As a junior in college, the end of the semester is something like a cinematic apocalyptic meltdown. Papers, deadlines, edits, revisions, research. Pile all that on top of a job, issues with family or friends, internships or whatever you else have going on in your life and you’re ready to throw in the towel with higher education. I turn into a green eyed monster this time of year and it’s not becoming. But, with the help of one of my professors and some tricks of my own, I’ve come up with some handy tools to take the stress level down.
10. Make a List
One of the things that helps me to keep track of what I’m doing and what I’ve finished is making a list. Right beside my dresser is my door frame. I write down everything I need to do on separate post-it notes of different colors and stick them to door frame, from the first thing I need to do to the last. When I’ve finished one of the tasks, I take the post-it down. It’s kind of silly, but I see it everyday and it reminds me constantly of what needs to get done. It’s really liberating to be able to watch my list shrink. You don’t have to make a totem pole of post-its like I do, but it’s easy to keep yourself organized simply by writing out what needs to get done – because nothing is worse than someone in your class casually mentioning a paper that you completely forgot about …. and it’s due today.
9. Get Comfortable
There is nothing worse than trying to analyze something or search through a database when you’re in jeans and hunched over a desk. This might be my own personal preference but unless I’m in sweat and sitting in a comfy chair or on my bed, I can’t get anything done! I know for a lot of people, the more uncomfortable they are, the more likely they are to work to get their stuff done, but I can’t torture myself like that.
8. Take a Break
Every 15 minutes or so, I like to minimize my word document and peruse YouTube for a bit. Watch a video or two, get something to get, check out Facebook, walk around my house. Anything to get up and get my mind off my work for a little bit. After a while, the words all run together and soon, whatever you’re working on makes no sense. Now, don’t spend the rest of your night on the internet, feeling accomplish for writing a paragraph. But don’t punish yourself either. It breaks up the work time and gives you a mini reward.
7. Make a Playlist
It’s easy for me to get distracted by noise sometimes, but if I have it down low, it’s soothing and helps me to focus. It’s background noise. I like to make playlists for all sorts of things, and paper writing is no exception. One of my professors suggested classical music, so I like to put some Josh Groban on and let him do his thing. It’s gotten me through several papers this semester! Whatever helps you to concentrate – even if it’s Nicki Minaj – having some music helps you to stay focused.
6. Work on Projects in Increments
I always have tons of projects going on at once, and while I’d like to just focus on one at a time, I like to go back and forth. Now, that doesn’t mean that every 15 minutes you jump to one of six classes! That’s way too confusing. But every three or so hours, going to a different assignment breaks up the work time and it helps me feel like I’m actually getting somewhere. If you have something that requires multiple steps, this is great. For example, one of my classes requires that I put together a portfolio of all the work I’ve done this semester. So for a few hours, I might work on editing pieces for my portfolio and then switch over to my English paper. This way, I’ve gotten some of my portfolio finished and I can begin another project.
5. Send it to a Friend
After looking at your own work for a while – even if you walk away from it and come back – you can miss little things like typos, spelling errors and even mistakenly using the wrong word! Having someone else look over your work can really help the process. And if they’re a really good friend, they’ll tell you when you’re not making any sense!
4. Talk to Your Teacher
9 times out of 10, your teachers and professors are just as swamped as you and if you’re really struggling to get something done, just explain it to them. Most of the time, they’re happy to give you an extension or feedback. I email professors all the time asking questions about assignments and as much as I hate doing it, sometimes I’ve had to turn things in late. Most teachers are understanding, especially if you’ve contacted them the day before it’s due and explained that you were having a hard time. Don’t make it more stressful than it is – reach out to your professor when you need some help.
3. Take a Day Off
If you can afford to take a day off amidst the chaos, do it! Go see a movie with your friends, sleep in, get some things done around the house that you’d been putting off. It cleanse your mind and help to ‘detox’ yourself from the workload. Before jumping into load of work, I like to give myself a day to plan out what I have to do, and then watch some tv. That way I have some time to think about how I want to do things without stressing that it needs to be done NOW.
2. Keep Yourself Hydrated
This sounds a little weird, I guess, but I like to keep something to drink close at hand. Just to wet your whistle or to take a mini break in between paragraphs. Also, it helps to keep you from getting too tired. I usually drink water. Word of advice: DO NOT drink a Starbucks Coffee and then a Monster. If you’re in desperate need of sleep after you stay up until 2, you’ll never fall asleep!
1. Remember, It’s Only College
I first heard this from Noel Crane on Felicity, and I thought ‘yeah, right. This is a tv show, they make everything seem like it’s no big deal.’ But after being in college for three years, it’s the truth. In three years, you won’t even care about the all-nighter you had to pull. In fact, you’ll probably wish that you’d gotten some sleep. When you’re in the situation, it feels like a big deal, but I think that’s because we as humans like to make something small into something huge. So the next time you’re feeling stressed out and desperately wondering how you’re going to make it through four classes, work until 10 and finish your methodology, take a deep breath and remember, it’s only college.
Hope that helps!!