Late October to mid December can be one of the most stressful times of the year for university and college students.
We’ve all been there; weeks of caffeine fuelled late nights as we rush to finish those last-minute final assignments. This is nothing new. Everyone has their own routines to get everything handed in on time – for some, this means clicking the send button on a last minute project submission to your professor, praying the internet doesn’t decide to crash during those fitful few seconds.
But in the back of our heads we’re all thinking the same thing: what if I planned ahead? What if I was more organized? If this sounds like you – you’ve come to the right place. If you start now, the following tips will help you breeze through finals season, no all-nighters necessary.
Being precise with your schedule is a must, but it really starts with creating a daily schedule that’s easy to use and understand. The biggest part of managing your time effectively is consistency. Whether your go-to scheduling method is the default calendar app on your phone or an old-school day planner, you need to make sure you’re using it regularly.
If you’re really struggling to stay consistent, consider using apps like Todoist or Evernote. These list/task-based apps allow you to switch from a desktop to the mobile companion app with the click of a button, so you can stay on schedule wherever you are. Also setting reminders on your calendar about upcoming due dates can be a great way to get ahead of a heavy workload. For example, you could set one two-weeks out, and then another one for a few days before your deadline.
Getting ahead of the curve
More often than not, professors will assign essays and project due dates weeks in advance. And if you’re like me, a month-away deadline will immediately get shuffled to the back of your priority list. However, chipping away at big assignments over a longer period of time is a much more effective way to get your work done.
Setting mini-deadlines allows you to break up large assignments into more manageable chunks – for example, you could have 400 words written 3 weeks ahead for a 1000 word essay. Even better, syncing up these smaller deadlines with your TA’s office hours will give you the opportunity to get their feedback and figure out if you’re on the right track. Additionally, getting the hardest portion of the project or essay out of the way early will make things much easier for you when you get closer to your deadline.
Lastly, setting a comfortable pace is also important. Writing 3000 words in two hours leaves can leave you feeling drained and doubtful about the quality of your work. Instead, treat the process like a marathon by setting a pace that you can maintain for a long period of time, rather than trying to complete your assignment in one mad sprint.
During this busy period, it’s common for students to get overwhelmed and succumb to distractions. After all, it’s easier to do something simple like clean your room or choose a new profile picture than to hunker down and write that history essay on the Spanish civil war you’ve been avoiding for weeks.
Often when students lack focus, it’s because they haven’t fully pictured the end goal. This is where getting visual can come in handy – chart paper and erasable white boards are great tools for creating flowcharts, mind maps, and other useful aids. These can help you clearly outline your ideas and boost productivity in ways that a laptop sometimes can’t. Once you can clearly see the step you need to take to complete a project, it will become easier to tackle that task.
Of course, one of the biggest roadblocks for students is social media. It can be all too tempting to scroll through your newsfeed during a study session. Luckily, there are free applications like SelfControl that help you stay focused by blocking time-sucking websites for up to 24 hours. If you need a little more help in the discipline department, the app Freedom allows users to block access to their Internet for up to eight hours, while still allowing you to connect printers and other computers.
Alternatively, self-discipline can be as simple as remembering to take frequent breaks so you don’t burn out. Personally, I work on a two hours on, two hours off basis – it’s all about finding your productive rhythm and sticking with it.
While these weeks may seem daunting now, remember that you have the tools you need to succeed. If you plan ahead, break up your work into manageable chunks and work at a measured pace, this busy time will be a lot easier to tackle.