Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and point of views of current Arts students around campus. Get to know our creative and passionate students through their “voices” and get a snapshot of life as an Arts undergrad. The views and opinions expressed within these student voices posts are solely those of the author.
I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that every university student, no matter how confident and successful, knows the feeling: that sensation of panic as you confront the sheer volume of work that has to get done before the end of the semester. It’s the feeling fuelling huge amounts of procrastination: hours spent on Netflix, nights out with friends trying to escape niggling feelings of guilt, days spent cleaning your room within an inch of its life to avoid studying…
For most of us, obviously, the moment of panic eventually passes and we get on with whatever it is that we were supposed to be doing all this time. We make our study cue cards, read our assigned chapters and plan our term papers. But I do wish that I could somehow just skip the panic phase. How much more would I get done if I didn’t waste so much time running from my assignments as if they were the physical manifestation of all my personal failings?
Since I can’t figure out, even after almost four years of independent assignments, how to prevent angst-induced procrastination, I do have a number of strategies for climbing out of that unproductive hole.
Before I move on to my advice though, I will just quickly note that if you’re really feeling overwhelmed and like you can’t manage, the university has a number of mental health support programs and that there is absolutely no shame in taking advantage of them. That’s what they’re there for!
If, however, you (like me) just have a bad habit of making mountains out of molehills and turning your perfectly achievable assignments into impossible ordeals, I have some ideas.
Knowing what to do
In my opinion, the to-do list is one of the best inventions of all time. I know, I know – you probably already have a to-do list and it just sits there reminding you of all that you haven’t to-done. But the key to a to-do list is how you make it.
Don’t write down everything you have to do for the next month and a half. You can have a master list or a calendar somewhere else to keep track of all that. Don’t write down vague and monstrous-sounding entries like “Start writing term paper.” Make your to-do list just for today or the next few days and break everything up into tiny, tasty, bite-sized tasks: “Organize notes for paper into three categories,” “Plan first paragraph,” “Make ten cue cards for Chapter 1.” That way, you can trick yourself into getting started because nothing seems too monumentally terrible.
Taking control of your time
Getting work done independently also means playing a delicate game with time. We have a fraught relationship, me and time. On the one hand, I need time to seem short, my deadlines to seem close, for me to get anything done. On the other, the sense that time is running out causes yet more panic.
My advice on time management is far from perfect, but here it is. The thought that you should keep in mind is that you have enough time. Not time to waste or time to kill, but enough. Set limits on tasks like research that could stretch infinitely, close Tumblr and Twitter and get going, but you do not need to frantically speed-read.
Taking a break
Finally, if in the midst of all your work, life just looks bleak and dark, maybe it’s just time to take a break. Make a cup of tea, take a walk, summon a calming manatee and remember that we’re all in the same boat. Remind yourself that spring is coming and take a deep breath. There’s light at the end of that tunnel.