Hometown: Butte, MT
At the end of every semester, time moves twice as fast. There are tests, final projects and, of course, finals. The tasks that need to be accomplished are overwhelming if you think of them all at once. More than anything, this is a test of survival and you should prepare accordingly.
The best way to stay on top of assignments is to have a plan so you can accomplish as much as you hope to get done each day. The last few weeks of every semester are the times when you never see your friends, family, or your own bed. Every extra ounce of energy that you have should be put into studying, and the non-essential tasks must get moved to the backburner. Forget about your laundry, cleaning your house, and cooking elaborate meals.
It’s helpful to think of the last three weeks as if you were a nurse working triage. You must prioritize the patients who have walked into your emergency room from the most urgent case to the least. This also means that you should make sure your family, roommates, and significant other understand that you will be missing in action and they should plan accordingly. If your mom holds your absence at Sunday dinner against you, just be sure to make it up over Christmas break. Exam time inherently means you must be selfish with your time and energy.
At the beginning of each week make a list of the large projects and tests that you must complete, and then break them down even further into each day. When you write up your schedule, make sure to keep in mind how long each assignment will take. As you accomplish the items on your list check them off so you have something to help keep you motivated.
I know that I accomplish more in the morning than in the late afternoon, so if I have a time consuming and difficult project, then I will work on it during the mornings rather than spend the afternoon trying to focus when I am not as motivated. Most people know whether they are a morning or an evening person. You should plan your time accordingly as you write out your schedule.
If you have downtime, use it to study. Whether you are riding the bus, driving to school with friends, or waiting in line to get your oil changed, you should be spending every extra second that you have making sure that the little things that don’t require much brain power get accomplished.
Furthermore, it’s important to know when “good enough” is the best you can do. Part of learning time management is knowing which classes to prioritize over others. Getting a paper turned in on time is better than spending extra seconds perfecting your syntax.
Also, keep in mind how much particular assignments and tests are weighted in the syllabus and how many credits the classes you’re taking are worth. It’s comical to spend an inordinate amount of time on a final project for a class that is only 1 or 2 credits rather than studying for a final exam for your most difficult class that is 4 credits. Even if you don’t do as well as you had hoped for in a class that is 2 credits, the amount that it will affect your GPA is much less than if you bombed an exam for a class that is worth four credits.
It helps to stay motivated by treating yourself to something small when you finish big projects and exams. For example, if you really enjoy vanilla lattes, then buy one on the morning once you turn in a project or go for a run to let off some steam after you finish a test. The amount of motivation that you have after rewarding yourself is oftentimes worth the time you spend.
Finally, remember that the grades you earn in college don’t define you, whether they are excellent or not as awesome as you had hoped. When you leave school for a real job, no one there is going to ask you what grade you earned in Calculus. You’ll get hired because you can get the job done and you do it well. (Unless you’re an engineer or a math teacher, there are very few jobs that will require you to take the derivative of complex functions on a daily basis.)
Good luck these next few weeks, and don’t forget to get enough sleep before a test.