By: Julie Pike, Editor-in-Chief
For myself, and I’m sure for many other students, the very first day of classes sends me into a sort of panic. It comes flooding down on me how much my life and schedule are going to change now that I’m back to school. All of my responsibilities swarm together into a ball of stress and anxiety in my head.
But as I enter my eighth, and last, semester at USM, I realize this panic has started to dull. I realized this past week that I’ve become used to dealing with this overwhelming feeling of everything I would need to do at once. Not that any of it has become any easier, but my ability to manage it has greatly improved.
One of the most important things for me is practice good time management. I’m a meticulous planner in all aspects of my life, especially with my time. Being aware of what needs to be done and, most importantly, when, can exponentially help you. I’m not an expert on this, but I feel like my experience in balancing work, school, friends, family, extracurriculars and everything else on a college student’s plate has left me with a handful of good advice for my fellow students dealing with these same issues.
First things first, get a planner, and use it everyday. If you want to be more modern, use the calendar on your phone and any app where you can jot notes down. Even if you have an amazing memory, the physical act of logging or writing deadlines, important dates, or things to note will help you organize your time.
One roadblock I often hit is being faced with so many things to do at once that I just become overwhelmed and completely shutdown, unable to accomplish anything. It’s incredibly difficult to get out of this slump, but it’s manageable by taking baby steps on the road to productiveness.
I start to pull myself out of this slump by doing something for myself, take a shower, drink a cup of tea of coffee, read a book for a little bit, take a walk, anything that helps me take my mind off of what’s making me feel overwhelmed. Then I get to making a list. The list has three sections to it, what I need to accomplish today, what I need to accomplish this week, and what I need to accomplish this month. Get all of those deadlines out there in front of you.
Start by focusing on what you need to do today, and choose the simplest task first. Maybe it’s sending an email to someone, paying off a bill, an online discussion post for class, something that shouldn’t take too long. For me, once I start being able to check things off my list, it helps me keep going. You’ve accomplished something by just completing that first task. Use that feeling of accomplishment to keep going.
When it comes to larger tasks, ones that require some time dedication, I’ll ask myself, ‘what’s something small that I can do today to chip away at that project?’ If you’re someone who can take on a project for several hours, go for it, but if you’re like me and can’t focus for that long on one thing, split it up into smaller steps.
This past first week of classes, often called syllabus week, is the perfect time to go through all of the assignments due in each class. Most professors should already have dates assigned to quizzes, tests, projects and papers that are going to be due throughout the semester. Write those down in your planner or in your phone calendar. To avoid the panic of remembering an assignment on the day it was due, set a notification on your phone on the day you want to begin that assignment, so it won’t come as a surprise.
The most important thing I want to stress is to not stretch yourself too thin. Reflect on everything that you are involved with or committed to, what are you getting out of them? Most of us are working while going to school because we need money. Most of us are going to school because we want to graduate and have a better career. Ask yourself if what you are doing right now is going to help you in the future. Taking on too many commitments will eat up at your time quickly. As college students who don’t have a lot of extra time outside of work and school, we have to use our time wisely.