Creating a course schedule for the semester can be a delicate balancing act. There are some basic rules that many students have learned to follow, such as making room for lunch and avoiding unfavorable class locations that result in spending more time on the bus than in class. Most would also prefer to avoid the early 8:30 a.m. classes or some of the late class times, if possible.
A popular idea is having Friday entirely off, or at least only having an early class to give yourself the rest of the day off. The benefit is pretty clear — and who would say no to a semester full of regular three-day weekends?
This idea has even become a trend in the workplace, as the four-day workweek, usually 10 hours a day from Monday to Thursday, grows in popularity. And it could be a good idea to match your college schedule to the soon-to-be post-school working environment.
In my opinion, adding 2 hours to a typical 8-hour day for four days a week feels less overwhelming than having a fifth workday. Not to mention the time saved with one less commute a week.
Generally, though, it improves productivity, reduces burnout and makes breaks more satisfying and appreciated. After all, there is a huge sense of relief when you wake up and do not have to worry about immediate responsibilities.
For students, having a day off during the week can be advantageous when creating additional time for extracurriculars or work. It opens up the possibility of three full days of longer shifts if needed. Having a set time for any asynchronous sections of classes you may choose to take could also be helpful.
But instead of creating that three-day weekend by putting the break on Friday or Monday, emptying your schedule in the middle of the week can be much more advantageous.
Having Wednesday off would mean two straight days of classes, a break, two more class days and then a regular two-day weekend. Rather than having four (or five) consecutive days of work before a break, it becomes just two days.
Even if Wednesday is not possible due to the timing of the courses you want to take, Tuesday or Thursday are still almost as beneficial. In any case, there is a maximum of three straight working days until you have a day to rest.
From a productivity standpoint, regular and frequent breaks are essential to maximize concentration, especially for mental tasks such as critical thinking and memorization, which are vital for studying.
While this is geared toward focusing on short, midday working breaks, longer breaks and vacations increase productivity and reduce exhaustion on a larger scale. Applying this schedule structure to every week presents more opportunities to recover and minimizes stress building up throughout it.
Having a midweek break also naturally generates flexibility in timing. When classes have midterms or projects due during the same week, which can be quite common, this scheduling structure allows for a division of these important dates. You can prepare for the tests or projects due on Monday and Tuesday over the weekend and cram for the assessments later in the week on the day off.
This break can also be used over the course of the semester to organize studying and pre-class tasks. Again, studying and homework can be split into more defined days with less content overlap on the days off.
A somewhat significant downside to this structure, though, is that there will likely be a day with four courses, possibly from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., with only a 30 or 40-minute break between classes. This is somewhat inevitable with an average credit load and without online courses or asynchronous sections.
But this can be somewhat mitigated by having the three or four course days on Monday or Thursday, which would fall right before or after a break. This means there would be an entire day off beforehand that can be used to prepare for the overload of courses coming the following day.
But even if that is not possible, having a busy day on Tuesday or Friday means you are done afterward — you have the next day completely off. Again, the midweek break structure simply presents multiple flexible advantages compared to a three-day weekend or a traditional five-day schedule.
As this is likely impossible in a traditional workplace unless you are able to set your own hours, this means that being a college student presents the best opportunity to take advantage of this unique potential benefit.
With growing conscientiousness about avoiding burnout, prioritizing mental health and taking adequate breaks, being able to create a schedule that inherently supports a more well-rested and flexible lifestyle is a straightforward strategy to make life much smoother.
Tyler Tran is a sophomore in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and minoring in Economics. His column, "Hung Up," runs on alternative Mondays.
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