I try to stay away from swearing* but this topic really does require it. When I say I stopped fucking up my semester, here is what I really mean:
- I stopped having panic attacks every night for the two weeks prior to finals
- I stopped ending up in the psychiatric ward because of stress-related changes in my mental health
- I stopped needing three days to recharge after a semester ended. And by recharge I mean sleep 12+ hours a day
I could go on and on about how the academic rigor and societies expectations of how much a college student should be doing for work impact mental health and happiness, but that’s for another post. For now, if you feel like I did, know that
you are seen. you are heard. you are loved.
School is hard and you are doing amazing. If you feel like you’re not doing so amazing, be sure to reach out to your colleges mental health resources or resources in your community.
Ok. So back to the one trick that helped me get my shit together. Are you ready? It’s going to blow your mind.
I stopped waiting until things were almost due to work on them.
I kid you not it is that simple. Here’s a graph for you to help showcase my point. The graph below shows my average stress level throughout the semester, and I threw in some hypothetical due dates for assignments. You can see from the graph that my stress level went down in between assignments, and that’s because I was doing the bare minimum. We talk ourselves into thinking we deserve a break in between those larger assignments and only start working on the next assignment when it’s 1-2 weeks away (less if you’re really procrastinating). I’m not saying we don’t deserve a break, because we do, but we often extend this break farther than we should.
So you can see in this graph that I had periods in between assignments where my stress level went down, but ultimately, that stress increases because those last projects are often larger than we think, yet we still try to write a 20 page research paper in the same time we devoted to a five page reflection.
You can also see that my work load fluctuated, as I often took a week or two to lounge around and “regroup” before the next big project. I pretended assignments didn’t exist in an attempt to calm down and recharge my batteries.
After years of doing this I realized it wasn’t working for me, and I tried out a new method of doing my semester work.
I started working on my first assignment on day one.
Now when I say started working on it, I really mean I actively looked at the assignment and figured out what I needed to be thinking of ahead of time in order to successfully complete the assignment.
First weeks of classes can be hard because you are overwhelmed with all of the assignments, readings, and new knowledge. Be sure to take the time to get an understanding of the basics in the course, and by week two you should actively be working on your assignment.
You can see from my second graph that my work amount stays relatively high during the semester, and it is almost consistent across the board. If you look closely my work load actually decreases when there is an assignment due and approaching finals, and that is because my work is already done!
Rather than waiting until the due date of your assignment comes closer, start working on it as soon as you finish the assignment before it. Doing this creates a consistent workload throughout the semester, and can also help you manage stress levels better because there isn’t as much up and down movement with it.
Here’s a real life example of how I’m implementing this for my last semester of graduate school:
Course: Due Date: Date Submitted:
CITI Training 2/5/18 1/24/18
Bibliography 2/12/18 2/5/18
Lit Review 3/2/18 *will start tomorrow. need team confirmation*
Final Paper 3/30/18
Leadership Skills Sign up 2/18/18 1/26/18
Library Program and Plan 2/18/18 2/5/18
Library Program and Plan Report 4/22/18
Leadership Skills Workshop 3/4/18 *Cannot start until the 12th when topic is assigned*
Complete 5 Leadership Skills Workshops 4/8/18
Final Presentation 4/29/18
IRB Application 2/12/18 *in progress*
Lit Review 3/12/18 *half way done*
So you can see here I’m about two weeks ahead with assignments, although a lot of the hold up this semester has been that some individual assignments depend on team work or the professor’s response to requested topics. I anticipate having all of my projects done the second to last week of school, which means I get to coast into graduation by doing a few discussion board posts and crocheting new items for the Etsy store!
So tell me, what do you think of this method to unfucking your semester? Are you going to try it? Have a better way to unfuck your semester?? Post below and be sure to share with your friends who need to unfuck their semester and get their shit together!
*on my blog…I have a trucker’s mouth in real life