With finals steadily approaching, it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage everything we have on our plates. To hopefully make this daunting week a little bit less stressful, here are some tips to effectively and efficiently manage your time.
Make a to-do list. Everyone in college is involved in too much with too little time to get it all done. To make it easier on yourself, make a list of everything you have to do. This can look like a post-it on your desk, a note on your phone or an event in your calendar, but writing down your responsibilities will help you visualize everything you need to do and help you plan for when to do each item.
Prioritize. Though it may seem like every assignment and every extracurricular you have committed to holds equal importance, there are simply not enough hours in the day to do everything. Take a look at your list and rearrange it in order of importance. This will make sure you get the most vital items out of the way first. This is not an excuse to be lazy; the goal is still to do everything on the list.
Split bigger assignments up into smaller ones. When you are assigned a big paper or project, your brain often gets overwhelmed and shuts down. This leads to putting off work, procrastination and rushed scrambling at the last second. Instead of seeing these projects as huge, impossible tasks, split them up into multiple smaller tasks that you can get done immediately. For example, if you are assigned a three-page paper, do not look at it as a three-page paper; instead, look at it as three one-page papers. Anyone can quickly write a one-page paper, and if you split that work up into three days, you will end up with a completed paper. Plus, your brain likes feeling accomplished and gives you a hit of dopamine every time you cross something off your to-do list, motivating you to do more.
Reward yourself for good work. Boring or tedious assignments seem very unappealing to your brain if there is nothing waiting for it on the other side. If you have an especially intensive block of reading or studying ahead of you, it can be helpful to “make a deal with your brain.” This can take many different forms. For example, it might motivate your brain if you tell it “30 minutes of reading, then I get 5 minutes on my phone” or “after this chapter I can go get lunch.” Be careful if you use your phone or TV as the reward to limit yourself to whatever amount of time you and your brain have agreed to.
Avoid distractions. It seems obvious, but humans as a species are really poor multitaskers. So if you are really trying to get something done, put your phone in the other room, go somewhere quiet and take only what you need to work on with you. You will be surprised at how quickly you get your work done.
Do your work the day it is assigned. If at all possible, do your homework as soon as possible. This means going straight to the library after class and not letting your brain get distracted by other things. This is the single best way to stay on top of everything you have on your plate, and it will help you feel less overwhelmed and be able to spend time doing things you want to do rather than things you have to do.