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Your guide to making 2019 your best year yet.


The new year is the time for new exciting opportunities — but what about new challenges? Between schoolwork, extracurriculars, social commitments and more, life can feel impossibly busy at times. Four top-achieving Wildcats share six tips on how they balance competing demands and make their dreams a reality. 

1. Make a List

“I have this piece of paper I keep in my room, taped to the mirror, so I see it every day. I write down all of the things that I hope and wish would happen, for me or for other people. Then throughout the year, as those things happen, I cross them off.”

Sometimes just putting an idea out there creates opportunities. That’s the case for University of Arizona senior Keara Burke, a systems engineering and mathematics double major and image processing intern on the UA-led OSIRIS-REx NASA mission. The OSIRIS-REx mission aims to collect a sample from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu for study.

Burke's main task is to help identify the safest place on Bennu to “tag” and collect surface material — some place that isn't too rocky — via the spacecraft’s touch-and-go mechanical arm. She shares, “It took a while for me to really be able to believe, 'Wow, I'm on a NASA mission.'"

2. Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

Gordon Downs, an undergraduate student whose research investigates mining data from the Mars Curiosity Rover, has big goals for 2019: Submit an entry to the McGuire New Venture Development Program competition, keep up a regular running routine, learn about artificial intelligence through independent research projects and improve his competitive chess skills.  

What’s Downs’ advice for fellow students with multiple goals? “Prioritize! Sometimes I get excited about 10 things I want to do, but when I sit down and consider them more carefully, I see that I need to focus on a few at a time if I want to get anything meaningful done. I make a to-do list, figure out what my No. 1 priority is, and then start working on that.”

3. Break It Down: Set Small Goals

Sam Beger is a second-year medical student at the the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. He’s also the CEO and co-founder of Blue House Coffee, a specialty coffee purveyor that sources its beans directly from farmers around the world. Once serving customers exclusively from mobile coffee carts, Blue House Coffee has recently opened a brick-and-mortar location in the heart of Phoenix’s Garfield District.

To balance his medical school schedule with the demands of running a business, Beger breaks seemingly overwhelming projects into attainable tasks. “I like to set small, tangible goals for myself that help me move forward in my larger goals. You just have to keep at whatever you’re doing until you’re happy with how you do,” he says. “The small goals will help you feel like you’re accomplishing something on a regular basis while helping you also take steps toward the larger finish line.”

4. Move Your Body: Get Regular Exercise

In the midst of finishing her doctoral research and manuscript, graduate student Amy Wong stays committed to a long-distance running routine. Wong, a fifth-year biology student whose clinical discovery helps prevent post-radiation dry mouth in cancer patients, is looking forward to graduation in May. She is simultaneously working toward a personal goal: beating her own half-marathon race time.

The PhD student didn’t grow up doing sports, but after getting into half marathons and triathlons with friends, running became Wong’s source of stress relief and enjoyment. It’s also a way she practices tackling big challenges: “13.1 miles seem so long, but then I think, I know I can do one mile today. Soon, I’ll be able to do three and then five, and I’ll be closer to my goal.

5. Maintain Your Social Networks: Keep Friends and Family Close

No matter how much is on your plate, you should make time for your loved ones, say all three students. “Getting personal time away from work with my brothers, family and friends is important to me. Whether that’s through playing sports or having dinner or just getting to spend time with them, I can always count on the people in my life to help re-center me,” Beger says.

Wong adds that staying close to peers can help lighten a heavy workload. “I have friends in other PhD programs who tell me about what’s going on with them. Hearing that they’re going through the same stress reminds me that I’m not alone.”

6. Savor Your Success: Know When to Rest

Finally, it’s just as important to know when to take a step back. Not only is rest vital to your health, but it’s also sometimes the best way for you to continue moving forward, Beger says. “I’ve come to realize that even when I’m really busy, a break is sometimes the best way for me to sustain my productivity over extended periods of time.”

For Downs, that means going camping and taking a moment to appreciate the progress he’s already made. Wong’s go-to stress relievers? Playing with her dog and watching light-hearted romantic comedies on Netflix. “You can’t forget to smell the flowers along the way!”

No matter what your goals are, these Wildcats’ tips are sure to help you start 2019 off on the right foot. A final piece of advice? As Wong puts it, “Be confident because you are the biggest barrier to your own goals — and the most important factor in your future success.”