We’ve all been there – you’re happily enjoying your break from school, college or university, chilling at home with family or off travelling with friends, when all of a sudden there’s just a week or two left of break and you’ve two assignments to complete, a three-page reading list to work through and those looming exams to revise for. It’s easily done but won’t be taken as a valid excuse for not getting everything done – so I’m here to help you get all that work done in time for the start of next semester. Here are my three key steps to getting on top of things:
Step one: Find the right work space
First of all, get yourself set up with the right work environment. Whatever you do, don’t work from your bed: use a table. For essays, I like to spread my materials out as much as possible so at home I’ll use the kitchen table rather than my smaller desk which I might use for completing Italian revision or reading. Make sure you have all the materials you need for the work you’ll be doing – as well as pens and a notebook or computer, you might also need post-it notes, page markers, cue cards, mathematical equipment and so on. Have all of that set up and ready before you sit down to work so you don’t have to keep getting up to find the necessary stationery. I always have a bottle of water with me, but I don’t have food otherwise I’ll just snack my way through my study time. Have a good light source available, and a good playlist if that helps you work.
Step two: Make a plan
You’ll know how you work best, so structure your time to fit your working style. Some people like to work solidly for a set amount of time and then give themselves a short break; others like to set a timetable to follow throughout the day. List all of the assignments you need to get done, plus all the deadlines. If you feel the need, break down each piece of work into the smaller tasks that will go into completing it, so you can better estimate how long it will take you as well as understanding exactly what’s involved. Then set about figuring out a way of fitting it all in. Make sure you leave time for a short break at least every hour, and include meals and down-time. Be realistic when estimating how long a task will take, and accept that you may have to sacrifice time with family or friends to complete everything. The key thing to do is prioritise your work; it’s easy to think you can start off with something easy that won’t take too long and as a result end up putting off the essay that’s worth 100% of your module mark until two days before the deadline. Get the most important assignments out of the way first.
Step three: Get it done
At some point, it’s just about discipline – ultimately planning will only get you so far. Don’t let it get in the way of you actually doing your work, like I discussed in my post on the blogosphere’s near-obsession with planning. Briefly sketch out what you need to do, and then get started. It’s worth ensuring that the people around you are aware that you’ve got work to do so they can support you – chat with the people you live with about how they can help. You might want them to check on you every so often; maybe they can be a sounding board for ideas, or help you revise by testing you on your notes. Perhaps you just need them to leave you completely alone. Whatever it is, make sure they’re aware and understand that at the moment your work has to take priority. Finally, try to enjoy what you’re doing. It’s frustrating to have to sit down to do it when you feel you should be taking a break, but putting the effort in now will pay off later, and you might find something in it that you’re able to appreciate. What’s more, if you’re able to enjoy the work you’ll be less likely to procrastinate or give up, so attempt to find something positive in each task you have to complete.
And on that note, I’m off to get started on the 3000-word essay I originally planned to finish by Christmas (oops!). Good luck with whatever work you have to complete – and if you’re already done for next term, well, I’ll try to take a leaf out of your book next time…
Have you got any work to complete before the holidays are over? Is there a topic you’d like me to cover in the future? Let me know in the comments!