

Maybe you’re proud of yourself for turning up to class even though you didn’t want to, or you managed to persevere through a difficult problem, or you sat down and studied for 20 minutes instead of going on TikTok.

Learn to set boundaries around your learning

Another important way to prevent burnout is to set boundaries with yourself around your learning. This will probably look quite different for everyone, but setting boundaries around how you want to study will set you up for 2022. 

Here are some things you might consider: 

  • Is there anything you find stressful throughout the year? What can you do to minimise this stress?

For example, maybe you pull all-nighters before most internals are due. To minimise this, you could be strict with yourself and set aside some time to study after school in the week leading up to the internal, so that you can actually get some sleep.

  • When do you want to stop studying each day?

 Some people are okay with studying at 1am, but if that’s not you, set that precedent from the get go, and get your studying done earlier in the day. 

  • If you feel overwhelmed, it’s worth thinking about how much you can reasonably do. Sometimes, the best move is to prioritise what you put effort into.

Remember, passing one internal is always better than failing two. This might look like focusing on one subject or internal, instead of spreading yourself too thin. 

  • Be critical about your extra-curricular activities.

We all need a healthy balance between school and hobbies, and we’re by no means telling you to drop everything. Instead, make sure you’re thinking about your workload, and planning your extracurriculars so that you know which activities you want to do in your free time, and you can easily commit to both school and hobbies simultaneously. 

Plan for the long-term, but hold yourself accountable today

One of the reasons why a new school year can be overwhelming is because there’s so much going on all at once, and it can be hard to see the big picture amidst all the worksheets your teacher is making you take home. 

It’s kind of harsh advice, but holding yourself accountable today will make it much easier to manage in the long-run. 

If you put effort in throughout the year and build a long-term understanding of the content (gross, I know) then you won’t end up drinking Redbull and cramming the day before your tests and exams. We’re not about that life in 2022.

Things you might want to think about:

Do you want to take a particular subject at university? 

Make sure that the subjects you’re taking now will allow you to pursue your passions once you leave school! If you’re unsure, have a chat with your school career counsellor, or a teacher.

Do you have no idea what you want to do after school?

The best move is to take general subjects that open a lot of doors for the future. That way, you won’t hold yourself back from doing anything you might choose later on! Whether that’s an apprenticeship, trade, heading into the workforce, or going to university, studying will give you problem-solving skills, self-discipline, time-management and so many more useful things to help you later on.

What next?

If you’re looking for some motivation, support from other students, or you just want some memes to keep you going, here’s where you can find it:

  • Instagram (for memes and little nuggets of advice)
  • Facebook (if you want students to help you solve problems)
  • ST website for subject outlines (for that subject-specific stuff)
  • TikTok (for our unhinged jokes and personalities)