All things must come to an end.
The semester’s almost over! It’s nearly December break! A time to go on vacation! See your friends back home! Spend time with your family! Relax! Sleep late! Watch marathons of Law & Order!
But wait. Before you reach the Promised Land, you still have finals to take, meetings to go to, errands to run and extra-circulars to attend to! What to do?
Breathe, it’s going to be fine. As they say, all’s well that ends well. Use these helpful hints to make the most of 2010’s final days.
Whether you have weeks of exams, mountains of papers, or hours of presentations, there are some foolproof tips every collegiette™ needs to know to tackle her to-do’s.
It can be overwhelming when all you see in front of you is a pile of work the size of the Great Pyramid. This can lead to psychological blocks that make it even more difficult to get motivated. That’s where some E.R. terminology comes in handy. Whenever new victims are found at a scene on the iconic medical drama, they are given a color-coded tag that indicates the severity of their injuries. You can do essentially the same thing to prioritize your work:
- Code Green (minor): Short papers, problem sets, forms you need to fill out, or other errands fall into this category. They’re the things you need to do, but can bang out in a short period of time. Depending on the way you work, you may want to either put these pesky projects on the backburner or follow the Nike mantra and “Just do it.”
- Samantha, a junior at Cornell, likes to get these little assignments out of the way, “I always start with the small things; it makes me feel more accomplished because I can check things off and see visible progress.”
- Code Yellow (slightly more severe): Longer written assignments, short presentations, or finals in easy classes or classes you’re taking for credit (not for a grade) are tagged as yellow. These projects require some special attention, planning, and focus. Break them down into a few manageable chunks and set your own deadlines. If you have an outline done by Monday, half written by Tuesday, and a full draft by Friday, make some edits and corrections and you’re done within a week!
- Code Red (immediate): Bigger tasks with looming deadlines, long presentations, and research-intensive assignments may take more than a little bit of planning to complete. Often, the biggest projects come with the least motivation. If you’re in a hurry, pick your favorite study spot, get some coffee, and set aside a lot of time.
- Code Black (seemingly hopeless): Stay with us, there’s hope yet! We hope it won’t come to this, but if you find yourself with a task of any size that really is never going to be finished, try your best to minimize the damage. Maybe there’s a test that you’re trying to study for, but nothing is sticking or you’re struck with a sudden case of paralyzing writer’s block right before your research paper is due. Before you start looking into ways to join the circus, pause and do your best to make the situation better.
- For Alyssa, a junior at New York University, a ten-page paper turned into a stressful, two-day nightmare. “I wasn't able to complete an outline like I would have liked to, so instead settled on free writing everything I knew about the topic in a really disorganized way,” she said. “The next day, I went back and smoothed the transitions, clarified points, and made citations. Though I'm sure it wasn't my best work, the situation was redeemable, but certainly not ideal.”
Amerigo Fabbri, Dean of Pierson College and student advisor at Yale University, breaks it down as a mathematical equation. “Essentially, you match up the time you have until something needs to be done with how long it will take you to do it. Start with your most challenging assignment, the one that requires the most time [Code Red, according to the above list]. Decide, realistically, how much time you’ll need to complete it and arrange your schedule around that.” From there, continue to go through less time-consuming tasks (Yellow and Green) you need to do and carve out the ideal time it would take to complete them into your schedule. “Now, once you’ve done all that, you need to ask yourself ‘how much time do I need and do I have that time?’”