May is the worst month of the year. As if the constant ‘barbecue to blizzard in three minutes’ weather wasn’t bad enough, I’ve discovered that I have four assignment deadlines and five exams in under two and a half weeks.
I’m sure that my situation isn’t unique, and so I decided to compile a short list of tips that will help you avoid that impending stress-induced meltdown:
- Get enough sleep – If your body and brain are tired, then the last thing they’ll want to do is work, which means that staying up until the early hours of the morning every night is fruitless if you’re not going to get a full 8 hours of sleep. Take it from me – I’ve been up until 2am for the past few nights finishing an assignment and today when my alarm went off at 7:30am, I felt like I was waking up from a coma. Sure enough, I was forced to go back to bed a few hours later to take a midday nap after I almost fell asleep standing up at a QuickPrint PC.
- Take short but frequent breaks – And by ‘frequent’ I mean every hour or so, not every five minutes. Your brain is going to demand a rest at some point and so you may as well control the breaks rather than kidding yourself that a solid ten hour revision stint in the library is a possibility. And don’t forget to fuel the machine (the machine being your brain and the fuel being one of those delicious double-chocolate muffins from Jessop West Café)!
- Make a to-do list – If you can see tasks getting crossed off a list as you accomplish them, it will keep you motivated. I started doing this a few summers ago when I was working in a call centre, a job that I hated with a passion. My co-worker and I decided to print off a calendar which we kept in my car. We highlighted the date of our last day and at the end of each shift when I drove her home, we would cross off another working day. This gave us a visual representation of how close to the last day we were and I firmly believe that piece of paper was the one thing that stopped me dramatically quitting the job by walking out mid-shift!
- Make a revision/work timetable – Allocate a different task or assignment to each day. Constantly switching between four different essays in one day won’t be as productive as sticking to just one and it could end up confusing you (or worse, could make you realise how many things you still have left to do!). Don’t forget to account for any social occasions or events that you have planned – if you have to go home for a family wedding then chances are that day won’t be very productive in terms of university work!
- Start early – There’s the old saying ‘better late than never’, but do you know what’s even better than being late? Being early. If you manage to finish your essay a couple of days before the deadline, you can afford to leave it for 24 hours and then come back to it with fresh eyes, which will make it easier for you to spot any mistakes or areas to improve. Plus there’s nothing worse than having to pull an all-nighter in the IC because you didn’t realise that writing 3,000 words would take so long…
And the golden rule is to STAY CALM because panicking is definitely more of a hindrance than a help!
Good luck to everybody with assignments and exams!