It’s hard to believe I have already made it to Week 12 of the semester. When new classes first started in August, I thought to myself the same thing that I always do: this is going to go by so fast. At first, it didn’t seem to fly by. Getting back into the routine felt fresh and new, and like every other semester, I was staying on top of assignments and pacing myself well. It dragged along at first, taking each day one at a time and focusing on the daily tasks at hand. Each week, new assignments got written down in my planner and I took those one at a time too.
Then, I blink and here we are. Midterms are long over; it’s almost Thanksgiving and I’m starting to think about final exams. Looking back on the eleven and a half weeks behind me, I wonder how the hell I’ve made it this far in what has seemed like the blink of an eye. (I also wonder how the hell I’m going to survive the final few weeks, but I digress.)
While I’ve taken six classes before, I’ve never taken 18 credit hours. The thought of tackling that challenge daunted me at the beginning of the semester, but to graduate when I want to, it has been full steam ahead. After this semester ends, I have 21 credit hours left and I’ll be damned if I don’t finish them by summer. (Senioritis, say what?)
In typical Gabby fashion, I could have taken four classes per semester, paced myself, and still finished in fall of 2024. But since I am me, that wasn’t good enough. I had to pack my schedule full to the brim with credits and leave myself with little to no time to think, or eat, or sleep, or do just about anything else.
You may be asking yourself, has it really been that bad? And if it has, how have you survived? With the semester 80% over, I have learned the ins and outs of a maxed-out class schedule, and I will be the first one to tell you, no. It hasn’t been that bad. While it certainly has not been a walk in the park, I still do somehow have time to think, eat, sleep, and keep some semblance of a social life.
So, how does she do it, folks? How does she complete 18 credit hours while maintaining good grades, participating in extracurricular activities, hanging out with friends, and still have time to binge New Girl and spend quality time with her family? Well, it’s simple, really… I’m a superhero. Well, not exactly. But it has felt like a superhuman feat to balance every aspect of my life without being completely consumed by school.
This week I’m going to tell you about just that: How I have managed to take 18 credit hours without going completely insane. (Notice I said I haven’t gone completely insane. I have gone a little insane. You’ve been warned.)
First things first, no homework on the weekends.
Yes, I know that might sound crazy, but this is a strict rule for me. Not only are my weekends my time, but they are also my niece and nephew’s time, my cat’s time, my mental health’s time, my sanity’s time, my travel time.
The way I see it, school takes up enough of my time during the week – it doesn’t get to have my weekends too. My weekends are reserved specially for me to spend time with the people that keep me going. That includes me. Not only would working on the weekends deny my family quality time and memories made with me, but it would also deny me time to reflect on the week prior and recoup for the week ahead.
An exception is made for any quizzes/exams that open on Fridays and are due on Sunday. In those scenarios, I inevitably have to work on the weekends. When it comes to readings, notes, flashcards, discussion posts, writing exercises, essays, articles for the week, or any variation of homework, those get done during the week. Monday through Thursday, Gabby. Make time and get it done.
This rule works out fantastically for me and my life. Since I am fortunate enough to be a full-time student, I think of school as my job. I get my work done on Monday through Thursday from 9 to 5, and I keep my weekends free. Not only does this protect my free time, but it also forces me to stay motivated and productive on weekdays since I have to finish the full weeks’ worth of work in four days.
In reality, school is a priority of mine, but it is not my only commitment. I also have commitments to myself, my family, my cat, and my friends. Reserving my weekends as school-free time allows me to be the best cat mom, cousin-aunt, daughter, sister, and friend that I can be.
Similarly, no schoolwork after 6 p.m.
Ish. This is an approximation, but I absolutely never do schoolwork at night. Just like weekends are my “me time,” nighttime is my “me time” as well. It’s my time to relax, review what I checked off my to-do list for the day, and reevaluate what will be on the to-do list for tomorrow.
As with many other jobs, I clock out in the evening and whatever I didn’t accomplish that day will get done the next. As a morning person, I am much better off calling it a night early and getting up earlier the next day to be productive. My brain is simply not productive after about 4 p.m., and certainly not at night.
This is yet another measure that allows me to protect my personal time at the end of long, stressful days. It also protects my sleep and wind-down time leading up to sleep. I can confidently say that without this, my stress levels would be through the roof.
Strong boundaries are essential.
No, I don’t want to stay out late on a school night. I have to be up early tomorrow. No, I won’t wait up until 10 p.m. for everyone to do their part of a group project so I can submit it before midnight. No, I can’t hang out this weekend. I have plans with my niece and nephew. No, no, no, no, no.
I have figured out what my priorities are, what my boundaries are, and I stick to them. No matter what. I have found that being flexible and open to suggestions from others results in people not respecting my time. I have certain times each week I’m available and certain times that are reserved for other commitments. It’s as simple as that.
The people who love and value me always work with me to find a time that fits both of our schedules. And in instances like the group project I mentioned, I usually do my part first and respectfully inform the group that I won’t be available after a certain time to edit the project further.
This strategy allows me to feel like I’m living my life for me and not for other people. I can do what I want and deny what I don’t without feeling guilty. Just like everyone else has a schedule, so do I, and there is nothing wrong with sticking to it.
Plan, plan, plan.
By this point in the semester, I feel like the Bonafide Queen of Planning, so I’ll be gracious enough to clue you into my strategy. Every Monday, I open Canvas and look at the calendar for the week. I typically have assignments due Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, give or take. I open my handy-dandy planner and write out which day I am going to do every single assignment for the week.
Now, this isn’t being carved into stone. If something doesn’t get accomplished one day, I can cross it out and move it somewhere else. The point isn’t for it to be absolute; the point is to outline a plan for the week that will complete every assignment in a reasonable manner. In other words, I don’t write every assignment in under one day. I spread it out as evenly as it makes sense for that week. I only have class Mondays and Wednesdays, so I typically plan less work then and more work for Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Life happens every week and you never know how long certain assignments are going to take, so it’s important for me to remember that there is nothing wrong with being flexible. I do my best every day and it often looks different from my best on other days. After all, I’m a human being.
I also use a Google Sheets spread to keep track of all of my assignments for the semester. In the spreadsheet, they are organized by the date and time they are due and color-coded to correspond with each class. This allows me to view a master list of everything I have to get done for the entire semester and strike through things as I complete them. Crossing off an assignment after I’ve finished it is arguably the most rewarding part.
Yes, this one seems silly, but it is so crucial for me. Breaking up the work mindset of the week with little treats here and there has been revolutionary. It propels me forward and leaves me little sprinkles of happiness to indulge in between my responsibilities.
Lately, my favorite little treats are poke bowls from Bento and fruit gummies from Trader Joes. Taking a break when needed to enjoy a little treat has been a huge contributing factor to me having a successful and (surprisingly) happy semester.
Another incredibly effective “little treat” has been taking a weekly drive with some music on to escape for a few minutes and reset my mind. Bonus points if a friend comes with me.
While I could go on forever about a million different things that have helped me stay on top of this semester without losing my mind, those are the main four things that have become crucial to my daily functioning. Of course, 18 credit hours is a big undertaking and it is important to consult with an academic advisor first if anyone wishes to follow in my footsteps.
Although the next few weeks seem slightly daunting, I know that if I can survive 12 weeks with my sanity intact, I can survive three more. This semester has been one of the craziest ones of my life and despite the stress, chaos, and self-doubt sometimes involved, I can confidently say it has been a fantastic semester. I am several steps closer to graduating and I feel much more confident in my ability to move forward, full steam ahead. Toot, toot!