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When summer days start disappearing several minutes sooner every evening and chilly mornings hint that Fall is waiting to fill the woods with color, most of us head back to school! Whether this fills you with dread or inspires you with excitement, the institution of learning is a reality we all must encounter. So, we have a choice. We can grimly endure it, gripe our way through it, and generally pout as we wade through the next nine months of misery, or we can face our destiny boldly and take as much away from the experience as we can. As Gandalf shared with Frodo Baggins "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

If you choose to move moping into this new school year, we feel badly for you, we wish you luck, and mostly we hope you find some reasons for joy over the next nine nerve wracking months.

But, if you dare to delve deeply into the adventure ahead, here are six practical strategies to help you maximize your productivity and personal growth. Try these this school year to stay sharp, stay active, and stay ahead of your class. 

1. Sleep

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No, not in class, at night! It can be so challenging to get to bed on time, especially with so many friends around, events going on, and video games to play; but seriously, sleeping on a regular schedule and getting 8 hours of good rest each night keeps your brain and body functioning at maximum capacity.

2. Socialize

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Ever notice that you can be surrounded by people all day and never have a meaningful conversation? Instead, try talking with one person every week who you may not usually talk to, and don't talk about yourself! Ask about something you know really matters to them, and if you don't know what matters to them, find out! These conversations can actually improve your mood, expand your perspective, give you new ideas, and generally make you a stronger leader.

3. Study

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You knew it was coming. Sometimes putting your nose in a book and completing the assignment is the only way to learn the material. But don't make it a chore! Try adding an extra hour of reading twice a week. It might mean cutting time at the mall short on Friday or getting home right after practice on Tuesday, but all of those small sacrifices add up to a big payoff when you actually understand the material at the end of the semester. Hey, you might get so far ahead that you make some extra money tutoring your friends!

4. Schedule

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Make a plan and stick to it. You know best what you need for success, so plan each week in a way that gives you the time you need to learn. There will always be people who try to distract you, but stay with your game plan. Learn to say no (politely of course) to distractions, and you'll be amazed at what you achieve in even a short time of focused study.

5. Share

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"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough," Albert Einstein said. So test your understanding by sharing your learnings with others... especially your younger siblings. If you can explain quantum mechanics to your 5 year old sister, you've probably got it figured out. Well, maybe that is a little extreme, but you get the point. Talk about your knowledge! The more you discuss it, the more connections your brain makes, the more comfortable you become with what you learn, and the better you understand and remember what you need to know.

6. Slow Down

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The busier you become, the more important it is to find space to breathe. To keep going like the energizer bunny, you must recharge your batteries. As human beings, we are designed to recharge by plugging in to the one who created us. So chase Jesus! Talk with Him intentionally every day, remember He is with you, listen for His voice in quiet moments, and read your Bible to be refreshed by how much He loves you. Slowing down your own plans to follow Him is the most effective way to succeed not only in school, but in life.

This year at school, love well, listen well, lead well, and we will see you all at camp next summer!



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