Let’s be honest — it’s impossible to get through college without feeling overwhelmed at some point. Drexel operating on a quarter system means that everything moves at a relatively fast pace. Whether we’re juggling classes and club meetings, trying to finish all our homework in between part-time job shifts, or taking on an unfamiliar co-op position, there’s always bound to be something on a Drexel student’s schedule.
Although knowing your limits is equally important, the key to balancing a busy quarter is to stay motivated and avoid burning out, which is obviously easier said than done. Luckily, students all over campus are finding unique ways to minimize stress, avoid falling into the all-too-familiar cycle of procrastination, increase productivity and keep themselves motivated. Here are just a few that can help you out in the long run:
This first tip might sound kind of counterproductive at first, but it works surprisingly well: finding the time to take a break and indulge in a less stress-inducing activity can really help you get back on track when you’re feeling drained.
For Julia, a biomedical engineering major who’s required to take 18 to 20 credits every quarter in order to meet graduation requirements, any time off — whether it’s a day or a few hours — makes all the difference. In between long hours of studying for exams and working on lab reports, she’ll occasionally watch some Netflix, play some video games, or find a more creative outlet for her energy. “It always helps to do something unrelated to school that still requires some effort, like painting or writing,” she explains. Once she’s made something that she’s proud of, her confidence is boosted and she’s able to get back to work motivated.
A solid support system
When your schedule’s always full, it’s important to have people in your life that you know you can rely on to keep you going. What generally helps is talking to anyone about what you’re dealing with, whether it’s a friend or family member.
“I make sure to schedule time with people that really matter to me because I feel like it lowers my stress level,” says Cat, who’s double majoring in global studies and communication with a minor in French. Even though she’s almost always busy with classes and extracurriculars, she still FaceTimes her best friend as much as she can. Not only does talking to someone from home help you get out of your own head for a while, but it’s also a great reminder that there are people out there who are proud of your accomplishments and the goals you’re working towards achieving.
Planning it out
One activity that helps Autumn, a journalism major, is making lists. She’s currently balancing schoolwork and her work-study job at the College of Nursing and Health Professions, along with writing for The Triangle and doing research alongside one of her professors. When she feels like she needs to get back on track, she writes out all her upcoming assignments, articles, and other activities so she’s able to see exactly what she needs to prioritize. “If I get bored of one thing, I’ll do a rotation between a few things on my to-do list so I’m getting little by little done at a time,” Autumn explains.
Try it for yourself — make a list of everything you’re aiming to get done in a day and check off each item as you complete it. The more detailed the list, the more productive you’ll end up feeling as you get each activity out of the way.
Even though Julia’s major is one of the most demanding at Drexel, she’s still looking forward to future endeavors. This summer, she’s aiming to get into a STAR research position observing insect social behavior in Costa Rica. After gaining lots of co-op experience in the next four years, she eventually wants to work on researching more effective treatments for eye problems similar to the one she’s grown up with. Even though she knows it won’t be easy, she’s still setting realistic goals for herself.
This is a great example of the kind of mindset that can help you overcome burnout in the long run. When the course load for your major gets overwhelming and you feel like you don’t have the motivation to keep turning everything in on time, you can benefit from taking a step back and reexamining why you want to get your degree in the first place. This doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to feel exhausted and have to take breaks from the grind — please take care of yourself! — but it’s a good way to remotivate yourself to keep going.
Taking it day by day
While Autumn prefers writing out individual daily schedules, Cat says that her Google Calendar app is her best friend when it comes to planning. Having a visual layout of everything she needs to get done in a month allows her to coordinate schoolwork with her duties as a Drexel Student Ambassador and Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Triangle. “There’s definitely some things, especially assignments I have to submit online, that will slip through the cracks,” she admits, “but being able to add to my calendar helps me a lot”.
Having access to a visual representation of all your upcoming events and assignments can really help you see things in perspective. Whether you rely on a similar app or want to physically write out your schedule in a notebook or journal, it’s always helpful to be able to see exactly how much work you need to get done in a certain period of time.
Your work environment
It’s important to create a productive atmosphere in order to get work done, especially if you get distracted easily. If you just can’t seem to concentrate when your friends or roommates are around, you can try to set aside time to yourself or get out of your dorm for a while. There are lots of different study spaces on campus that you can and should take advantage of!
For example, Autumn tends to go to the library or her dorm room to get work done. “It’s a lot easier for me to focus in an organized environment, so I usually first try to make sure my dorm is as clean as possible,” she says. Once she’s in a clean, quiet space, she feels like she can be productive.