Get Sh*t Done: Three Tips to Stay on Top of Stuff This Semester

As the first month of school is coming to a close, it’s hard not to start feeling overwhelmed. The beginning of the school year means new classes, new friends, new opportunities for clubs, jobs, internships, and a whole lot of responsibilities. While these things are fun and exciting, it can be difficult to adjust to the fresh and fast paced environment after an easygoing summer. It can be tricky to find a balance between school life and social life, and feel impossible to stay organized. 

Below are three helpful tips to keep track of your life, and control of your schedule--so that you can stay doing what you want to accomplish without burning out too soon. 

1. Use a planner. Planners have been a genuine lifesaver for me. When it seems like your workload is overwhelming and you have a million different things to do, it can be really helpful to write it all down in a notebook. If you rely only on memory and keep a list of everything you need to do in your head, it’s more likely that you’ll forget some. By writing it down, you have a place of reference and a way to organize all the assignments and commitments you have. For me, I like to organize it by each class I have and then have a separate list for miscellaneous things. I write down homework, due dates, and any upcoming exams. For my ‘miscellaneous’ category, I write down anything that isn’t school related--if I’m meeting up with a friend, have an event to go to, and any other reminders for life happenings. And the fun part of using a physical planner? You can color code things, highlight more important tasks, and then cross them all out when you’re done! 

If carrying around a planner isn’t your thing, there are so many organizational and calendar apps that have the same function. My favorite app to use is called Chipper, and it’s completely free. It lets you add all of your courses and when they meet (and color codes them all!), add assignments and exams, set reminders for tasks and activities, add work and life commitments, and you can off the ones you’ve completed. A cool feature of the app is that you can earn hypothetical money for all the tasks you complete. The idea is that your time is valuable, and the more time you spend on tasks increases your potential and shows your progress. 

2. Prioritize. When life gets really crazy, and it seems like you’re drowning in work, it can be hard to decide which assignment to tackle first. When you feel like you have a million things on your plate and no time to accomplish everything, the most difficult task can often be trying to figure out how to divide your time. The key solution is: prioritizing! Once you take stock of everything you need to get done, determine which thing is the most pressing. Maybe it’s the project you’ve been putting off, or the essay that’s due sooner than all of the other ones. By prioritizing based on which assignments or events occur sooner, you’ll find that you’re right on track or maybe even ahead with your assignments. 

Time management is also essential to prioritizing. Try setting reminders on your phone to work on an assignment, cut time out of your day to work on something specific, or even try multitasking if you can (although this doesn’t work for everything). When you manage your time efficiently, it becomes easier to prioritize, and easier to feel less overwhelmed by the daunting pile of assignments you have. 

And although you’ve probably heard this a billion times: don’t procrastinate! I am so guilty of this that I should literally be fined. Putting things off until later only causes things to pile up. And the more your responsibilities and commitments pile up, the harder it is to prioritize and manage your to-do list. If you prioritize right away and plan your time wisely, you will love yourself later for doing so--even if it really sucks in the moment. However, while it’s important to prioritize school work, the number one thing you should prioritize is yourself! Which leads us to the next tip!

3. Self-Care O’Clock. I don’t know about you, but when I’m overwhelmed and stressed out, it’s a lot harder for me to focus on my work. Stress and fatigue negatively impact our energy, and make us want to give up on our assignments altogether. Sometimes we can get so stressed out that it prevents us from being efficient and actually getting work done. Even though sometimes it’s hard or not possible, taking a little bit of time out of the day for yourself can make a major difference. It doesn’t have to be a big thing or take a huge chunk out of your day; it’s the simple things that can really count. 

Whether it’s sitting outside and getting fresh air between classes, keeping a journal, doing yoga when you wake up, or making yourself a cup of tea while you’re working--doing a tiny thing for yourself each day can make you feel so much better, and gives you a way to destress. If we don’t take a timeout and give ourselves a little break once in a while, it can cause us to get run down and burn out. By remembering to treat ourselves kindly, we can be more effective and preserve our energy instead of wasting it on stress.