It happens to everyone. You get your assignments or exam dates weeks ahead of time and tell yourself you’ll start working on them soon and maybe even finish early. Then, assignment week, you find yourself with five papers due, wondering how you’ll possibly finish them in time. Instead, save yourself the stress of cramming by making a plan, setting goals, and working ahead! Here are 7 tips to help you out.
1. Write it all down
This one seems intuitive. After all, our timetables and assignments are all on Moodle, we have syllabuses and assignment sheets, and schedules for work and whatever else we have going on. But taking all of those things and writing them down in one, single list will give you perspective on exactly how much you have to do. This will also prevent you from wasting important brain space on trying to remember all the nagging little tasks you have to accomplish.
The trouble with having a single list of everything you need to do is that each task takes up the same amount of space, no matter how important it is or how much work it will take. That’s why it’s important to figure out which tasks are the most urgent, which will be the hardest, and which ones are okay to put off or do later.
3. Create a timeline
At this point, you should know exactly what needs to be done in what order and have some idea of how long each task will take. However, with assignments and exams all happening during the same weeks, just knowing the due date isn’t enough. Instead, make a plan and set goals for when you’re going to work on each task. Break big projects into smaller pieces that can be done in one or two sittings, and try setting your own deadlines throughout the year so you only have to worry about one big assignment or paper at a time.
4. Do the hard things first
It seems logical to get all of those little, annoying tasks out the way first to make way for bigger projects. But personally, there’s a temptation to procrastinate by dragging all these emails, paperwork, meetings, or reflections out to put off the harder work. If you find the same thing happening to you, consider starting off with your hardest assignment and completing smaller tasks when you find yourself needing a break, or at an impasse, but can’t afford to stop working.
5. Clear your mind
You can’t do it all at once. While you may feel pressured enough to force yourself into a strict routine of lectures, study, eat, sleep, taking regular breaks to unwind, clear your head, and refocus can actually boost your productivity. Studies show that even 10-15 minutes of intensive exercise can help clear your mind in the same way that sleeping does, leaving you refreshed and ready to power on. The Griffith College fitness room is a great place to unwind if you’re on a tight schedule and, if you have more time, the Students’ Union has plenty of clubs to keep you active.
If you’re opposed to exercise, or it's already part of your routine, consider taking the time to relax with some light reading over your favourite coffee or tea. But if you do choose a leisure activity like reading—or, more likely, Netflix—as your study break, consider using it to motivate and treat yourself for checking a specific number of tasks of your list or working for a specific length of time.
6. Use your resources
Hopefully, you’ve already learned the importance of keeping a calendar, planner or agenda. Simply having a quick reference for all the things you have to do in a given day is a great start to keeping yourself on task. However, there are so many other great resources like productivity apps, study tools, and even peers who can help you make the most of your time.
Some useful (and free) apps to boost your productivity are Wunderlist, which allows you to make detailed lists of tasks with due dates and reminders, or Documents, which allows you to access all your papers and assignments, whether from OneDrive, DropBox, Google Docs, or iCloud and edit or review them on the go.
It’s also important to remember all of the resources you have at your fingertips here, on campus. Even if you don’t have the time to run to the library—and you should make time; it’s a great study spot—the website has a wealth of online material for quick and easy reference or research.
7. Get it done
There’s a time for leisure, hangouts, Netflix and relaxation. But let these activities be rewards for getting your work done. You’ll enjoy them so much more without the stress of due dates and exams looming over you. Set aside the phone and social media for a while and focus on the task at hand and you’ll notice your work improving and taking up less of that precious free-time. You’ll thank yourself later.