Feeling overwhelmed? Me too. This semester really hit me hard academically, and it was truly a wake-up call to get my act together. There are so many things that I tried to do to stay on top of my work and not fall behind, but none of them seemed to work for me. In this article I will explain some of the tips that I used or failed to incorporate in order to stay organized, as well as what I might start doing to keep myself coordinated.
I find that in University, the first one and a half to two months of classes are pretty laid back, lots of readings and maybe some little assignments here and there, but for the most part, it is fairly easy to manage. The third month, however, is like a bomb of work has been dropped on you, and it feels like you have something due every day. Even in my third year of university it feels like I still don’t know how to manage the third month. Although I am probably not the person that should be giving advice on how to stay organized, I thought that maybe it would be helpful to learn from my mistakes. My goal for next semester is to stay organized and be one step ahead, so it doesn’t feel like I am drowning in work for an entire miserable month.
First, my mental health took a major blow this year because of the overwhelming amount of work I had to do in what seemed like not enough time. The amount of mental breakdowns and panic attacks I had leading up to a busy week was really the turning point in realizing that I have to get my life together. It was really hard during the semester to try to get organized because it felt like I couldn’t take a break from doing my assignments or I would be even more behind and overwhelmed. So, I would say that the first part of my plan is to get organized before the bomb drops. That might seem super obvious, and it is, but it is still something that I struggle with.
A professor of mine recommend marking an assignments’ due date on a calendar a week or two before it is actually due. This helps you get your assignments done before the real due date, so that you’re not panicking last minute. What I need to stop doing is seeing the fictional due date marked on my calendar and automatically realizing it’s not the actual deadline and push it back as far as I can. I’m not sure if I will continue with this tip because it doesn’t seem to work for me, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t for others.
Making a clear calendar that you can see is very helpful in staying organized. There are so many things going on in your life that it is extremely easy to forget that you have an assignment due. Maintaining and utilizing a calendar, or a to-do list in your workspace or room can be a really helpful tool for staying on top of your tasks. I’ve tried to make a really clear calendar that says, “1:30-4:00 do X assignment”, or “4:00-6:00 X readings”, and though that might be helpful for some people, it really didn’t help me at all. I pretty much just ignored it completely. In the New Year, I’m going to try to just make a to-do list without times so I don’t feel constricted and I can get things done throughout the day when I want to. Also, things come up in university that you did not anticipate, and your original plan to do work at 1:30 falls through because you may have to go help a friend or have a meeting. I am going to start my assignments super early, so that in the two month period where school is kind of light, I can stager my assignment which are all due pretty much at the same time. I think having the syllabus with every assignment and evaluation on it at the beginning of the term is really helpful, because if used properly one can use it to start assignments early.
If you are like me, and you are really bad at sticking to your plan and end up super stressed out, don’t be scared to ask your professor for an extension. The worst that’s going to happen is that they’ll say no, but most of them understand that lots of the heavily weighted assignments for your classes are due around the same time, so they’re not always opposed to giving extensions to those who need it. Also, what I found really helpful is to find a place you effectively study, with a good group of people who keep you on task. When I work alone, I tend to get tired or give up a lot earlier than if I have someone that is also doing work with me. You might like working alone better, which is totally fine, I just found that it helped me a lot more.
I will hopefully find some really good organization tips that will help me manage my school work and personal life better that I will share next semester. At the end of the day, if you are feeling super stressed out about your workload, it’s okay because it is very likely that everyone around you is feeling the exact same.