By Laura Schluckebier of HackCollege
The week after Thanksgiving break can always be pretty overwhelming. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, if you haven't started preparing for your final projects, papers, or exams yet, you might be feeling if you're drowning. And sometimes, even if you have gotten a good head start on your assignments, the fast approaching deadlines can be terrifying.
However, fear not. Even if you feel like the horrificness of your hell week(s) will swallow you alive, don't panic. There are several steps you can take in order to ensure you get all of your work done on time. Stay calm and read through these tips that will help you survive college hell.
I'm sure I've said this several times on HackCollege, but I can't stress enough the importance of scheduling out blocks of times to work on certain assignments. There are several huge benefits to doing this. First of all, it allows you to take one assignment at a time. Even though you may have three papers and four exams, there is no way you can finish any one of them if you are stressed about all of those things at once. Take some time with your scheduler and block out large chunks of time to work on certain assignments. I usually block out a two to four afternoons and evenings to work on papers, though you may need more depending on the size of the paper. Do the same things for your tests and projects.
Scheduling this blocks of times will also help you relax a little bit. If you can see exactly when you are going to have time to do certain assignments, you can stop worrying about whether or not it's going to get done and start focusing on what you scheduled yourself to do that day.
You will need to find the balance between making use of all your spare time and overworking yourself. While you will want to use all the spare bits of time you can find to work, if you overbook yourself for one day, it will just end up hurting you rather than helping you. It takes some trail and error to figure out what your daily maximum capacity is, but once you figure it out, you'll be good to go. It's also a good idea to give yourself some buffer room so that if you end up not finishing your work on time, you have an extra day to get it all together.
As obvious as this may seem, you really do your best work when you're comfortable. If you're not, then you'll be distracted or annoyed by whatever isn't making you comfortable. Each person has their different idea for what makes them comfortable. You should know by know what makes you comfortable, so do what you can to make your study area comfortable.
While this is usually pretty easy to do in your room since you have your nice desk that you've organized oh-so-particularly and all of your books for quick reference, it's usually a little harder to do if you go study outside of your room, like at the library or a study room. Even for people who like to study in their rooms (like me), often roommate issues will drive you to work out of your room every once in a while. So while you may not have all of the amenities that your room may have, still try to make your study environment as comfortable as possible.
For instance, I spent all last week in the library working on a paper. Our library is cold. And I hate being cold. I cannot concentrate if I am cold. I also get really cranky. So, to solve the problem, I packed a throw blanket and a big sweatshirt. Yes. I packed a blanket. Was it silly? Yes. But guess what? I wrote that damn 23-page paper and I was warm. So if you get hot in the library, bring a little portable fan. If you like studying in a chair or couch instead of a table, seek out the best spot in the library. Make your study spot comfy because you're gonna be there for awhile.
Take Away Distractions
Even though you want your study place to be comfortable, you're also there to get work done, not surf the webs for fun videos. If you don't need the internet for whatever you're doing, turn off your wireless capability. If you don't even need your computer, don't even bother opening it. Pick a study spot away from people who are going to distract you from your work. The more time you spend distracted, the less time you're going to have to finish your assignments. Once you're in your work zone, you will be amazed at how much you can get done.
It's really important to set goals each day so that you can make sure that you're getting done everything that needs to be done. Also, you won't feel so overwhelmed with the amount of work if you know you've made it to your daily checkpoint. For instance, if you have a paper with three major sections, write a part each day. Setting goals will also help you feel good at the end of your busy day and make you feel like you are getting closer to the end of your hell week.
Goals also function as your own deadlines. Even if you scheduled yourself to work on a paper over a weekend when it's actually not due for another week, your goals in your schedule will help you get the paper done early. It is an extremely good habit to get into making your own deadlines. If you let your work stretch over long periods of time, you will be less focused on it. Making your own deadlines is an excellent skill to have once you graduate and get into the real world.
As important as it is to stay focused, it is as equally important to take breaks. If you don't take breaks, you will absolutely overwork yourself. Our brains need little rests in between large stretches of intense work in order to work at their greatest potential. Your breaks should be about 20-30 minutes long. If you take a break any shorter than that, you really haven't given your brain the proper rest that it deserves. If your breaks are any longer, you tend to lose steam in your work and when you go back to work, you'll feel unmotivated to continue.
Your study breaks could anything that gets your mind off studying. I like to take a nice hot chocolate break and watch 20 minutes of one of my favorite TV shows. I usually pick a fairly mindless show so I can let my brain totally veg for a good break. You could also take a walk, have a chat with a friend, or clean your room. Cleaning sounds kinda boring, I know, but it is actually a fantastic, mindless action that lets your brain go on autopilot. Plus, you get a beautiful, clean room.
I'd always recommend eating a snack with your break. You'll need a little sugar in your bloodstream to keep you working at your fullest potential. I like to treat myself to some chocolate whenever I take a break, but you should eat something yummy and that will make you feel rewarded. With all the work you've just done, you'll deserve it.
Do you have any tips or advice on how to survive finals weeks? Let us know in the comments!