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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Ottawa chapter.

Time management and organization is key to staying on top of things during finals season. Unfortunately, that has always been one of my weaknesses when it comes to life skills. Because I’m taking six courses this term and balancing other responsibilities, I have made it a priority to be more effective with my time and energy during the day and week so that I can succeed in my studies while having time for my loved ones, the hobbies that make me happy (like writing Her Campus articles), and taking care of my overall well-being. These are some tips that have really been helping me do that. 

1. i plan ahead

One of the ways I stay organized is planning out my week every Sunday. I pencil in study time and upcoming assignments, when I’m going to work out (typically in the morning), self-care activities, what social events and appointments I have planned, and when I’m going to dedicate time to writing Her Campus articles. 

This will look different for everyone, but having a high-level overview of your week will allow you to be more realistic with your time-blocking. When I know exactly what my to-do list for each day looks like, it stops me from procrastinating and helps me stay focused during the day since I know exactly how much time I have to do it. It also helps me avoid the struggle of not knowing where to start because I break up my tasks into reasonable chunks and I make my list as detailed and specific as possible. For example, if I have a midterm to study for I identify which topics will be covered on the exam and make a plan to tackle specific topics on certain days, usually starting with the ones I need to work on. 

When I make plans with my family and friends ahead of time – whether that be a nature walk with my mom, a coffee date on campus with a classmate, or a workout class with friends – I can plan to complete my tasks before and after I see them, which helps me to be more present in the moment and really enjoy my time with them. 

Of course, it’s inevitable that things will come up during the week that I will need to factor in. To avoid stressing over having even more to do, I prioritize my tasks, which brings me to my next point. 

2. i list my tasks in order of priority

When I’m planning my week, I prioritize tasks by urgency, importance, and energy requirements. For example, if I have a paper due on Friday that I haven’t started, that’s at the top of my list. That might mean I plan shorter gym sessions to make sure I’m keeping the stress at bay while giving myself enough time to get the assignment done to the best of my abilities. I also make peace with the fact that some of my other tasks, such as keeping up with my readings, will have to take a backseat. Instead, I will plan to do a little reading each day just so it doesn’t pile up, and then plan to dedicate more time during the weekend once my assignment is submitted. Organizing my tasks this way stops me from wasting my time. 

3. i organize my day according to energy levels

I typically schedule my workouts in the morning for two reasons: first, doing it as part of my morning routine makes forming the habit easier, and second, I personally have more energy during the day when I work out first thing. After my morning routine, I plan to do most of my high priority tasks before I leave for class around late morning/early afternoon. I can usually predict that after I come home from class the inevitable mid-afternoon slump will hit and I will not want to be productive. During this time I usually eat, watch a show, do laundry or dishes, or spend some time writing and drawing. Allowing myself some time to decompress every day without feeling guilty makes me more primed to get back to work when my attention span perks up again in the evening around 5 or 6pm. My last study session of the day usually consists of catching up on readings, brainstorming upcoming assignments, or writing my Her Campus articles. These tasks don’t require as much brain power, so I prefer to do them in the evenings. 

4. i take productive breaks

I hate to break it to you, but doomscrolling on TikTok in between study sessions is ruining your progress. Whenever I pick up my phone to get on social media during a study break, my break ends up being much longer than anticipated and it stops me from being as productive as I want to. 

Instead, I set a timer for social media time when I take a longer break from studying (like during the 3-5pm slump) to make sure I don’t end up spending 3 hours on TikTok. On my shorter breaks between study sessions, I do things to get myself off my screens and replenish my energy. Cleaning my space, reading a book or an article in The Guardian Weekly (I have a physical copy subscription), stretching, or going on a walk with my favourite podcast are activities that really help me feel refreshed and ready to get back to work after the 30 minutes are up. 

I’ve found that these four tips have been a game-changer for me this semester. I feel as though I have enough time and energy in my day to do everything I want to do because I stick to my plan and I prioritize self-care habits like working out, rest, and spending time with my family. 

I do want to acknowledge that I did not develop these habits overnight; it took some trial and error to figure out what worked for me, as well as consistently doing them every day for months. I know we’re getting to the end of the term, but it’s never too late to start somewhere. Start with writing your to-do list every day for a few weeks, but focus on the 3 most important tasks to avoid getting overwhelmed. Notice when you’re most productive during the day. What gives you energy and what drains it? Do things that boost your energy so you can get things done. 

Wishing everyone the best of luck with exams!

Nina Popovic is a fourth-year student majoring in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, and minoring in Communications at the University of Ottawa.