Honestly, I can't believe it's almost the end of the semester, or that it's already cold outside. It seemed like August and September flashed by. Nevertheless, here we are with a little over a month left of the semester. In my case, I've gotten back two exams, with one coming up, and a research paper. This time of the semester always "looks" the same for me; over time I've developed a method that helps me reset, recharge and keep going. And if you need to do the same, I think this will be helpful.
1. Take an Inventory
I take a step back and look at my end products, or final task, and what is needed to get there. For example, I have my research paper which is a pretty dense project. Simply saying, "I have a research paper" is: stressful, general, and leaves me with no direction. Instead, I break out the project(s), and write down everything I need to do.
To the right, is an example of my initial inventory/time-line for my research paper. This is a great starting place for me, although it may not run this smoothly, I'm able to see everything I need to do; and not trick myself into thinking this is something I can do over fall break.
2. Take a Space Reset
I've noticed that I'm only as productive as I am organized. If my place is a mess, so is my life... not to be dramatic. Truly, if my apartment, binders, notes, files etc. aren't in order I feel out of whack. So, after I have looked at everything I have to do I clean up. When I say clean up I mean everything.
- I organize:
- my computer files
- my apartment
- my agenda
- my car
- ...and anything else that I use everyday
3. Take a DAY OFF
After I've looked at everything I have to do, and cleaned up, I acknowledge that I accomplished some huge feats. Before, I would feel crazy for spending a few hours looking at everything I had to do, planning to clean up, and then looking back at the same list with nothing "done." Before, instead of giving myself credit and calling it a day, I would sit at the library or coffee shop and try to push through to get something "done." In actuality, I was mentally exhausted. BUT, I have realized organizing my life is an accomplishment. Instead of trying to "do" something, I take my win and I schedule a break for myself... not a nap and return, or a lazy afternoon, an entire day off. I'm talking a fully loaded veggie burger, fries, vegan ice cream, a nice drink AND whatever else I want to do day off.
This makes me so much more productive. Truly giving myself TIME makes me more conscious about getting on social media, watching a hair tutorial. Real breaks are important, and you deserve it.
4. Take on Realistic Goals
I frequently over-estimate how much I can get done in a day. After I've done points one through three I hold myself accountable to making realistic to-do list. It's easy for me to, "oh, I got a lot done" myself toward a deadline, and end up rushing at the end. Now, I stick to a solid one to three things I want to get done for the day. For example, with my research paper, when I was doing my peer review I would read half a research paper a day [this happened to be what I could mentally handle], plus two things from other parts of my life -- adding up to my to-do list for the day. Since I didn't make a goal to read 1 or 2 research papers a day I could estimate when I would be done with my peer review and when I needed to check back in with my professor . If I had said to myself, "I'll talk to my professor next week," but realistically I needed three weeks... I would be stressed out, and have unrealistic expectations about how much time I needed for my project [with that example, I'd need 3 times more time than anticipated].
In short, in crunch time short to-do list are best. Leave space for needing more time. Doing more than expected is great, not getting done what you said you would can be a disappointing and stressful.