How to Stay Productive in College Despite an Overwhelming Workload

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APR. 2, 2017 — It’s officially April, which means final exams are right around the corner. If you feel absolutely swamped in your college classes, you’ve come to the right place.

I have this tendency to put way too much on myself, but there is a bright side: Over years of staying busy, I’ve become an expert at time management with a knack for staying productive even when it seems like I’m drowning in work.

If you’re facing overlapping deadlines, finals frenzy, and seemingly endless stacks of homework with books to read, tests to study for, performances to attend and participate in, and—to top it all off—family obligations to attend to, you’re not alone.

With suddenly busy schedules that don’t even allow for a lunch break half the time, how can a college student expect to get everything done in time? It’s a tricky task, but here’s how you can check everything off the list without missing a beat:

1. Double check deadlines.

Glance over the beginning-of-course syllabus one last time just to be sure that all your due dates are correct in your planner. If you have any questions, or things have been moved around, verify with your professor. There’s nothing worse than staying up all night to write a paper that actually isn’t due until next week!

Also, don’t forget to check your school’s finals week schedule—it is likely different than the class schedule you’re used to!

2. Become a master time-manager.

The weeks leading up to finals are especially hectic, so your time management skills need to be top-notch on these days. Divide your day up between class time, homework, and recreation—and remember that an equal balance is not always possible.

One of the best ways to look ahead is to plan the remainder of the semester out all at once. In a planner or spreadsheet, record the rest of the due dates for the semester, and note when you plan to complete the assignments or study sessions. This will help you plan for last-minute issues (or adventures), and let you feel accomplished even when you have a lot left to do—you’ll at least be able to celebrate finishing off your to-do list each day!

3. Divide assignments and studying up over several days.

While you’re planning out the semester, remember that assignments are done faster, and with better quality, if you pace yourself. For an essay, try doing research one day, an outline the next, and then writing the first draft, instead of doing all three on the same day or weekend. You will not only feel more comfortable with the material, but the pace will help you stay calm and collected, even with a large assignment ahead of you.

4. Do what you’re in the mood to do…

Your to-do list is not set in stone. You can still move things around if the due dates allow you to do so. If you’d rather study psychology than write an English paper one day, then switch it up! You’ll be more productive and happy if you do what you want to do, rather than only what you need to do.

5. …but make sure you check off everything on your list.

That said, you should stick to getting at least as much done on each day as you had originally planned. If you start to fall behind, even only a little bit, it can quickly tumble into a massive problem. Keep on top of things to minimize your stress and maximize your potential.

6. Remember to take care of yourself.

Finally, listen to your body. If you need a mental break, it’s okay to take one during these weeks. You might have to stay in one night instead of going out with friends, sleep in and skip doing your hair, or eat lunch alone just to get your head straight.

Listen to what your body needs, be it social time, alone time, or even sleep. If you’re well-fed, rested, and relaxed, you’ll perform better on exams and assignments anyway.

April and May are some of the most stressful months for college students nationwide, but with these tips, you’re sure to be in a better position each day than you were yesterday. Best of luck!

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