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3 Steps to a More Effective, Stress-Free Semester

We all want to find ways of being more productive and use our limited time more effectively, all while feeling like there are always more things that need to be done. Well, fear no more, for I have the formula for success! As university students, our lives can be divided into three essential parts: academics/schoolwork, leisure and professional development. So, let's get started.

Academics and Schoolwork

Starting with the most obvious, school. It takes up most of our time, energy, and headspace. Whether it’s readings, assignments, labs, or practice problem sets, something is always weighing on our minds, like a constant dark cloud hanging overhead. The anxiety just makes me want to procrastinate even more, because I can’t disappoint myself if I don’t do anything, right? Wrong. Because now the task seems insurmountable and the cycle starts over again.

The solution to this is simple. The biggest hurdle is simply getting yourself to start, so that is your first goal: just start. The second challenge is time. The key is: don’t overcommit. For example, allocate five hours of your day for schoolwork with breaks. Keep a schedule and plan what you need to get done beforehand. Organization makes everything simpler and less intimidating.

No matter what, do not exceed your five-hour time limit. If you haven’t finished your tasks in those five hours, unless everything is due that night, do not continue to work no matter how tempting it is. By forcing yourself to keep to that schedule, you will soon be able to maximize your efficiency within those five hours. And knowing that you only have to work a short amount of time forces you to work faster and harder while also relieves you of some of the stress and desire to procrastinate.

Leisure time

We all need time to relax. And though we’ve romanticized hustle culture to the point where we show off how little sleep or relaxation we are taking, we must realize that it is never good to be working yourself to the ground. The saying goes “work hard, play hard” not “work hard, don’t play at all.” This is a very important part of self-care.

Leisure time is time you set aside for yourself to enjoy and relax. No work emails, nothing related to school, no reminders for you to do X, Y or Z. This is your time to play your favorite video games, read a book, go on a walk, sing in the shower, do some sketching, and just do whatever makes you happy. This is the time to de-stress and forget all your cares in the world. It probably won’t take very much persuasion for most to allocate leisure time for themselves. Rather, the challenge is limiting that leisure time.

It can be tempting to get carried away and spend “just five more minutes to finish this level” or “just finish reading this chapter,” but one must have self-control. Space out your free time throughout the day or have all of that time to yourself at the end of the day to prevent revenge bedtime procrastination, choose what works for you.

Professional Development

This is the time you should spend for applying to jobs or internships, or any extracurricular activities. This is the time to learn or create something that you can add to your resume. If you are working on some personal project, like a project on GitHub or learning a programming language, that is something you are doing for professional development. It could even be touching up your resume and applying to jobs.

Since your resume should be updated regularly, it is good to have time set aside for this. It doesn’t need to be a daily thing; you simply need to do this a couple of times a week. I never realized how important this is to separate from the other parts of your life. But as I have come to learn, without giving it its own place, I tend to worry about it when I’m supposed to be doing something else. This affected the quality of work I did for school and did nothing to alleviate my stress levels. This left me unsatisfied and exhausted since I then proceeded to stay awake for hours afterward for my well-deserved relaxation time. 

Allocating time for working on my resume and working on developing employable skills separates that anxiety from other worries and makes it more manageable. Not to mention it actually leaves my leisure time for actual leisure.

Dividing your obligations up and cutting it up into bite sized pieces makes life easier to handle. Of course, things won’t always go exactly as planned, and sometimes things will bleed into other parts of your life, and that is normal. Life is unpredictable as we all know, but we can certainly do our best to make it manageable.

Siona Deb

McMaster '23

Siona is a second year student at McMaster in the Actuarial and Financial Math program. She loves reading sci-fi and fantasy novels and drawing.
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